(Published Dec. 30, 2014)

Gosh, it’s tough to believe that the year 2014 is now history and we are launching 2015. It’s tougher for me to accept that 2015 will be the start of my 25th year as a columnist with The Rafu.

Back in 1990 when I was invited to join The Rafu as a columnist, I couldn’t even imagine lasting this long. I’ll have to thank Publisher Mike Komai and Editor Gwen for letting me hang on for so many years.

A lot of new talent has joined the staff along with a few old-timers like Wimp Hiroto, so my presence with the publication might be touch and go.


At this time of the year, the major news event, of course, is the Pasadena Rose Parade. I always look for a Japanese angle when looking over the parade.

This year, the City of Alhambra gives the annual event a Japanese community touch with their entry of a float honoring the Nisei veterans. It depicts the Go For Broke Monument in Little Tokyo.

The Alhambra entry may face a little competition in its salute to the Japanese Americans when the island of Maui enters its high school marching band.

Kerry Wasano, director of the Maui High band, said, “They only pick the best bands around the world and we thought we had a chance to perform in the Rose Parade because tournament president Richard Chinen was born and raised in Hawaii.”

So the Maui band was thrilled when it was invited to participate in Pasadena on New Year’s Day. But they had to figure out a way to raise the $500,000 for travel expenses. Everyone pitched in to make the Rose Parade come true for the 351 musicians and color guards.

With the help of the state and county government, they were able to raise about $350,000 so far. “The County of Maui was incredible. It gave the band $100,000,” Wasano said.

Lt. Gov. Shan Tsutsui and Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa are both flying to Pasadena for the parade.

“The young musicians will perform a medley of Maui songs and the whole band will do the hula at one point,” Wasano said.

The participation by the Japanese Americans from Maui will be very visible at the Rose Parade, and I am sure that former residents of Maui who have relocated to the Los Angeles area will line the streets of Pasadena to cheer on their former neighbors.


I rode on a float in the Pasadena parade about 30 years ago.

The thing that remains in my mind about that experience was as we moved through the streets of the city, the number of people watching the parade along the street would yell, “Hi, Horse, you look good in your costume.”

I played the role of a Chinese emperor on the float, so I was wearing a Chinese costume. It was a wonderful experience for me.

Yes, my wife, being from Maui, wants to go to the Rose Parade this year so we are planning on going to Pasadena. I’d prefer to watch it on TV, but I guess we’ll end up seeing it in person.


Maybe they shipped their supply to Japan. The other day there was a cutoff of French fries at a local McDonald’s shop.

How can that be? That seemed to be the response by those who were unable to order French fries.

The Japanese consume more than 300,000 tons of French fries each year, mostly at fast-food outlets.

McDonald’s has 3,100 outlets in Japan and due to the shortage of French fries, has cut prices for orders without fries.

I thought some might find this an interesting tidbit, especially when they were told their order of fries could not be filled.

Hey, what’s a Big Mac without French fries?


Speaking of fast food, is Spam musubi a Japanese or American dish?

We know that musubi is Japanese and Spam is American, so put the two together and what do you have? Half Japanese and half American?

If I had to classify the dish, I’d say it’s Japanese. Reason is simple. If you ask an American what a Spam musubi is, they will respond, “It’s Japanese.”

If you put the same question to a Japanese, the response you will get will be the same, “It’s Japanese.”


Speaking of “It’s Japanese,” California’s move to build a high-speed rail has been in the news.

As of now, the only activity on high-speed rail is the project being built between Fresno and Merced.

I frequently ask my Nisei friends if they would take a bullet train if such service was established between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Their responses are all the same: “Not if I can fly.”

Me? No way if I can fly.

I doubt if they can ever provide a train service that can cover the distance between L.A. and S.F. in the same time as an air flight.

Oh well, just a thought.


Yeah, this is my first column since I had my previous two canceled. Well, not exactly canceled. They just failed to be printed.

After writing columns for print over nearly a 70-year period, it’s difficult to change the method of getting them prepared for publication, as I discovered.

So hopefully, here I am.


Most of those who know me know that I am a cigar smoker. But the cigars I smoke are not from Cuba, which produces the best stogies in the world.

No, I don’t know where my cigars come from, but certainly not Cuba.

There is an effort by President Obama to open up the import of cigars from Cuba. I hope he succeeds, although I’m sure if he does, the price of stogies will be so expensive that guys like me wouldn’t be able to take advantage of Cuban imports.

Cigars are expensive even if they are not imported from Cuba, so if the Cubans become available for sale, they would still be too tough to buy.

I know when I was involved in professional boxing and arranged bouts to be staged in some of the island nations in and around Cuba, I would buy Cuban cigars while traveling to those areas.

However, when I got back to the U.S., usually through Florida, immigration inspectors would impound the boxes of Cubans I had in my luggage. They let me keep a few handfuls, but confiscated most of them.

Yes, I’ve been chewing on cigars for a lot of years, maybe close to 50.

I rarely light them up, just chew. I don’t know if just chewing makes them safer for my health than lighting them up.

No, none of my cigars are from Cuba, mostly Nicaragua.

Cigar smokers tell me that if one doesn’t light up, it doesn’t matter if the stogies are from Cuba or anyplace else.


If my last column of the year sounds goofy, let me say it’s because it is goofy. When my mind returns to its normal stage, things will turn out okay.

In the meanwhile, hang in there with me just for this edition.


I have some friends coming from Japan, according to the last correspondence I received from them. They don’t seem to have anything planned, so I guess I’ll have to set up some activities for them.

Seems like people who travel to the U.S. from Japan have changed their reason for coming here.

Well, I guess if I can log them in for a week or so in Vegas, that will seem like enough. We’ll see.

As I have noted in recent columns, I haven’t been to Vegas myself for about a year and five months.

No wonder I have more quarters in my pocket. Heh, heh.


Speaking of Vegas, I noticed that most Japanese don’t have Vegas on their schedule. They seem to seek out other sites and activities while in the U.S. Maybe it’s because many of them travel to countries in Asia that now offer gaming, including slot machines. At least that is what most of them tell me.


Am I at the end of my column space? No?

Well, I guess I can keep hammering away on the keyboard. Since this is my last column for 2014, I’ll have to keep my thoughts open so the readers won’t be thinking, “Sounds like the old Horse to me.”

Yeah, this is the old Horse. Can’t believe I’ll be hitting 90 in a few months. That’s 90 in years, not in pounds.

Well, at 180 pounds, I’m not too far from that mark. Speaking of weight, I try to keep myself around the 175- to 185-pound mark, and as I grow older, it’s not that difficult to do.

The main thing is that I watch how many bowls of rice I consume. My goal is not to eat more than two “chawans” of rice. That may sound easy to most of you, but I struggle to limit myself to two bowls.

Don’t laugh.


Okay, this winds up my last 2014 column.

Hopefully, I can maintain this space in the year 2015. There is a lot of activities on my schedule so I shouldn’t have any problems filling out the space The Rafu allows me.

Thank you for hanging in there with me during 2014.

Best wishes for a happy 2015!

As always, Umataro.

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

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *