Well, I’m back after being absent for over a week.

Needless to say, the past two weeks have been hectic because of the passing of our son Robin.

And when I reflect on all that went on, two words pop up constantly.

Those words are “Thank you.”

I want to thank everyone who offered their condolences to our family for attending Robin’s memorial service at Centenary Methodist Church in Little Tokyo, and to the many readers who emailed or snail-mailed their condolences to us.

A lot of old friends that I don’t meet these days turned out for the memorial service, which helped ease the pain of losing our son.

I want to thank Editor Gwen and Iku Kiriyama for assisting at the memorial by serving as registrants for the guests who attended the memorial.

Also, to Jerry Fukui of Fukui Mortuary, for putting together the memorial for our family. He went out of his way in assisting us because we never realized how much effort it takes to organize a memorial service.

I wish I could name all the old friends who attended, but my column space is too limited to do that.

Yes, I would also like to name the readers, many of whom I have never met, who sent their condolences, but that would also take up all the space I am allotted to fill in The Rafu.

As I said, I will say again, thank you all. Your thoughts made our life a little easier to handle in our trying times.

So let me get on with my usual chatter under the heading “Horse’s Mouth.”

I never thought that taking leave for three consecutive columns would be such a difficult task to adjust to.

I guess it’s just old age.

I want to thank fellow Rafu columnist Phil for mentioning my absence from the Rafu pages. I guess a few people missed me.

Let’s see. Oh yeah, if it seems like there are a lot of Japanese tourists roaming around our country, it’s because there are.

A total of 1,652,500 Japanese tourists came to the U.S. last month.

On the other hand, tourism to Japan fell to 857,000 in March.

It was the lowest number of foreign visitors since 2008, when 732,000 arrived in Japan.

South Koreans continue to lead the way among tourists from foreign countries, with 207,000 arriving in March.

Little wonder kim chee is still one of the top foreign dishes sold in Japan.

And maybe that’s the reason Burger King is shutting down its operation in Japan.

Speaking of food, who would believe that ramen is becoming a favorite with Britons in London?

That’s right. Ramen.

Despite its growing popularity in places like New York and Paris, the Japanese noodle dish didn’t seem to capture the attention of the British.

Well that seems to have changed. The Brits are beginning to enjoy the noodle soup and enterprising English restaurant owners are behind the burgeoning ramen boom.

Ittenbari, a ramen restaurant, initially counted on Japanese and Chinese customers, but not anymore.  With the English developing a taste for ramen, the eatery is now focused on local ramen patrons.

The owner of Ittenbari said when they first opened, local people went for sushi, but when they discovered ramen, it took over the top spot among popular Japanese food.

Oh, by the way, a bowl of ramen in London costs $12.86.

Man, I don’t think anyone in L.A. would pay 12 bucks for a bowl of ramen.

Heck, I won’t pay five bucks for a bowl of ramen.

And here’s a laugher on Brits and ramen.

The Japanese custom of making slurping noise while eating ramen is still a step too far for British customers.

“There’s not too much slurping going on in London,” said one owner of the ramen eatery.  “I try to encourage Brits, but it is quite a hard thing to do. One has to practice at home to slurp.”

Oh yeah, I thanked fellow columnist Phil for his mentioning me about my recent loss of a son.

Well, I should pause here and also thank Editor Gwen for mentioning Robin in her column.

Yeah, Robin knew more about computers than I did, so he used to help by emailing photos I used in my column to Gwen.

I didn’t have any idea on how to email photos because my late Robin did it for me.

Thanks, Gwen. I’m going to have a tough time getting photos to you for use in my column.

Maybe one of these days, you can come by our house and teach me how to do it.

By the way, Gwen, I noticed that during the days when my column normally is used (Tuesday and Saturday) you didn’t have too much problem filling the space left blank by my absence.

Hey, maybe I can retire and nobody will miss me.

When I read the headline in the sports section of The Star that Thousand Oaks High School tennis star Claire Lin was in the finals of the USTA International Spring Championships at Carson High, I thought, “So what?”

Well, the former Girls 12 singles championship at the Junior Orange Bowl won five straight matches in the final round and was ready to capture the most prestigious junior title, but her bid was ended with a 3-1, 6-2 defeat.

And whom did she lose to?

What about 13th-seeded Ena Shibahara of Rancho Palos Verdes?

This defeat is what made me print this otherwise “non-Japanese” story.

Shibahara won the Girls 16 title with her victory, and also captured the Girls 16 doubles title at Carson.

Also competing in the tournament was Kaori Tsuda of Santa Monica, but she lost to Sonia Landeros in the quarterfinals.

Gosh, there seem to be more Japanese Americans shining in sports we never imagined they would excel in.

Remember in the old days (pre-war) if a Japanese American excelled in sports, it was usually basketball or baseball.

Tennis? Heck, JAs couldn’t afford to buy a tennis racket.

Well, since I lost my driver with the passing of Robin, I guess I’m going to have to decide how I’m going to make my next trip to Las Vegas.

Perhaps this means I won’t be making any more Vegas trips.

That’s hard for me to accept.

Of course, my absence won’t affect Boyd Properties in Downtown Vegas. That would be The California, Fremont and Main Street Hotel and Casino.

The last final report of these three sites showed they had a slight drop in profits from $57 million to $54.1 million.

I guess a 3-million-buck loss is nothing in Vegas.

At any rate, there is something I forgot to mention when I opened today’s column.

That is, the two top executives from Boyd Properties were thoughtful enough to send two flower displays to my son’s memorial services.

John Reppetti and David Lebby provided the beautiful flower displays, and my family thanks them for their thoughtfulness.

Now, if I can make it to Vegas, I can thank them in person.

Well, May is just around the corner so I’ll know what my future plan for Vegas will be.

Oh well, just for laughs and to continue filling the blank space, I’ll toss this in, and wait for Maggie to say, “Oh, Mr. Y., you used it before.”

At any rate, here it is:

Man who runs in front of a car gets tired.

Man who runs behind a car gets exhausted.

Man with one chopstick goes hungry.

Man who eats too many prunes gets good run for money.

War does not determine who is right. War determines who is left.

Wife who puts her husband in doghouse soon finds him in cathouse.

Man who drives like hell bound to get there.

Man who lives in glass house should change his clothes in the basement.

Crowded elevator smells different to midgets.

Person who deletes this has no sense of humor. (Maybe you, Maggie.)

Oh, before I forget, the reason I missed three columns instead of the two I said I would miss: an accident put me in the hospital for one day, forcing me to miss the extra day.

What happened?

I was cleaning out the shelf near our TV set when a heavy item fell and hit my leg just above the ankle.

It started to bleed and swell, so I went to the hospital. The doctor said he’d keep me in there for at least a day.

So now, I’m walking with a limp.

But it’s a good thing my ankle doesn’t harm my ability to pound away on my computer.

I’m scheduled to go back for an exam tomorrow, but it shouldn’t interrupt my ability to pound away on my PC keyboard.

We’ll see come next Sunday, when I write my next column.

Man, isn’t life crazy?

The next thing you know, the Dodgers will be playing in the World Series.

Heh heh.

Maybe if my friend Al Morita can arrange it, I can get a Sansei’s opinion on the popular Japanese restaurant Makino’s in Las Vegas, which I write about from time to time.

I notice that when I dine there, most of the patrons are older JAs and hakujins.

So what about the younger JAs?

Well, my third son is a Sansei and he said he’d like to try a Japanese restaurant when he visits Vegas next week for his first wedding anniversary.

I suggested Makino’s but he would have to give me his opinion about the place if I could arrange a two-seat dinner for him.

He agreed.

So, we’ll see how it turns out.

I’ve always been curious what the Sansei generation thinks about Japanese cuisine and this might be a good opportunity for me to find out and write about it.

Yeah, he could pay for his Makino dinner, but he might be able to give me his opinion if he was “comped.”

Oh well, wait ’til two weeks from now and you readers will get a Sansei’s opinion on the well-known Japanese eatery, which is not far from downtown, where most Japanese visitors stay.

Speaking of food, how many of you know that a 93-year-old Nisei named Susumu Ito, a Congressional Gold Medal recipient who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team during WWII and lives in Massachusetts, is a master of Spam musubi?

Many credit Japanese immigrants who settled in Hawaii for popularizing Spam musubi, the canned ham placed on top of a ball of rice. Over time, Japanese cooks added Spam to rice balls.

Today, Spam musubi has enthusiasts far from its Hawaii origin, just as the California roll, an American twist on sushi with avocado and crab meat added, has become a hit.

Ito is not from Hawaii. He was born and raised in Stockton and learned to make sushi from his mother, who made traditional maki-zushi, sushi rolls with vegetables.

Ten years ago, he decided to make his own version of Spam musubi.

He opens a can of Spam, slices and browns it in a skillet with teriyaki sauce, and lets it form a shiny gloss. He lays the Spam on rice, adds wasabi sauce, red ginger, and furikake, adds another layer of rice, presses the layers, and wraps the whole thing in nori. Then he slices it into pieces.

And, as the story goes, the rest is history.

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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