Published in The Rafu Shimpo on Jan. 5, 2013

As I mentioned in a previous column, my computer is falling apart and I’m having a heck of a time trying to put a column together. So I finally tossed in the towel and went to my son’s home to use his computer.

Well, I decided to bring along a lot of email I’ve received because I can’t interrupt his family life by sitting around pounding on his computer.

So let me start with a lengthy email. This one is from Stanley Kanzaki, who wrote:

“Dear George — Thank you for your ‘Horse’s Mouth’ (12/15/12) blurb on my Rafu ‘Vox Populi’ article ‘So What’s in a Name?,’ which was printed on 12/12/12. However, I received your blurb before I got my copy of what I wrote on 12/18/12. This is not new living out east in New York.

“Another example: I was snail-mailed The Rafu dated 10/31/12 and 11/8/12 together and you made notice of the lateness in my commenting on your column.

“Why is this erratic mailing happening? A quick pop quiz: Is it because of (a) Rafu, (b) USPS, (c) Rafu and USPS, (d) none of above, or (e) all of the above? No offense meant, but please no more ‘heh, heh’s’ and instead, in line with your column title, ‘hee haw’ is okay.

“Now that we understand each other, let’s get to what I’m writing to you about. In regard to your column dated 11/20/12, which also came late to me, about you as a gaijin and the Japanese visa bureaucracy, here’s what happened to me.

“I had a two-month stay in the boondocks rice farm village of Komoto Shinpon-mura in Okayama, where my parents came from. This could be another story. But anyway, it came time to leave. Arriving at Haneda Airport, I turned over my passport and ticket to the clerk for seat assignment. Suddenly, he spoke on the phone and told me to wait. Soon enough, a man in uniform came, took my passport and ticket, and told me to follow him.

“Arriving at his office, he identified himself as an immigration officer and informed me that I overstayed my visa by three days.

“There were two worries, the time my flight was to leave and/or time in prison. He then pulled out a four-page form in Japanese for me to read and sign. I apologetically told him I could not read it. He looked at me as if I was lying and asked me how come I spoke Japanese. I told him about being born in the U.S., and my immigrant parents only spoke to me in Japanese.

“He looked confused but got up and left the office. He came back with a young, good-looking Japanese ojo-san, who for a moment held my attention. She immediately sat down and began typing away. Upon finishing, I was handed a one-page translation in English of the four pages in Japanese. So much for government bureaucracy in Japan. It was no big deal. Just an admission to overstaying the visa date, no blame to the Japanese government, etc.

“I quickly signed it and got up to leave. He stopped me and told me I had to pay a 1,000-yen fine. I reluctantly pulled out a mint-condition 1,000 yen bill that I was going to save as a souvenir and handed it to him.

“As I attempted to leave again, he stopped me and I saw him filling out a form. I thought it was my confinement order. As he handed it to me, he said something like ‘reshiito.’ Even if I could not read it, I knew what he handed me, to my relief, was a receipt for the fine payment.

“Not being further stopped, I hurried out to the gate. Upon reaching the tunnel-like structure leading to the gate, I began running. Suddenly I came upon a roped-off area where there were hundreds of young Japanese girls yelling something like ‘Boon-san, Boon-san.’ Then I heard another voice yelling, ‘Oi, oi.’ Looking ahead I noticed a group setting up for some kind of ceremony.

“But I kept going and saw a tall blonde guy standing nearby. He had a big smile on his face as we had a short eyeball-to-eyeball contact. Then I realized who “Boon-san’ was. It was none other than Pat Boone I ran into. A funny thought came to me. Was I the ‘Speedy Gonzales’ from one of his many songs he popularized?

“Upon seeing the gate, it was now my turn to yell ‘Oi, oi’ as it seemed they were going to close the door. I handed my ticket to the agent. After looking at it, she asked me why I did not have a seat number. I told her it would take too long to explain but she insisted that I do. After telling her in Japanese, she got a big laugh and gave me a seat number.

“I hurried into the plane and sat next to a Catholic priest. He looked at me and commented that I barely made it and asked if I overslept. I told him the whole story in English and he got a big laugh out of it, too. It seems I was the only one who thought it wasn’t funny in any language.

“Anyway, when the drinks were served the priest bought me one and toasted by quoting from the Bible, something to the effect of ‘mount up like eagle’s wings and run and not be weary.’ After arriving home, I looked it up in the Bible and it came from Isaiah, but not quite as I remembered it.

“So arriving home, there was another saying that was more familiar to me” ‘All’s well that ends well.’

“And so to you, your family and to all your loved ones, shinnen akemashite omedeto gozaimasu, kono hebi no toshi ni.”

Thanks, Stanley. Hey, your nihongo ain’t bad.                                 –

Another space-filler from a reader who calls himself “Retired Mas.” He calls his piece “Ponderisms”:

I used to eat a lot of natural foods until I learned that most people die of natural causes.

There are two kinds of pedestrians: the quick and the dead.

Life is sexually transmitted.

Healthy is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

The only difference between a rut and grave is the depth.

Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.

Have you noticed since everyone has a camcorder these days, no one talks about seeing UFOs like they used to?

Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.

All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.

In the ’60s, people took acid to make the world weird. Now the world is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.

How is it one careless match can start a forest fire but it takes a whole box to start a campfire?

If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a song about him?

If quizzes are quizzical, why are tests?

If corn oil is made from corn and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, then what is baby oil made from?

Do illiterate people get the full effects of alphabet soup?

Does pushing the elevator button more than once make it arrive faster?

Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?

And I’ll fill my column space with more letters. The first is from David Watanabe:

“A Happy New Year to you! I am writing on behalf of a hakujin friend to ask if you could provide a contact person regarding donating documents/photos for Heart Mountain. Her good friend was interned at Heart Mountain and recently moved into an assisted living home. She had no children so the nephew (hapa) is clearing out her house. I understand the relatives are not interested in keeping the memorabilia, so I’m trying to find a ‘home.’

“The museum (JANM) informed me that they are not accepting any camp documents at this time because they have no storage space. However, they expect to resume  accepting documents in 2014. In the meantime I am looking for a temporary home for the documents. I have not seen any of the documents, but I understand there are photos included.

“I am requesting your assistance since you are a fellow Heart Mountain internee.”

This one is from Ted Maesaki:

“Yoshinaga-san, Happy New Year, the Year of the Snake! Akemashite omedeto gozaimasu.

“Where has the year gone? Hontoh ni ichinen ga tatsu no wa hayai desu ne. As the saying goes, time goes fast when you are having fun! It goes faster as you grow older!

“As you get older, it’s like an old car. Your body gets wear and tear, and some parts of the body even need replacement.

“In spite of aches and pains here and there, we sill managed to visit our favorite city, Vegas, last year, went there four times, twice were basketball tournaments.

“Like you, every time we go there we bump into some friends. Last time we went in December, we saw Harry Honda and his wife, Misako.

“All of us missed the West Covina Seniors Group Leisure Club’s Wednesday meeting; instead we were attending ending the ‘financial conference’ in Vegas, ha ha ha…!!

“Harry introduced Paul Bannai to me there. I believe Paul was a state assemblyman back in the ’80s?

“It’s a wonder we did not bump into each other there, Yoshinaga-san.

“When we visit Vegas, we always go to Japanese restaurants. We went to Osaka, the very first Japanese restaurant in Vegas, opened in ’67. They have three Osakas in the Vegas/Henderson area now.

“Nowadays you see sushi restaurants in many of the casinos on The Strip. I like Osaka, they are more like a family-style restaurant, have different dishes, not just only sushi. We didn’t go to Makino last time.

“We don’t eat a lot like before, another old-age syndrome, so we try to stay away from buffet places nowadays. Instead we had a prime rib dinner at Tony Romo’s inside the Fremont Hotel one night, $9.95 and it was actually pretty good. Of course, you cannot expect like the Lowry’s prime rib.

“Talking about sushi, have you been to Sushi Zo located in Palm area? My cousin treated me there. Good thing he did  — it cost $500 for two people. The place is not big. I heard they only take reservations and serve omakase only.

“The waitress showed me a beer list. They only had Orion (Okinawan beer), Asahi Dark and Sapporo draft. I was looking for Bud Lite. Heh heh, just kidding!

Omakase was all sushi and sashimi, probably had 25 different varieties. The chef explains what each one is. They were so delicious many of them just melt in the mouth. Anyway it was once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“I heard that the place in ranked #3 in Southern Calif., #1 is Urasawa and #2 is someplace in San Fernando Valley, forgot the name.

“I’d like to hear some comments from other readers who had experiences in these places.

“Let me tell you something interesting that might help you save some money for your Big Mac lunch.

“My son’s friend works in Downtown LA. One day he was crossing an intersection and he got a $200 ticket for jaywalking. He started to walk when it was already blinking with numbers. The cop was waiting on the other side and told him it’s illegal to step in the intersection and start crossing when it’s blinking.

“Did you know this? I never knew this. I usually start walking faster when I see it’s blinking.

“Another friend of mine was making a left turn at an intersection. Perhaps the signal was changing from yellow to red, he noticed the camera flashed as he made a left turn. Later he received a ticket in the mail. It was a whopping $490, OMG!

“I guess the economy is tough, like everything else they raised the fines too.

“The sad part is some cities like Pasadena have removed the cameras. He was driving in the City of Walnut. Be careful in Walnut, they still have cameras enforced at the intersection!

“You mentioned on your article that you purchased your Toyota Avalon five years ago and it has 220,000 miles now. That’s a lot of miles, average of 40,000 miles/year. I guess the trips to Vegas and going to McDonald’s for lunch really add up mileage on your car … heh.

“My friend told me that the girls’ club at Heart Mountain was called ‘Belle Sharmiers.’ I only recognize Tosh Asano’s wife, Teruko Yanagimoto, in the picture.

Sore dewa mata kotoshi mo ganbatte kudasai. Keep pounding the keyboard.”


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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