(Published Sept. 6, 2014)

To be creative in writing, one must first be in the proper mood. I know from my own personal experience in pounding out two columns a week for The Rafu.

One of the key factors, of course, is to determine if what I m writing would be of interest to those who read it.

This is not that easy when writing for a newspaper because the reading audience is composed of so many different minds. Of course, since The Rafu is a publication mainly for the Japanese American community, the task may not be that difficult.

Okay, having opened with the foregoing statement, let me pound out today’s chatter.

If I were writing my column for, say, The Los Angeles Times and picked natto as the topic, I would have to do a lot of explaining because the majority of the readers would say, “What is natto?”

For Japanese Americans, it would not be necessary to explain natto. We know it is a traditional Japanese food made by fermenting soybeans.

What is nattokinase?

It’s a component extracted and purified from natto. It is not found in other soy foods.

Nattokinase has the distinct ability to make blood and other components in the blood less sticky. In this way, nattokinase has been shown in animal and human studies to reduce blood clotting and buildup of plaque in the arteries. As such, nattokinase has the potential for slowing the hardening of arteries and for reducing heart disease.


As one who was interned at Heart Mountain during the early days of World War II, news stories on the Wyoming camp catch my eye. I recently saw an article with the title “Return to Heart Mountain: Annual Pilgrimage Brings Former Internees, Site Supporters Together.”

Hopefully the editors at Rafu didn’t catch the story and run it, since I’m going to reprint some of it:

Raymond Uno returned to Heart Mountain last week. Uno, 83, first arrived in the wind-swept high plains of northwest Wyoming in 1942 as a prisoner, held in an armed camp because he was of Japanese ancestry.

Last week, the retired district court judge from Salt Lake City came back to join with internees and others to honor Japanese American World War II veterans and others who served. The Heart Mountain World War II Japanese American confinement site’s fourth annual pilgrimage was held on Friday and Saturday. The two-day event was sponsored by the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation.

“I have a mix of good and bad memories,” Uno said of being at Heart Mountain then and now.

He was just 11 when his family was wrenched from their lives in El Monte, Calif. and brought via troop train to the camp where more than 10,000 Americans of Japanese descent were incarcerated from 1942-1945.

His father Hachiro Uno and late brother Wallace Uno were also held at the camp, as was his sister Yuki Tomomatsu, who now lives in Gardena. The elder Uno died there.

“My father passed away Jan. 21, 1943 in Heart Mountain of coronary thrombosis,” Judge Uno said Saturday.

Uno said he recalled the funeral service clearly.

“Ironically, he was a Legionnaire and given a full military funeral by the American Legion posts of Powell, Cody and Heart Mountain, with a Legion honor guard’s rifle salute and Boy Scouts posting colors of the U.S. flag,” he said. “I believe this is the only time an interned Japanese American veteran was so honored in any of the ten concentration camps throughout the U.S. during World War II.”

Raymond Uno said his family entered camp the day it opened and was held there behind barbed wire, under the watchful eye of armed guards, until the camp was closed in 1945.

Like thousands of other internees, Uno served his country after he was released.

He joined the U.S. Army and was stationed in Japan for two years and seven months as an interpreter, translator and interrogator for the 319th Military Intelligence Service as well as a special agent for the 441st Counter Intelligence Corps in Tokyo.

He went on to a long, successful career, earning multiple degrees, including a law degree and a doctorate in humanities. He served as the deputy attorney for Salt Lake County and as Utah’s assistant attorney general before he was named to the bench.

While his days at Heart Mountain were a dark, often sad period in his life, he has returned to the site to ensure the memories of that place are not lost.

Despite the unconstitutional treatment that these Americans received from their country and government, thousands of men who were held in camps chose to serve in the armed forces during World War II.

The 442nd, which adopted the motto “Go For Broke,” earned eight Presidential Unit Citations while 21 of the soldiers in the unit received Medal of Honor awards for World War II.


Yes, it also caught my eye. It’s the story about the proposal to set the new minimum wage at $13.95 per hour. Wow.

When I saw that, I recalled the day when I first got a job back in the 1930s.

My pay? Thirty-five cents an hour or over $13 less than what the new minimum pay will be if the proposal is accepted.

Oh yeah, I was later offered a job directing traffic at Stanford University football games.

My pay? A whopping 50 cents per hour. Since I worked four hours, that means I took home $2.

Yeah, that would still be almost $12 less than what they will be paying today’s workers.

Oh well, since an ice cream cone cost 10 cents, I guess getting 50 cents an hour wasn’t that bad.

When those of us who were tossed into Santa Anita Assembly Center were hired to work on making camouflage nets for the Army, we were paid $8 a day.

Wow! From 50 cents an hour to $8 a day?

And when we got to the relocation camps, I was on the staff of the camp newspaper and was paid $16 a month.

Needless to say, there was no place to spend money in camp, so it didn’t matter if we got $16 a month or $16 a day.

What the heck, when I left camp and joined the Army, my pay as a buck private was $21 a month.

When I was discharged, I had attained the rank of staff sergeant and I was paid $80 a month.

Maybe working for such wages made it possible from me to turn to newspapering for a job.

My first newspaper job after I returned to civilian life was with Crossroads, a weekly, all-English publication printed in Little Tokyo.

No, I won’t say what my pay was, but when I went to work for the daily Shin Nichi Bei, I sure wasn’t any better off financially.

What the heck. I really wasn’t looking forward to getting rich working as a newspaperman, and as everyone knows, I didn’t get rich as a journalist.

Just what does “getting rich” mean?

It might mean I could go to Las Vegas more than once a year. Heh, heh.


Speaking of Vegas (as I always do), yes, it looks like I’ll be going to my favorite place sometime this month.

As all of you know, when I do make it there, I’ll be breaking a streak I’ve never been on.

That would be over a year since my last visit. In fact, if I do go this month, it will be a year and three months.

You wanna know something? The more you stay away, the less is your desire to go there.


Let me toss in this short laugher:

Twenty-five percent of women in this country are on medication for mental illness.

That’s scary. It means 75 percent are running around untreated.


A friend dropped by the other day. We must have spent an hour on the front porch chatting about what’s going on in the J-community.

He finally asked, “When are you going to Japan? You haven’t been there for quite a while.”

Yes, it’s been about four years. It’s the longest I’ve been gone in all the years I’ve been a regular visitor.

Needless to say, he asked why.

I guess when you reach my age, making tours (especially out of the country) isn’t as appealing as it used to be.

Yeah, going to Vegas has more appeal than a long journey to Tokyo. The only Tokyo I want to visit is Little Tokyo, and that’s only a 20-minute drive from Gardena, going on the Harbor Freeway.

Going to Little Tokyo also gives me a chance to visit my old friend Tak Hamano at his Umeya Rice Cake Company, and knowing Tak, I always bring home a few boxes of senbei.

I can’t do that going to Big Tokyo in Japan.


Wow! I just looked at the page I’m typing on and I see I’m on Page 7. That’s a heck of a lot more than I anticipated when I sat down in front of my computer.

Well, chalk it up to old age.


Speaking of old age, as I mentioned, a friend dropped by the other day and for one reason or another we touched on age.

I was surprised when the friend told me, “Hey, I’m 91.”

I figured he was my age. (That’s 89.)

That’s because about 10 years ago, the friend was with me when I climbed Mt. Fuji.

He sprinted up Fuji-san like a teenager and he still looks like a teenager.

George Yoshinaga writes from Gardena. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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