(Published April 19, 2014)

Okay, as I frequently do, I’ll open today’s column with a letter from a reader. He asked not to be identified, so I’ll respect his wishes. His letter:

“Dear Horse, I’ve been a reader of your columns from your days at Kashu Mainichi and I often think about writing to you but for one reason or another, I end up tossing my letter in the trash can.

“The one thing I wanted to ask you is how do you decide which letters from readers to print or not print.

“My curiosity got the best of me, so now I am writing to ask you for your response to my question. Thanks.”

Well, there is not a set rule in my mind as to what letters to print or not.

I just decide that if the subject matter of a letter appears to be of interest to the readers, I would print it.

Of course, I frequently use letters that touch on controversial issues.

Hope this clears the air for the reader who submitted his letter.


These days the media frequently runs stories involving Japanese Americans, especially on the sports pages.

One problem is that with interracial marriages becoming a common happening, the name of the individual in question may not match his physical appearance.

Anyone who reads the sports page knows what I’m talking about.

A Japanese-looking athlete may have the name John Smith, while another with the name Saburo Yamamoto looks Caucasian. These are the product of interracial marriages.

The other issue along these lines is the use of the term “Asian American.”

As far as I’m concerned, I’m a Japanese American, so I resent being labeled as an “Asian American.”

Many of my Nisei friends who are my age or maybe a year or two older also tell me they don’t want to be called “Asian American.”

We are Japanese Americans and we have paid our price for maintaining this identity.

Let’s face it. We are of Japanese ancestry, just as Korean Americans are of Korean ancestry and Chinese Americans are of Chinese ancestry.

It has been stated the only thing we have in common is that we use chopsticks.

Hey, remember that 70 years ago when the U.S. entered World War II after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were labeled as “Japs” and Chinese American wore lapel buttons that read “I am Chinese,” so as not to be mistaken for “Japs.”

So now we’re all classified as one. As “Asian Americans.”

Ugh. So, I’ll say it again, I’m an AJA (American of Japanese ancestry).


Is it a good omen?

The appointment of Mark Matsuda as the new police chief of the City of Torrance may be a good omen for Paul Tanaka, who is running for the sheriff’s seat for the County of Los Angeles.

Matsuda is the first Japanese American to be named to the top position in the Torrance Police Department.

Torrance is one of the largest cities in the county, so to be named as the head man of the Police Department is really meaningful. Which bring us to Tanaka. He was Sheriff Lee Baca’s top man but the pair had a falling out and Tanaka resigned his post.

So far, in all the advance publicity on the sheriff’s election, none of the media has touched on Tanaka’s ethnicity. That is, being Japanese American.

However, as the election draws closer, I’m sure it will become an issue.

But, as I said, with Torrance naming a Sansei chief, it may not be such a major issue as far as Tanaka is concerned.

It sure would be nice if Paul can win. Imagine, the chief police of Torrance is a Japanese American and hopefully, the new sheriff of Los Angeles County will be another JA.

The only thing I am thinking about is if Tanaka does win the sheriff’s post, will he resign as mayor of Gardena?

Nothing has been mentioned about this but it’s a thought that crossed my mind.

By the way, the new chief of police of Torrance is 50 years old, which makes him four years younger than Tanaka.

In fact, I have three sons who are older than the new Torrance chief. But maybe age is not a factor.

One of these days, when I’m in the neighborhood of the Torrance Police Department, I am thinking of dropping in to see if I can interview the new chief.

The reason is a few Nisei friends asked me what I know about the new chief. It might make an interesting story.

Oh well, we’ll see.


Whenever I take my wife shopping, I always check my watch to see what time of day it is before we jump in the car.

The reason is that almost always, we end up having lunch or dinner after she does her shopping, so we are pretty much set on where we will dine depending on the time of day.

I prefer going to lunch more than dinner. I’m used to having rice at dinner, and the places we go don’t serve “gohan” unless we look for a Japanese eatery.

However, I always tell my wife that I’d rather have my bowl of rice at home than at a “Nihon shoku” dining spot.

Speaking of dining out, I have my favorite places. After Japanese, it’s Mexican and Korean and on rare occasions, Chinese.

Gardena has a few in each category, so we don’t have to hunt around to satisfy our taste for “foreign” food.

There are Japanese-style eateries that are popular with local Nisei, so we meet a lot of folks that we know when we dine there.

Other sites attract more Japanese patrons from Japan and Caucasians who enjoy Japanese cuisine.

Me? Yeah, gimme my natto and a bowl of hot rice.


Oh, my gosh. Talk about time passing. It’s almost Easter. I realized this when I received a “Happy Easter” greeting card from a friend.

I guess as we grow older and our sons have all gone their own ways, holidays such as Easter seem to come and go without too much celebrating.

Heck, we don’t even have to hide eggs in our backyard for our sons to seek out, like we used to when they were growing up.

Oh well, that’s life.


Just got a notice from Bacon Sakatani, who is putting together the Heart Mountain Reunion in a few months.

Boy, I gotta hand it to Bacon. I’m impressed at the way he puts on these events throughout the year.

Yeah, he’s the one who put on the recent Santa Anita Reunion.

The Heart Mountain Reunion used to be held in Vegas, but with the Wyoming camp population dwindling with the passing years, Bacon has moved the site back to the L.A. area.

This one, like last year’s, will be held at the Montebello Country Club.

Hopefully, I can attend. It’s the only chance I get to meet some of my old Wyoming friends.


Well, I need a space filler, so I thought I’d touch on the Senate race in Hawaii. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa is challenging the current office-holder, Sen. Brian Schatz.

In terms of campaign funds, Schatz has raised twice as much as Hanabusa.

I guess being a Japanese American candidate for office doesn’t have the same advantage as in the old Hawaii days.

Well, we’ll see how it all turns out later this year.


Okay, let me tell you how my potential trip to Vegas is coming along.

I wasn’t even thinking about it in recent days but the phone rang a few minutes ago and on the other end was my brother-in-law, my wife’s brother, calling from Maui.

He said he is planning a trip so he wanted to let me know so we can plan our trip.

I told him going to Vegas from Gardena wasn’t too much trouble if I could find someone to drive me and my wife.

Usually, I can count on Isao Kawahara, who lives up the street from us, but he told me he’s pretty much tied up these days, so I guess I’ll have to search for another chauffeur.


Those of you who enjoy “obento” might find the following interesting. It was sent to me by Editor Gwen, so I guess since the regular section of The Rafu can’t run it, I will use it in my column. Here it is:

If you’re a fan of “obento” (lunch), those delicious-looking home-made Japanese lunches full of color and variety, then you’re going to love this product from Japan — edible cupcake wrappers made from seaweed. You read it right. Edible cupcake wrappers.

Traditionally, these little wrappers are made from paper or plastic and while they’re great for keeping flavors separate in your lunch box, the daily waste involved isn’t really that great for the environment. Now, with this edible variety on the market, you can look forward to taking home an empty lunch box at the end of the day and rest easy knowing you’ve left nature unharmed.

Plus, if this idea spills over to the cupcake world, looks like we could soon be having our cake and eating its wrapper, too.

The seaweed shapes are identical to their paper and plastic counterparts. Perfect for dollops of pasta, balls of rice or julienne-cut vegetables. They’re known as ready-to-eat nori cups.

One packet contains 56 cups, which include ten mini-sizes, ten small rectangular shapes and a dozen each of the small, medium and floral designs.

For extreme seaweed lovers, fill your nori cup with the brown sea vegetable hijiki.

These are great for making the easiest onigiri rice balls ever.

Now with the hanami (flower viewing) season coming up, picnics under the cherry blossoms are the perfect place to try out the nori cups and experiment with different flavor combinations. Just pick a spot, pull out a rug and enjoy some healthy eating, Japanese style.

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena and may be reached via email at horsesmouth2000@hotmail.com. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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