Like most J-Town folks, I was stunned when I read of the passing of Frances Hashimoto in the Tuesday edition of The Rafu.

I wouldn’t say we were good friends, but since I was a Little Tokyo “hanger-on” I got to know her over the years because she was “Miss Little Tokyo” and she owned and operated Mikawaya, one of the landmark businesses in J-Town.

Her passing will leave a huge void in Little Tokyo.

So, as is becoming a frequent thing to do when we lose a friend, I wish Frances a fond “sayonara.”

From sadness to current events — the presidential election this past Tuesday.

I have worked as a polling place clerk and inspector for at least two decades, during which time we’ve had presidential elections, statewide elections, county and city elections.

This year, I decided to retire as a polling place employee because of my age; however, since my wife and son still work elections, I dropped in for about three hours to see how things were going.

The one thing I did while sitting and watching the voters coming into the polling place was subconsciously counting the ethnicity of the voters.

At the polling place where I visited, the one thing I noticed was the huge number of African American voters casting ballots.

Usually in the past when I worked the polls, the number of votes cast were between 100 and 200. During this election, the total votes cast hit over 700 and six out of every 10 voters were African Americans.

The number of Japanese Americans was very low. In fact, almost every one of them was someone I knew.

So, I just assumed that if the numbers were the same at other polling places, the results of the presidential race seemed a cinch for the re-election of Obama, and my analysis was correct.

By the way, in checking on Japanese American candidates to offices on the state and county level, I found four were victorious, including Al Muratsuchi for the 66th Assembly District.

Maybe all the publicity on his opponents referring him as a “Jap” had some effect on the outcome. He beat his rival, Craig Huey, by a pretty comfortable margin, which means I voted for the wrong presidential and Assembly candidate.

Well, you know the old saying, “You can’t win ’em all.”

In Hawaii, Japanese American candidates did well, too.

Rep. Mazie Hirono defeated former Gov. Linda Lingle for the seat in the Senate and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa won re-election to her congressional seat, which means that Hawaii will still have three JAs in Congress.

They will join Dan Inouye, long-time senator.

By the way, Hirono will become the first Asian American woman to win a seat in the Senate.

I guess Japanese Americans still have a lot of pull in the Islands.

Just curious, but I wonder if Hirono and Hanabusa use pidgin English when they chat with their Island friends.

Hey, brah, howzit?

Speaking of the Islands, I read a couple of newspapers via email and I noticed that recently more and more Mainland tourists are getting into trouble while venturing into the waters off the beaches.

On the Island of Maui, while some are rescued, others lose their lives.

Since I frequently visit the beaches while traveling in the Islands, I can understand how they become victims.

Most of the beaches seem so safe when they are a lot more dangerous than beaches on the Mainland.

It made me curious why tourists from Japan are rarely victims of dangerous Hawaii beaches.

I talked with a Japanese tourist at one of Maui’s beaches and he told me that they don’t have the kind of beaches they can swim in back in Japan, so for the most part, they just watch the beaches rather than swim in the waters.

Perhaps they should put up signs on Maui beaches in English and other languages to alert visitors that what looks like a safe place is actually very hazardous.

Just a thought.

Well, let me jump from Hawaii to where else? Las Vegas.

One of the favorite activities in Vegas is looking for a good place to dine.

For Japanese Americans, where else but Japanese eateries?

I get letters frequently from JA visitors who find new places to dine while looking around.

Reader Mimi Tokoro wrote to me about a new place she found. Here is her letter:

“We recently stayed in Las Vegas and went to the Japanese restaurant you once mentioned in your column. The Sato-ya that you suggested was excellent. We have eaten at many Japanese restaurants in Vegas and found this one the best around.

“The owner and waitresses are from Okinawa, so bitter melon was on their menu.

“My husband tried he dish and really liked it. The tea was hot and strong (like it that way) and it didn’t come from a tea bag or reused tea leaves.

“Our waitress was friendly and very helpful. She also mentioned and sent home with us a notice to advertise Shima Time. It’s an

Okinawa-style music group that plays twice a month at Sato-ya. They can be found at

“We are planning to eat at Sato-ya every time we go to Las Vegas.

“We also had dinner at Makino again. My husband said it improved since last year when we went. I always liked it. We live in Encinitas near San Diego.

“Thank you for the information. I enjoy reading your column, so keep it up.”

Thank you, Mimi. I’m glad you tried Sato-ya from my writing.

We are going up to Vegas next week, so I’m sure we’ll drop by Sato-ya, which was introduced to us by our good friend, Vegas resident Rosie Kakuuchi, a few years ago.

I guess the best way to find great Japanese eateries is to know someone who lives in Vegas as Rosie does.

Speaking of our visit next week, I’m kind of concerned about the weather report I heard on TV news this week.

While we have been enjoying great weather for the past month in the L.A. area, the latest report is that the temperature is expected to fall on Saturday as low as 50 degrees, with the possibility of snow in the mountain area off Highway 15.

Just our luck.

The snow level is predicted to fall just about 5,000 feet. That’s all I need.

Well, maybe I’d better load up some extra blankets and chains for the tires on our car.

Yeah, whenever I plan a trip to Vegas, I call Rosie to ask her if she needs anything from Marukai, the Japanese supermarket.

I guess those of us who live in the L.A. area never consider that there are no “Japanese” supermarkets in Vegas for those who are permanent residents. I mean, you can’t find natto at Safeway.

Also, my good friend and owner of Umeya Senbei, Tak Hamano, always gives me senbei to take to people like Rosie, because there is no senbei at Safeway.

No, she never asks for natto, but she always enjoys senbei.

It’s pretty tough sitting in a car with natto in it for the five hours it takes to drive to Vegas.

Maybe I should put an icebox in the trunk of my car.

Here’s a tidbit I’m sure Maggie will enjoy, or at least it’s something up her alley because she’s alert about words.

No English dictionary has been able to adequately explain the difference between these two words: complete and finished.

In a recently held linguistic competition in London, attended by the best in the world, Samsundar Balgobin, a Guyanese man from Bachelor Adventure, was the clear winner with a standing ovation lasting over five minutes.

His answer earned him an invitation to dine with the Queen afterwards. He won a trip to travel around the world in style with a case of 25-year-old Scotch whiskey.

The final question was this: How to explain the difference between “complete” and “finished” in a way that is easy to understand. Some people say there is no difference.

Here was his winning answer: “When you marry the right woman, you are complete. And when you marry the wrong woman, you are finished. And when the right one catches you with the wrong one, you are completely finished.”

(Maggie’s comment: Yes, Mr. Y., I’m alert about words and a wordy person, too, ha. I did enjoy the tidbit completely).

Falling apart as I age is something I frequently mention.

Well, here is a good example:

In an earlier segment of today’s column, I mentioned that two Japanese Americans won seats in Congress for the State of Hawaii.

As I often do after finishing my column, I check it out and today, I found out a very important bit of information.

So, I looked frantically around my desk and found that one of our cats was trampling around my desk and dumped the page with the key information on it behind my PC.

Here is the info that was the key to the story:

Mazie Hirono is not only the first Japanese American female to win a seat in the Senate but also the first Japanese immigrant. She was born in Fukushima and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1959.

When she was 7, she was taken to Hawaii by her mother, who was escaping an abusive marriage. Her mother raised three children, including Mazie, by working at multiple jobs, including a Japanese-language newspaper in Hawaii.

After graduating from Georgetown University Law School, Hirono was elected to the Hawaii House of Representatives in 1980. She later served two terms as Hawaii’s lieutenant governor before being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2007.

In the Senate race, she campaigned by focusing on her track record, including her activities for health-care reform.

She will become a colleague of Dan Inouye, Hawaii’s other senator.

After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Hirono said the disaster helped make the public aware of the importance of U.S.-Japan ties, promising to do more to enhance bilateral relations.

(Maggie’s comment: Can’t resist writing this, Mr. Y. but if you don’t want your cat(s) to trample on your PC, roll up a newspaper and gently “swat” the behind of the cat(s)).

Let’s laugh at something Japanese:

An American salesman checked into a futuristic hotel in Tokyo.

Realizing he needed a haircut before the next day’s meeting, he called down to the desk clerk to ask if there was a barber on the premises.

“I’m afraid not, sir,” the clerk told him apologetically, “but down the hall from your room is a vending machine that should serve your purpose.”

Skeptical but intrigued, the salesman located the machine, inserted $15 and stuck his head into the opening, at which time the machine started buzzing and whirling. Fifteen seconds later, the salesman pulled out his head and surveyed his refection, which showed the best haircut in his life.

Two feet away was another machine with a sign that read, “Manicure, $20.” “Why not?” thought the salesman. He paid the money, inserted his hands into the slot, and the machine started to buzz and whirl. Fifteen seconds later, he pulled out his hands and they were perfectly manicured.

The next machine had a sign that read, “This machine provides service men need when away from their wives. 50 cents.”

The salesman looked both ways, put 50 cents in the machine, unzipped his fly and, with some anticipation, stuck his manhood into the opening. When the machine started buzzing, the guy let out a shriek of agony and almost passed out. Fifteen seconds later, it turned off.

With trembling hands, the salesman was able to withdraw his tender unit, which now had a button sewn neatly on the end.

The end of the tale.

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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