Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | asian american
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I grew up being apprehensive every December 7. I'm Japanese American, and was born long after Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941, but for a long time I felt an inescapable sense of responsibility for the attack. My early years were spent in a military environment -- my dad was in the U.S. Army. But I still felt... guilty every December when people started mentioning "Pearl Harbor Day" and when I started to hear comments and sometimes jokes about those "sneaky Japs. " Being Japanese American means feeling an ambivalence because for many Japanese Americans, 120,000 of them, December 7, 1941 wasn't just the day Pearl Harbor was bombed and drew the United States into World War II. Japanese Americans were just as outraged at the attack as everyone else in the U.S. -- Daniel Inouye, the senior senator from Hawaii and a WWII veteran and medal of honor recipient, tells the story of being a young man in Honolulu that day, and shaking his fists at the Japanese planes and screaming, "damn Japs!" There's another side to this story.

I caught a cool video story today on NYT.com, about a Double Dutch competition held in Harlem. (You may have to do a search for it once you get to the NYT video page). Interestingly, the competitive African American tradition, which counts the number of times you can jump rope in two minutes and then add on layers of amazing acrobatic...

The Washington Post recently reported that the government of Japan is going to start checking out Japanese restaurants all over the world and handing out seals of approvals for those deemed to be serving “authentic” Japanese cuisine. This rather extreme step (it sounds like something the snooty French would do) is the result of a recent visit by the country's Minister of Agriculture, Toshikatsu Matsuoka, who went to a Japanese restaurant in Colorado and saw that the menu also featured Korean barbecued beef.

muckeyrooney-mryunioshiAudrey Hepburn, one of the great, classic actresses of Hollywood of the '50s and '60s, may have died in 1993, but she's alive and well in American pop culture. Her name, and the 1961 film with which her face is most associated, "Breakfast at Tiffany's," came up in conversation a couple of weeks ago, and coincidentally, a TV series' plot later that week involved three women dressed as Hepburn's character from "Tiffany's," Holly Golightly, robbing a bank with her trademark sunglasses hiding their identity. This week, The Gap began airing a pretty cool TV commercial that takes a Hepburn dance sequence from her 1957 musical co-starring Fred Astaire, "Funny Face," and sets her moves to AC-DC's "Back in Black." The commercial is pushing the retailer's new line of skinny black pants. Hepburn's character, a Greenwich Village beatnik who becomes a Paris model, is wearing hip skinny black pants in the dance scene.

Iva_Toguri_mug_shotIva Toguri D'Aquino died Sept. 26, 2006 at age 90, in Chicago. You might not know her, or remember her today, but she was a victim of circumstance who was once one of the most hated women in the United States. You might not know her, but you might know her nickname: Tokyo Rose.

jakeshimabukuro.jpgThink “ukulele” and you’ll invariably get a quaintly exotic image in your head (and the wrong pronunciation – it’s “oo-koo-leh-leh,” not “you-koo-leh-leh”): warm sun, swaying grass skirts, coconut bras, colorful cocktails with umbrellas, and palm trees and a beach in the background.

It’s true, the ukulele is a stringed instrument that was born in Hawai’i (albeit it has its actual origins in a Portuguese instrument that was brought to the islands by 19th century sailors) and given its name, which means “jumping flea” in Hawai’ian. And it’s also true that the ukulele, which basically looks and acts like a miniaturized, four-string guitar, has helped spread Hawai’ian music and culture for a century, since Hawaiian music first caught the fancy of mainlanders during a 1915 exposition in San Francisco.

But the cute little uke isn’t just a tool for strumming up tourism to Honolulu.

GodzillaI finally saw Peter Jackson's 2005 remake of "King Kong," and I'm afraid I was underwhelmed. It was corny, and overly long and not engaging, even when the excitement factor revved up for the final third of the film. It reminded me that although Hollywood has been making monster movies since the original 1933 "King Kong," the monster with the most staying power and screen incarnations -- over two dozen movies -- didn't come out of California, but from Tokyo.

Photo_090906_012.jpgOne great thing about living in the New York area is the simple fact of its diverse population. I've been shopping regularly at various Asian markets in the area -- a Japanese grocery store in Manhattan; the huge Japanese supermarket, Mitsuwa, in northern Jersey; the Korean Han Ah Reum (better known as H-Mart) -- and buying everything from eggs and orange juice to Asian staples like rice, packaged ramen and a variety of unique Asian snacks and junk food. Here in Jersey City's Journal Square area, there's a concentration of Indians and Pakistanis and a two-block stretch of nothing but Indian groceries and restaurants along Newark Avenue. Today, I explored the neighborhood around Journal Square and discovered to my delight that on another stretch of Newark Avenue, there are a number of Filipino businesses.