Published in The Rafu Shimpo on Dec. 22, 2012

Needless to say, this past week produced two major events in the media.

One, of course, was the tragic shooting of 26 students and teachers at a grade school in Connecticut.

The other, closer to the Japanese American community, was the passing of Sen. Dan Inouye.

For The Rafu, the death of Sen. Inouye was the more stunning news because he was more a friend than a political big wheel. He often attended events in Japanese communities in the U.S.

His personality captured everyone fortunate enough to meet him. For someone of his stature, his humor was also captivating.

At one Los Angeles gathering, he was on stage before a packed house as the keynote speaker, and when he grabbed the microphone, he said, “Hello, I’m Irene’s husband,” referring to his wife, Irene Hirano, who was the president of the Japanese American National Museum before she retired.

That brought a wave of laughter from the audience.

A service for Dan was held in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. His burial will be on Sunday at the Punch Bowl in Honolulu, the famed military cemetery.

I’m sure it will be attended by the largest congregation in Hawaii’s history because of all he has done for the 50th state.

“Aloha” will be so meaningful when it is uttered by those in attendance.

Well, let me get on with my column.

Another bit of news — a Kyoto man is now the world’s oldest living person at age 115, after an American woman, also 115, passed away this week, according to Guinness World Records.

Jiroemon Kimura was born on April 19, 1897, 15 days later than American Dina Manfredini of Iowa.

Kimura worked at a post office until age 65 and engaged in agriculture until he was 90. He currently lives with his son’s wife and his grandson’s wife, according to the Kyoto municipal government.

He has 14 grandchildren, 25 great-grandchildren and 13 great-great-grandchildren.

Kimura’s personal motto is “Eat light to live long,” and he has said he believes the key to his longevity is to be a healthy, light eater. “Not eating much, without likes or dislikes,” he said.

According to the local government responding on behalf of his family, Kimura lives an orderly life, going to bed early, rising early, and enjoying his meals while talking with his family.

He was taken ill Saturday and was hospitalized as a precaution, but is recovering.

When a Guinness official paid a visit in October, Kimura was delighted and said, “Thank you very much” in English. He even sang his favorite traditional Japanese dance song.

Boy, I don’t feel like an old horse reading about Kimura-san.

In opening today’s column, I mentioned the two major news items that occurred this week. I chose to write about the passing of Sen. Inouye.

Well, I decided to also chat about the shooting rampage in Connecticut because this has caused a debate on the barring of weapons. In my opinion, I don’t think the barring of weapons will end the senseless use of weapons. Barring weapons won’t stop incidents like the Connecticut shooting.

To halt this, they will have to find a way to stop the idiots who are responsible for their crazy actions because they will always find a way to get weapons.

Japan has strict laws against owning weapons, yet numerous shootings occur.

Yeah, most of those involved are members of the yakuza organization (gangsters).

If they can get weapons in Japan, a country where weapons are not allowed, how can the U.S. bar its citizens get getting their hands on guns?

Heck, we can’t even keep illegal aliens from entering the U.S.

Our president is heading a movement to keep weapons out of the wrong hands while at the same time making it possible for illegal aliens to slip into our country.

Go figure.

It seems like the installing of high-speed trains in California is nearing reality.

I’m not sure why we are creating such a problem.

Take Japan and China. Both countries have bullet trains running throughout their country as the main source of transportation.

Here’s a photo of one of the bullet trains.

And Japan beat China on this source of transportation .

I know when I lived in Japan, the company I worked for provided me with a Chevrolet car, but when I traveled anywhere outside of Tokyo, I took the bullet train.

With gas prices what they are in Japan, it’s a lot cheaper to buy a train ticket.

The same will be true if and when the bullet trains begin operation in California.

Buying a tank of gas from Los Angeles to San Francisco costs me about $50 one way, and that’s with three other passengers in my Avalon.

I know four tickets on the train would be a lot cheaper.

If one wants to eat meal on a train, just go to the dining car. It might cost a little bit more, but it would be a lot more convenient than stopping for a burger at McDonald’s in Bakersfield or Fresno.

Boy, time flies.

Three years ago, the Los Angeles Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple asked me to be a judge at their annual Kohaku Uta Gassen vocal competition.

I was kind of nervous serving as a judge, but it turned out to be quite an interesting experience listening to the men and women sing.

Since that time I have been invited as a guest instead of a judge and found the experience quite entertaining.

The Uta Gassen this year is scheduled for Jan. 6 at the temple, and I’m looking forward to attending.

By the way, one of the judges who worked on the panel with me was Terry Hara, who is now a candidate for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council in the March election.

Gosh, a fellow judge on a song competition now a potential City Council candidate and me still pounding out a column for The Rafu? What’s next?

I know, if Terry reads this, he’ll probably go to the restroom and throw up.

Since we worked together at The Kashu Mainichi for a lot of years, I always read The Cultural News, published by Shige Higashi, and am impressed how he puts it together. That is, all the cultural events that go on in J-Town.

In this latest release, he printed the following: “The Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) invites all of the diverse voices in the community to participate in the 15 annual Shikishi Exhibition opening on Sunday, Jan. 6, at the Doizaki Gallery of the JACCC building in Little Tokyo.

“Shikishi paperboards have been used in Japan since the 12th century for traditional painting or inscribed poetry. Today, shikishi are given as a gift to mark a memorable or special occasion.

“In 1998, JACCC’s artistic director, Hirokazu Kosaka, fused traditional and contemporary notions of shishiki by asking over 500 people to celebrate the new year by expressing themselves using the shikishi board.

“Participants included celebrities, local personalities, politicians, artists, priests, children, writers and community members. The outcome was an interesting, amazing and eclectic exhibit of shikishi art. Some were simple, while others, elaborate and colorful. Some were fashioned into freestanding sculptures. All were unique.

“Based on the Hatsu-Mato theme, participants may express their thoughts, hopes and dreams for the new year using a shikishi. There are no guidelines in using the shikishi; you may write on it, use it as a canvas and even cut it up to construct a three-dimensional object.

“A shikishi may be purchased at local Japanese markets. Suggested entry fee to participate in the exhibition is $10.

“Finished shikishi, artist information and donation should be sent to JACCC, 244 S. San Pedro St., 2nd Floor, L.A. 90012. For more information, contact Wakana Kimura at (213) 628-2725, ext. 146.”

Thanks to Shige for the foregoing information.

Time for a Christmas laugher:

Three men died on Christmas Eve and were met by St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.

In honor of this holy season, St. Peter said, “You must each possess something that symbolizes Christmas to get into heaven.”

The Englishman fumbled through his pockets and pulled out a lighter. He flicked it on. “It’s a candle,” he said.

“You may pass through the Pearly Gates,” St. Peter said.

The Scotsman reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. He shook them and said, “They’re bells.”

St. Peter said, “You may pass through the Pearly Gates.”

The Irishman starting searching desperately through his pockets and finally pulled out a pair of women’s panties.

St. Peter looked at the man with raised eyebrows and asked, “And just what do those symbolize?”

The guy replied, “These are Carol’s.”

And so the Christmas season begins.

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

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