(Published in The Rafu Shimpo on June 26, 2012)


Maybe I’m not in step with the times.

In years past, when an event in the Japanese American community advertised that “entertainment will be presented,” I  would expect a male/female vocalist performing to the audience or maybe a band with musicians playing different instruments.

Not these days.

When it is said that there will be entertainment, it’s always “taiko” or Japanese drummers. Such was the case this past weekend at the Gardena Valley JCI Carnival.

Heck, it wasn’t just taiko but two different taiko groups.

Both groups were good but since I’m not a taiko fan, I decided to return home and watch TV.

Oh yeah, we had lunch before we returned home.

That’s because everything at the carnival was to raise funds for the JCI, so I thought buying bento at a slightly higher than usual prices was my “donation” to the JCI.

I’ve been a resident of Gardena for so many years. Anything I do that would benefit the city, I enjoy doing.

At any rate, it was nice to see the usual huge turnout for the JCI event.

Rafu’s editorial section might already have the following news article, but in case it doesn’t, I thought I would toss it in my column.

Yeah, it’s a news item coming out of Las Vegas.

The name Naoya Kihara may not be known to the readers of The Rafu, but this past week he became the first Japanese to win the World Series of Poker tournament staged in Vegas every year.

The 30-year-old from Japan collected $512,029 (about 41 million yen) in prize money and also the WSOP gold bracelet.

A total of 419 players from more than 25 countries participated in the tournament, so it’s quite an achievement to win the title.

It was Kihara’s second time in the tournament, which is the largest poker tournament in the world.

The new champion makes a living in Japan, mostly by playing poker online. He now hopes to play in tournaments around the world.

Kihara said, “I’m living off poker, but I want to be a sponsored player, so winning the champion’s bracelet may increase my chances.”

If I’m not wrong, it costs $10,000 to enter a poker tournament, so now that he’s a champion, he might have a tough time getting a sponsor.

A graduate of Tokyo University, Kihara was a member of the “shogi” or Japanese chess club.

Before becoming a professional poker player, he was a private school teacher.

Half a million dollars is a lot of money, but if it costs $10,000 to enter the poker tournament, the lady who was sitting next to me at a 25-cent slot machine and won $105,000 on my last visit to The Cal certainly got more for her money.

She put in $20 in the slot and in a couple of games, hit her jackpot.

I would guess that she will get more out her $105,000 than Kihara will out of his $512,029 victory.

In the meanwhile, I will continue trying to win $400 on the same slot machine as the lady who hit the $105,000 in hopes of winning $105.

As I often state as a Japanese American, I don’t want to be classified as an Asian American. I guess I’m kind of alone on this matter. Most of today’s younger JAs want to be classified as Asian Americans.

According to a recent survey, 74 percent of Asian Americans were born abroad. As far as Japanese Americans are concerned, most were born in the good old USA. This alone makes JAs different from others who are classified as Asian Americans.

Of those Asian Americans who were born abroad, half speak English and half do not.

At any rate, the number of so-called Asian Americans in the U.S. totals 18.2 million.

So what portion of the Asian American population are Japanese Americans?

The only head count of JAs in the U.S. that I know of was 120,000 in 1942, when we were rounded up and placed in relocation camps.

After that, I never heard what the JA population is, but it’s probably a lot more in 2012.

When I was living in Japan in the early ’60s, the biggest concern I had was my health. That is, if I became sick, whom and where would I turn to?

I didn’t have a doctor I could seek in Tokyo and didn’t have health insurance that might provide me with medical care.

So I had to overlook a lot of minor aches and pains.

That’s when I discovered Salonpas.

I pulled a muscle in my back and was in pain but didn’t think it was serious enough to look for a physician.

That’s when one of my fellow workers in the office where I was employed handed me what looked like a piece of tape. He said (in Japanese), “Put this on your pain. It will make it disappear.”

I chuckled but thought, “What the heck, why not?”

To my amazement, the pain disappeared overnight and I became a fan of Salonpas.

Now I find that Salonpas is gaining a foothold in the U.S.

There was a story in a recent edition of USA Today that had this headline: “In Pain? There’s a Patch for That.” The story was about Salonpas.

It tells of an American woman who couldn’t lift her arm because of the pain. She put a Salonpas patch on the pain before going to bed and the next morning, didn’t feel a thing.

She said, “It’s kind of like a Band-Aid, but it worked.”

Patrick Carroll of Hisamitsu America, the maker of Salonpas, says Americans are getting used to relieving pain with the patches.

The main downside of using Salonpas is the cost. Five packs of Salonpas patches cost about $9, the equivalent of 100 Advil pills.

Some patients prefer a patch to a pill because the drug enters the bloodstream slowly and continuously.

For older people with memory problems, a once-a-week patch may be easier to manage than a daily dose of pills.

So, here we come, America. Another Japanese import, Salonpas.

As I frequently ask, “What’s in a name?”

Since I write for The Rafu and the majority of the readers are Japanese Americans, I always look for subject with a “JA angle.” Many times the readers provide me with info that I might otherwise overlook.

An example is Cory Mayfield, a star member of the Peninsula High School swimming team, a contender for the CIF Southern Section Division II championship.

Why would we even mention Mayfield? His full name is Cory Shiro Mayfield, the son of Karen Ueda Mayfield, which makes him part Yonsei.

Hopefully in the future, when stories are written about him, they write out his entire name, including “Shiro.”

The story on Mayfield says that he is close to Olympic qualifying times in the 500 freestyle and the mile.

Wouldn’t that be something? A part-Yonsei qualifying for the U.S. Olympic swimming team?

In the meanwhile at the high school level, the Peninsula High team has won three straight league titles and its fourth with Mayfield leading the way.

Good luck.

With the school year ending, a lot of all-league sports stars are being named.

While we don’t expect to find any Japanese Americans (Yonsei and Gosei these days) being picked to any all-league football, basketball or baseball team, there are a number of them in less publicized prep sports. One of them is golf.

The recent South Bay prep all-star golf team has two Sansei named.

One is Chase Fujihara, a senior at Peninsula High who advanced to the CIF Southern Section Regional championship, where he missed the cut for the finals by two strokes.

Tai Kuida of South Torrance, a junior, advanced to the finals of the CIF regionals.

Who knows? When these two go on to college and improve their skills at the collegiate level, we may be rooting for them when they play in the PGA.

Sounds good: Fujihara and Kuida to vie for the Master’s title.

A bit earlier I chatted about Salonpas and how it might sweep the U.S. if it already hasn’t done do.

Well, here’s another product made in Japan: 300 million soy sauce dispensers have already been sold in 70 countries around the world.

We don’t even give it much thought, but the shoyu bottle with its tear-drop shape and dripless spout was invented by Kenji Ekuan, who based his idea on the teapot’s spout but inverted.

After reading his story, I had to go to the kitchen and look at the shoyu dispenser we have in the house.

I concluded, yes, it did take a lot of imagination to develop something that is so handy. But rarely is any thought given to who came up with such an idea. Mainly because a lot of people never used shoyu until they came out with the handy dispenser.

Laugh time:

A man goes out and buys the best car available in the U.S. or Europe, a 1997 Turbo BeepBeep. It is the best and most expensive car in the world. It cost him $500,000. He takes it out for a spin and while doing so, stops for a red light. An old man on a moped, both looking about 90 years old, pulls up next to him.

The old man looks over the sleek, shiny surface of the car and asks, “What kind of a car ya got there, Sonny?”

The guy replies, “A 1997 Turbo BeepBeep. Costs $500,000.”

“That’s a lot of money,” says the old man. “Why does it cost so much?”

“Cause it can do up to 320 miles per hour,” states the cool dude proudly.

The old man asks, “Can I take a look inside?”

“Sure,” replies the owner.

So the old man pokes his head in the window and looks around. Leaning back on his moped, the old man says, “That’s a pretty nice car, all right.”

Just then the light changes, so the guy decides to show the old man what the car do. He floors it and within 30 seconds, the speedometer reads 320. Suddenly, the guy notices a dot in his rear view mirror. It seems to be getting closer.

Whhhooooooooosshh. Something whips by him, going maybe three times as fast.

The guy wonders, “What on earth could be going by faster than my Turbo BeepBeep?” Then, ahead of him, he sees a dot coming toward him.

Whhhoooooooosshhh. It goes by again. It almost looked like the old man on the moped. Couldn’t be, he thinks. How could a moped outrun a Turbo BeepBeep?

Again, he sees a dot in his rearview mirror.

Whhoooooooosshh. It plows into the back of his car, demolishing the rear end.

The guy jumps out and indeed it is the old man. Of course, the moped and the old man are hurting for certain. The guy runs up to the dying old man and asks, “You’re hurt bad. Is there anything I can do for you?”

The old man replies, “Yeah, you can unhook my suspenders from the side mirror of your car.”

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via e-mail at Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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  1. Hi George. The WSOP event (Six Handed, Pot Limit Omaha, $5,000 entry fee) that Naoya Kihara from Japan won, was only one of many smaller tournaments that make up the World Series of Poker. There are 61 different tournaments this year. The WSOP “Main Event”, which is scheduled to begin July 7, is a No Limit Texas Hold Em tournament with a $10,000 entry fee, that I think you were referring to in your article. It attracts thousands of entrants, resulting in a multi-million dollar prize pool. See details here: