Chopso One Year Later

In November of this year, it will be Chopso’s one-year anniversary. It’s amazing to me we’ve made it this long. But we won’t be able to go on forever unless we continue to get support from our community. I can’t speak for my friend, filmmaking partner, and my partner in Chopso Quentin Lee but when I do anything for Chopso  I always feel like this is our gift to the community. Something that has been needed for a long time, been tried a few times, but has never completely worked. And instead of waiting for someone else to try it again or hope we get more representation by the mainstream networks and studios, we went ahead and did it ourselves.

For those of you who don’t know, Chopso is a streaming service for movies, documentaries, shorts, and digital series featuring Asian stories and faces. I use the shorthand Asian American Netflix as a description of what the company is when asked by my friends. However, that’s not completely accurate. While Quentin and I were putting the company together, we realized pretty quickly that our audience was bigger than just Asians living in America and that Asians around the globe (especially those living outside of Asia and in English speaking countries) shared a lot of common experiences. So in addition to Asian Americans, we’ve made it a point to reach out to Asians around the globe — so that meant Asians living in Canada, UK, Australia, etc.

The first year of Chopso has been both the most challenging but also been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had in my career. Some of the challenges include acquiring content and getting subscribers, things every streaming platform I’m sure has to go through. And with no outside funding and no major support from traditional Hollywood, we’ve had to do it all on our own.

Knowing that, I think you can guess one of our biggest challenges: getting noticed. With so many places to watch content nowadays, it’s sometimes difficult to rise above the noise. But I’m proud to say that almost every month our viewership and subscribers have gone up. We’ve made dents in social media and our following is growing all the time. We hope with more time and maybe with a marketing/advertising budget in year two we can grow even more.

The other challenge is something that continues to surprise me. The Asian American community largely ignores anything that hasn’t been done by the mainstream networks and studios. For example, when I talk to people about Chopso, most of what they tell they’d want to see on the site are the famous studio movies like Joy Luck Club or Crazy Rich Asians. Both of which are great, however,  it completely ignores the fact that there has been and continues to be so much amazing Asian (American) content out there. Most of which has never been seen outside the Asian American film festival circuit.

We, as a community, need to do a better job of supporting Asian content from the students and youth who are making their first projects to the grizzled veterans making hard-hitting documentaries about our communities and independent movies featuring Asian actors and of course the studio movies. Only when we, as a community, can show that these movies have a viable market, will the studios and networks make more of them. This isn’t just a pipedream. Other communities of color have shown us that this is possible. Chopso was my answer to this issue. Yet, one year later, it’s also the reason that Chopso has not taken the huge leap that I had hoped it would take.

So how can you support us? First and foremost, we need more subscribers. For the price of a cup of artisanal coffee, you can watch a large selection of Asian-centric movies and shows on Chopso for one month. In addition, we need your help spreading the word about Chopso. Follow us on all the social media platforms, and then tell a friend or two or three or four. Go ahead and even tell an enemy two as well.

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And if you’re a creator, we need more amazing content. Hit us up and let us know what you have.  We’d love to feature you and your work on Chopso!

Quick Movie Review: ‘Gehenna: Where Death Lives’ by Hiroshi Katagiri

A little peak behind the curtain over here at 8Asians: we get sent press releases on anything Asian or Asian American—be it a book, movie, comic book, graphic novel or new business. Most of it isn’t worth paying attention to. But when it comes to horror movies, our fearless editor Joz knows how much I love them and forwards them for me to review.

That’s how Gehenna: Where Death Lives ended up in my email. The movie is being released nationally on Friday, May 4, 2018 in theaters and on demand. The film is about five people (three developers, one shady businessman, and a local) who enter a hidden World War II bunker in Saipan, and realize it’s way more than a bunker. The film is the directorial debut of Hiroshi Katagiri, who previously did special effects for Jurassic Park III, Pacific Rim, and others, and stars Doug Jones, the star of the Academy Award winning The Shape of Water.

The movie starts a bit slowly but picks up once—and I’m not giving away anything here—they get trapped in the bunker after disrespecting the locals and the local legends. There are just enough jump scares and creepy moments to satisfy a horror fan’s lust for scares. I’m not sure I totally understood the legend underlying the film, but when I figured out the twist in the end it made the whole thing worth watching.

What fascinated me most about the movie though was Saipan. First, it was sooooooooooooo beautiful. I kept asking myself, how did I not know about this place? Once I got past its beauty, I was struck by how little I knew about the island. During the movie, I found myself Googling its history—especially what happened during the second World War. But what blew me away most was that I didn’t even realize it was part of the United States.  In fact, I found a Huffington Post article that called it the most beautiful place in America that no one has heard of. I guess I know where I’m going on my next family vacation.

Follow me on Twitter at @ksakai1.

8Asians Book Review: The Repatriation of Henry Chin

The Repatriation of Henry Chin, written by Issac Ho and read by Anthony Lee on audiobook, is about a future where the United States has been in an escalating trade war with China which eventually leads to the roundup of all Chinese Americans into “internment” camps—a la, the Japanese Americans during World War II.

This book is a powerful reminder of what could happen to us—as Americans—when we let our fears get the best of us. It’s scary to imagine an assembly center in this day and age at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Or just the idea that you can even lock up an entire group of people for no other crime than being the “wrong” race or ethnicity.

In the book, we follow Henry Chin, who was an ex-military guy turned pharmacist. He’s been trying to live low and raise a hapa daughter after a traumatic war experience in Panama. However, when they start rounding up Chinese Americans, he refuses to comply. He takes his daughter and together they make a run for Canada through the Angeles Crest mountains—with the help of Henry’s army buddy.

My one problem with the story—and don’t get me wrong, this should not deter anyone from reading it—was how Japanese Americans were depicted. There was one part early on when the narrator states that Japanese Americans were wearing Japanese flags to make sure everyone knew they weren’t Chinese. I have a hard time imagining Japanese Americans doing this on many levels. First, we would never wear Japanese flags. And second, we would never sit idly by and allow the government to lock up a whole group of people again.

The concentration camps during World War II scarred the Japanese American community. We still talk about what happened today. It is not hyperbole to write that if a group of Japanese Americans get together, the word “camp” will come up—multiple times. Personally, I’ve dedicated much of my working life to teaching other people about it. We—as a community—have made it a point to make sure it never happens again to anyone ever. After 9/11, Japanese Americans were one of the first groups to come to the defense of Muslim/Arab Americans. So, the idea that Japanese Americans would sit by and do nothing is crazy.

Regardless, The Repatriation of Henry Chin is an important reading for all Americans. I tell people all the time: Today they might be coming after someone else. But if you don’t fight for their rights, tomorrow they could be coming after you. So go out and get this book on Audible or anywhere else audiobooks are sold.

Please note that I received this title for free in exchange for an unbiased review.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Ksakai1.

Is Snake Eyes (from G.I. Joe) Asian?

Growing up there just weren’t a lot of Asians—let alone Asian Americans—on television or in the movies. And when there were, they were very rarely people I actually looked up to. However, when it came to my day-to-day playing, I was a G.I. Joe junkie. I watched the G.I. Joe cartoon religiously and spent hours upon hours playing with my action figures. I made up scenarios where the good guys always won.

My two favorite characters were Snake Eyes (right) and Storm Shadow (left). Snake Eyes was this bad ass guy in a black/dark blue uniform with a mask over his face. He had a big dog—a husky or a wolf—as a companion and never said a word. He knew martial arts and was the good guy’s ninja. Storm Shadow wore white and was the bad guy’s ninja. I don’t know this for a fact, but my memory seems to recall the two of them being mortal enemies—but take that with a grain of salt. I could have just made that up. In my play though, they were friends and both were always on the side of good.

I knew Storm Shadow was Asian. His backstory was that he was from Japan. And from what I could see of his face—since half of it was covered by a mask—was that he had “Asian eyes.” But Snake Eyes was totally different. Snake Eyes’ entire face was covered with a mask. So in my head, I always considered him Asian too.

Artwork by Susan Luo, (c) Devil’s Due 2005 and Hasbro Toys

Why am I telling you all this? Because I’ve come to believe that maybe Snake Eyes wasn’t Asian after all. What happened? My son got a G.I. Joe snowmobile playset for his birthday and it came with a Snake Eyes action figure. I was super excited—since he was my favorite character from when I was his age. But unlike when I was a kid, his mask came off. To my horror, his eyes didn’t look Asian to me.

Here’s a picture I took with my phone:

I needed to get to the bottom of this. Luckily, there is Google. First, let’s look at Snake Eyes’ background:

Snake Eyes is not only a master of ninjitsu, mystical arts, and espionage, but he’s also a master combatant and artillery specialist. Fellow GI Joe Scarlett has labeled him “3-Bravo-0,” Baddest Butt-Kicker Bar None. He’s an expert in all NATO and Warsaw Pact arms. He’s also a black belt in twelve various martial art forms, which include: Karate, Kung-Fu, Ninjitsu, Tae Kwan Do, and more. Snake Eyes is highly skilled in edged weapons, and he’s particularly a master swordsman, never leaving for a mission without his Mikimoto Japanese sword. He’s an expert in firearms and explosives, and he makes it a point not to be fully dependent on one particular weapon.

Notice there was nothing about his race. As far as anyone is concerned, he could still be Asian. When I put in the search term: “Is Snake Eyes Asian?” I quickly found out that I wasn’t the only person asking this question.

What race is Snake eyes anyway, asian or caucasion?

To my delight, someone answered that they thought he was Asian:

i think he’s Asian ? maybe not but i think so

I should put this question into context: It was in response to the fact that in one of the recent G.I. Joe movies, Snake eyes was being played by Ray Park, who as the name implies is Asian!

Wait… What? This doesn’t mean anything. Everyone knows Hollywood whitewashes everything. I needed to keep looking.

On another discussion board, during a very serious discussion about whether Blade would have beaten Snake Eyes in a fight, the idea that Snake Eyes was Asian came out. One of the commentators made this very salient point:

But Snake Eyes isn’t Asian. Uh…he’s a ninja so he’s asian.

Phucking dumb racist.

Not a good sign. But as I looked deeper, I found this:

His real name, origin, age, background, and even his service number are listed under “classified,”

So, if Snake Eyes’ background was classified, he could have been Asian? I really should have stopped here. But then I found this:

In his youth, Snake Eyes, along with Storm Shadow, was trained by the Arashikage Clan. A homeless Caucasian child, entered the clan’s home seeking food, only to be caught by a young Storm Shadow who intended to “punish” the stranger for stealing.

Noooooooooooooooooooooooooo! This can’t be. But I found this same backstory for Snake Eyes across many sites. It seems pretty clear that he isn’t Asian, but instead a Caucasian ninja trained by a Japanese ninja. Even though I found this out, I told my son that Snake Eyes is Asian and then proceeded to superglue his mask on. Don’t tell him. I don’t want to ruin his childhood.

PS: Son, when you read this article when you are older, I hope that you can forgive me for lying to you.

PSS: Ignore everything I just wrote, Snake Eyes is still Asian.

Introducing CHOPSO, video streaming platform for English-language Asian content

Over the last year director/writer/producer Quentin Lee and I have been working hard on a new company, CHOPSO, the first video streaming platform featuring English-language Asian content in the world.

As a filmmaker/writer and as a former Vice President at the Japanese American National Museum, I had the unique perspective of being on both sides of the art world. Looking back now, I can see that together they led me toward the path of creating CHOPSO.

One of my goals as a filmmaker and as a writer is to create content that features people that look like me. However, one of the things I learned quickly was that making movies about Asian Americans was not really a viable career option. In fact, my wife calls my Asian American moviemaking volunteering. The big problem of course is that the traditional distribution channels aren’t interested in content that features or is about Asian Americans and therefore it just doesn’t make financial sense to make them. Despite this bleak outlook, I have continued to produce and write Asian American movies.

At the same time I was making movies, I spent almost thirteen years at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM). In my time there, I programmed screenings, film festivals, book readings, panels, family days, workshops, and exhibitions. The mission of JANM “is to promote understanding and appreciation of America’s ethnic and cultural diversity by sharing the Japanese American experience.” But I took this a step further and included a more pan-Asian Pacific Islander American view in my programming.

One of the memories that has stuck with me from my time at JANM was when we screened the first episode of Fresh Off the Boat. I was excited to see a long line of people show up to celebrate the premier with some of the creators and actors. As I spoke to one of the visitors standing in line, they asked me why Asian American haven’t made anything since the iconic movie Better Luck Tomorrow. This blew me away because Asian Americans had been making content between 2002 and 2015. Some of it—a lot of it—amazing. At first, I wondered if they just weren’t paying attention. But then as I spoke to more people I realized the problem was not that Asian Americans weren’t making content, it was just hard for people to see it because there was no one place to go. You had to either come to JANM on the weekends I was screening something (or places similar to JANM), go to the local Asian American film festival (assuming you were lucky enough to actually live in a city that hosted one), read about it on Angry Asian Man, or stream it on YouTube. If you looked away too long, there was a strong chance you’d never hear about it—let alone see it.

When Quentin Lee and I first started talking about CHOPSO, I knew from my past experiences as a content creator and as a programmer what was missing—a place where Asian filmmakers (who speak English) could show their work but also a place for those who are interested in seeing such content to actually be able to see it. Our goal for the company is to bring those two places together and hopefully inspire new filmmakers and audiences to tell the Asian diasporic story.

Please support CHOPSO and subscribe now. Tell a friend, or two, or three! Buy a gift for someone you know.

CHOPSO is the ultimate streaming destination for English-language Asian content worldwide.  For $4.95/month or $49.95/year, customers can stream CHOPSO’s library anytime via the app (on iOS – App Store Link & Android devices – Play Store Link) or website worldwide (www.CHOPSO.com).  

Follow me @Ksakai1

Gurriel’s Racist Gesture to Darvish Recalls Other “Slant eye” Photos

Over the weekend, the World Series broke my heart. First, being a Dodgers fan, the way they have lost have crushed the soul out of me… and then there was the whole Yuli Gurriel incident after hitting the home run off of Japanese/Iranian picture Yu Darvish.

In case you’ve been living in a cave, here is the image of what he did:

But just to keep it in context, he wasn’t the first to do it and won’t be the last. Here is a list of other people who did the same thing.

The Spanish Tennis Federation:

The Spanish Men’s basketball team:

Miley Cyrus and friends:

Joe Jonas:

Brazilian tennis player:

Uruguayan soccer player:

Another baseball player:

A failed one, but the intent was there… Kate Gosselin:

Argentinian soccer team:

And there are others. Lots of others. In fact, so many I got tired of saving images off of Google and uploading them here. Let’s just be clear, these are not okay and not funny. And WE ARE OFFENDED.

Follow me on Twitter @Ksakai1

Can an Asian American Dress Up as a Geisha for Halloween?

With Halloween less than a month away, I knew what I wanted to write about this month: Racist Halloween costumes. Even though I don’t dress up and haven’t since I was a kid, I understand that Halloween is really important to a lot of people. There have been a lot of articles about racist Asian costumes already, including this evergreen one by my esteemed 8Asians editor Moye, Top 8 most offensive Asian Halloween costumes.

Of course, racist Halloween costumes are not just limited to dressing up like a slutty geisha or in yellowface. Every year people seem to make the bad… err racist… choice of dressing up like a Native American princess or in black face. Here is a good rule of thumb, if you’re going as a person from another race then you’re either close to the line or went over it. For some do’s and don’ts on Halloween costumes, here’s a great article on GQ.

that helps break it down.  Some of my favorite rules they listed are:

  • Don’t Change Your Skin Color to Any Shade Found in Humans
  • Choose a Subject Identifiable by Name

But what if you’re a person of that race? Is it okay to dress up for Halloween as a member of your own group? In other words, as an Asian American, can I go as a geisha? Or a ninja? One part of me thinks it’s okay. Similar to the old adage that I can make fun of my own family but no one else can. But a bigger part of me thinks that it’s not a good idea. It would just reinforce stereotypes.

I imagine some of this debate has to do with what the costume is. I mean there is a big difference between going to a party as a geisha than as a ninja. Or is there? And also, if I’m going as a specific person, that’s probably okay, right? I mean, I could be Bruce Lee, Genghis Kahn, or some other Asian/Asian American.

I decided to ask my friends on Facebook what their thoughts were. Some of the answers surprised me and others were enlightening.

First, I was surprised that not everyone agreed with me about non-Asians dressing up as Asian.

  • I do not find it ‘racist’ for anyone dress up as a geisha, ninja or whatever stereotypical ‘asian’ as long as your intention is to celebrate the spirit of Halloween.
  • Mickey Rooney portraying Mr. Yunioshi was racist. But non-Japanese adults and children trying to dress up in Japanese clothing, or what’s imagined to be Japanese clothing, for Halloween, it’s not the same thing. The skimpy geisha costume is silly, frivolous, funny, tasteless, just like the Queen Nefertiti and other costumes in the same ad. But someone who actual sees a cultural or racial insult in these must have an inferiority complex deeper than the Grand Canyon. It’s Halloween, no need to take any of this seriously, nobody else in the world is doing so.
  • Personally, I don’t really care if people dress up in outfits that are of other nationalities, probably because I’m old, and everything wasn’t so PC when I was growing up. I think if it’s in the spirit of being a “character” and not just “being Asian”, it should be okay. For instance, a samurai or ninja, I think is fine. I guess geisha is okay too. I think I went to a party once in kimono but with a gigantic Japanese doll bobble head on. As a little kid, I dressed up as Mary Poppins, who is white, so was I being racist?
  • Once in a dating relationship with an African American woman, we both wanted someday to show up at a Halloween party dressed as Genghis Khan and Chaka Khan, but we couldn’t agree on who would be GK and who CK. Halloween is not supposed to be historical accuracy, where did anyone get that stupid idea? People want to dress up as ersatz Asians, I got no particular problem with that. I can tell between when someone is trying to be insulting from when someone is just having fun.

Some people schooled me that it was all about intention and really up to the viewer.

  • It’s all about your intention, in my opinion. If someone is going to wear a mostly authentic Japanese kimono to showcase the beauty of the Japanese culture, then that is totally fine with me. I probably wouldn’t be ok with the “slutty” version of that though… which seems to be the direction most Halloween costumes go.
  • I am guilty of wearing a kimono for Halloween in college before. I recently attended a party and a friend of a friend asked me if I was offended (bc I am half Japanese) that she was a geisha and wore a kimono-ish dress and hair up with chopsticks, I said no, but I know plenty of people who would be, it just depends on the person and how PC you are. I have also seen friends who dressed up as specific black rappers and used tanning stuff (like blackface) and that made me uncomfortable, but some black friends thought it was hysterical so it all depends on the people and the intent. As mentioned before by someone else, I think being a specific character or person is different than being an offensive race stereotype for Halloween.

Most people confirmed, it was about being someone specific from a race… as opposed to just being anyone from a race.

  • I feel like that’s different. She’s dressing up as a specific individual/character. If someone just put on Chinese clothes and said they’re dressing up as a Chinese person for Halloween, that’s kind of offensive. If they dress up as Bruce Lee or Genghis Khan, I don’t mind, because they’re paying tribute to a person/character rather than generalizing a whole group of people.

But as far as is it okay for Asian Americans to dress up as Asian for Halloween, it seems most people didn’t have a problem with it:

  • Every year I see a lot of adorable little Korean American girls wearing their hanbok and Chinese American girls wearing their qi pao that they presumably already had for new year’s — so at the elementary age it’s hard to fault ethnic pride and immigrant mom frugality (and a friend of my boy’s just carried around his big brother’s calculus book lol)

But there’s a warning. The same commentor added:

  • Although when my kids were little, they always dressed as specific people– Chang e (the moon lady) and Michelle Kwan and mulan and Sun Wu Kong the monkey King– but no one but they ever knew that, and even when people asked they never knew the reference and would say instead “oh you’re dressed as a little Chinese girl”

So what did I learn? Asians can wear Asians costumes. Great. I’m going to try to get my six-year-old to dress up as a ninja because I think they are pretty cool. But just to be safe, I’ll tell him he’s Fujibayashi Nagato, one of the most famous ninjas of all time or just that he’s Rain from Ninja Assassin.

Follow me on Twitter @Ksakai1

8Books Review: ‘Thank You Very Mochi’ by Paul Matsushima, Sophie Wang, and Craig Ishii

What’s the book about?

When Kimi and her family visit Grandma and Grandpa’s house for New Year’s mochitsuki, they discover the mochi-machine is broken. After initial fears that mochitsuki will be cancelled, Grandpa proposes an interesting, yet old-fashioned solution of making mochi the hand-pounded way.

What exactly is mochitsuki?

Mochitsuki, or pounding rice to make mochi (rice cakes), is an important traditional event in preparation for the New Year in Japan. (Source)

My Thoughts…

Raising an Asian American kid takes some thought. I want him to be proud of who he is and where his ancestors come from. But in the Japanese American community, that can be a bit tougher than some other ethnicities. During World War II, Japanese Americans were made to choose between being Japanese and being American. Most chose to be American. And the “lesson” the community learned from the experience was to blend in—not to speak Japanese, not to live in Japanese communities, etc. In other words, to be as “American” as possible. Because of that, there has in the past—less now—been a shunning of all things seen as too Japanese in the community.

This is why books like Thank You Very Mochi are important for Japanese American families like mine. It connects our culture and American heritages. It allows us to teach and celebrate who we are and our experiences. And it puts people who look like us in the center of the story… as opposed to one of the faces in a crowd. The first time my five-year-old read the book, he told  me, “they look like us.” (On a side note, this was an interesting comment since we’ve read children’s books before that featured Asian and Japanese Americans before).

In fact, my son was so proud of the book he wanted to bring it to his pre-school. It was during a unit where they were studying traditions. Even though, we as a family don’t have a mochitsuki tradition, he wanted to share it with his friends. His classmates enjoyed the story and even got to taste some yummy mochi from Fugetsudo. The part of the reading that warmed my heart the most though was when we got to the pages that had images from the Japanese American “camps” during World War II. Because my son and I ALWAYS talk about them, he kept wanting to tell his little friends about them too. However, since the kids were only four and five, I didn’t think it was appropriate topic for me to bring up; so I told my son that we shouldn’t discuss this then and there. (It should be noted that if you prefer not to talk about the “camps,” they are not mentioned explicitly. However,  if you do,  there are images that depict “camp” life and can lead to interesting conversations about them.)

I realized I wrote this entire review and haven’t mentioned what I thought of the actual contents. I love the writing and the pictures. And more importantly, my kid loves it too. Get a copy of it right away or as a Christmas present for the Asian/Japanese American kid in your life. 

One last thing, I would like to shout out the folks who put out the book: Kizuna. They are a Japanese American non-profit who are trying to connect culture with the next generation. I think they are an organization worth knowing about. To find out more, go to their website here.

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @ksakai1

Asian American X-Files: The Only Asian Person to Have Sex With an Alien

Ever since I read Communion by Whitley Strieber, I’ve been fixated on the alien abductee experience. One of the things I’ve noticed is that a lot of the screen memories of abductees seem to involve Asians. The definition, according to Merriam-Webster, of screen memory is: “a recollection of early childhood that may be falsely recalled or magnified in importance and that masks another memory of deep emotional significance.” When used in context of an alien abduction, many seem to remember seeing an Asian person instead of an alien in their rooms. It is unclear if that’s something their own mind does to mask a traumatic experience or something their abductors put in their heads.

I was hoping to write my next 8Asians article on this phenomenon, but I was having a hard time finding anything. But during this “research” I came across the name Meng Zhaoguo, a Chinese lumberjack who believes he has had sex with an alien.

What fascinates me about Meng, other than the fact that he claims to have had sexual relations with a being not from this world, is that he’s Asian. Why is that unusual? The world of UFOs and aliens—most of the paranormal realm in fact—is very Western. The first UFO sighting—at least in the modern sense of it—was in the late 40s in Roswell, New Mexico and most of the sightings and other related events seem to take place exclusively in the English-speaking world. This isn’t to say that there haven’t been cases that have taken place in other parts of our planet—there have—but they have been much less common.

This is why when I came across Meng Zhaoguo’s story, I was instantly interested. Here’s the quick synopsis of his story:

In 1994, Meng thought he saw a helicopter crash in a remote Northeast corner of China. When he went to investigate, he was knocked out. He woke up back at his place. A few nights later, he was sleeping in bed with his wife and daughter when a nearly ten foot tall, twelve fingered woman with thighs coated with braided hair came to his room, levitated him, and then they engaged in a forty minute love making session.

According to interviews, Meng claimed that he was taken aboard a space ship on numerous occasions after this first encounter. He learned about a human/alien hybrid program and was warned that humans were destroying the Earth.

I was not able to verify this, but many articles claim that Meng successfully passed a lie detector test conducted by the police. In the Wikipedia entry about this case, the UFO Enthusiasts Club at Wuhan University came to the conclusion that the first encounter “may have occurred, the subsequent reported events were almost certainly untrue.”

I won’t pass judgement on whether or not any of this actually happened. But I am suspicious. It is believed that he “received numerous gifts as a result of his abduction, including a Sony television, a cow and, most notably, a job at a Harbin university.” (Source) If someone offered me an expensive TV to say that I had sex with an alien, I’d probably consider it. That’s not true. Buy me a nice dinner and a movie and I’ll say whatever you want me to say. But to be fair to Meng, he’s not the only one in the world who had made this particular claim. This Buzzfeed article highlights six cases of people claiming to have had sex with an alien.

As I looked into the story, one of the things that I found interesting was the attitude of the Chinese government toward the UFO/alien abduction phenomenon. From what I could find, the government’s position on such matters is pretty open:

The PRC once held a very conservative attitude to UFOs and forbid any reports until Reform and Opening Up. “It involved things like location and political factors,” says Wu. “But now we welcome UFOs and aliens and expect we could gain their materials and learn their techniques in order to improve our science. If we discover aliens some day, I hope I could communicate and establish a harmonious relationship with them. People could treat them peacefully.” (Source)

What do you think? Do you think Meng Zhaoguo slept with an alien? Tell me in the comments below.

Follow me on Twitter @Ksakai1 

 

Summer League & Ding Yanyuhang

In July, I went with my family and friends to Las Vegas to watch my Los Angeles Lakers play in the Summer League. For those who don’t know, Summer League is sort of like Major League Baseball’s spring training but with rookies and second year players. This year was an extra special because we got to watch the young UCLA phenomenon and Lakers’ #2 draft pick Lonzo Ball play—by the way, he’s as good as advertised.

Because Vegas is so close to LA, many of the people who go to Summer League games are there to see the Lakers. In other words, it means you have to get there early if you want to score good seats—other than the front rows, seating is open. On the night we went, the Lakers were playing at 7:00 pm so we got there around four.

It’s not that exciting to watch games where you don’t have a vested interest in the players or the team. So we were watching the non-Lakers games sort of passively. And being the father of a five-year-old who has the attention span of a gnat, I spent a lot of the non-Lakers games trying to keep my son amused and well fed. That’s why it took me a while before I noticed something unusual.

During the Boston-Dallas game people were going crazy and cheering every time one player touched the ball. I quickly realized it was the Asian (Chinese) player, Ding Yanyuhang. Not only would they cheer, but they would shout MVP. Here’s a YouTube clip I found. Around minute 2:14 you can hear the audience chanting.

I did not cheer or chant because I wasn’t sure if the crowd was genuinely excited to see this particular Asian player or because they were mocking him. My first instinct was that they were making fun of him. Of course, I assume they were going for the old cliché that Asian guys are short and can’t play sports—this even though Ding is 6’7”.

When I realized what was going on, I asked my friends if they thought the crowd was mocking Ding. They all shrugged—they weren’t sure either. I would like to note that none of them participated in the cheering or chanting with the rest of the crowd.

I would have overlooked all of this had I not heard what was coming out of the mouths of a group of young girls about half-dozen rows above me. They were making chopstick references as they cheered Ding on. I turned around and glared at them and tried to catch the eye of one of the parents or chaperones but they didn’t notice me.

Thinking back now, I would like to believe that the entire arena wasn’t being racist—or at the very least insensitive. I mean, I would have thought that with the successes of Asian baseball players and Yao Ming/Jeremy Lin, we would be past the stereotype that Asians couldn’t play sports.

To be fair, no one was shouting racist epithets at the player—as far as I knew—and there were Asians (Americans?) in the arena who were cheering along with everyone else—even in the above clip. And I only found this out while writing this article, but Ding really was the MVP of the Chinese league. So shouting MVP was at least accurate because he was in fact a most valuable player—although I’d be surprised if the crowd watching the game that day actually knew that.

The reason I’m writing this a month after it happened is because it still bothers me. I vacillate between feeling outraged and also wondering if I was being too sensitive.  What do you think?

Did Jesus Die in Ancient Japan?

Twenty thousand people every year visit Shingō Village in the Aomori Prefecture (referred to as: Kirisuto no Sato or “Hometown of Christ” by locals) that claims that Jesus visited Japan during his lost years and then returned after escaping crucifixion by having his brother take his place on the cross, making his way to Shingō where he became a garlic farmer, married a local woman, and had three children.

Today, in Shingō, you can visit Jesus’ alleged grave site and museum. Next to Jesus’ mound is another mound where Jesus’ brother’s ear is buried along with a lock of hair from Mary—both of which, according to the legend, he carried with him when he fled execution.

Just in case that’s hard to read:

When Jesus Christ was 21 years old, he came to Japan and pursued knowledge of divinity for 12 years. He went back to Judea at age 33 and engaged in his mission. However, at that time, people in Judea would not accept Christ’s preaching. Instead, they arrested him and tried to crucify him on a cross. His younger brother, Isukiri casually took Christ’s place and ended his life on the cross.

Christ, who escaped the crucifixion, went through the ups and downs of travel, and again came to Japan. He settled right here in what is now called Herai Village, and died at the age of 106.

On this holy ground, there is dedicated a burial mound on the right to deify Christ, and a grave on the left to deify Isukiri.

The above description was given in a testament by Jesus Christ.

Sound ridiculous? That’s because it is. Especially when you consider the fact that only one percent of people in Japan identify as Christian. But let’s pretend for a moment that there is something actually to this whole thing. How do people know Jesus visited Japan and then later died there? According to the legend, in 1935, Jesus’ last will and testament was found, which proved that he had not only been in Japan but died there. The document was “coincidentally” burned during World War II, but “luckily” someone had made copies.

What’s the proof that Jesus was actually in Shingō? Here is the “evidence” that is often cited:

It has been pointed out that some of the traditional clothing of the region included toga-like robes worn by men that were unlike other Japanese clothing, as well as veils worn by women, all of which seem more like something from biblical Palestine than Japan. In addition, some of the ancient traditions of the area included other things that are considered to be decidedly non-Japanese, such as carrying babies in woven baskets, wrapping them in robes embroidered with something akin to the Star of David, and marking their foreheads with crosses of charcoal. Even the regional dialect is said to have connections to the Holy Land, with some words resembling Hebrew more than Japanese. Even the name of the village itself was once Herai, which is remarkably similar to the Japanese word for Hebrew, Heburai. On top of all of this, it was once said that many of the villagers had decidedly foreign looking facial features and even blue eyes- let’s ignore that Jesus most certainly did not have blue eyes- that were seen to be a sign that they were descended from someone of non-Japanese origin. (Source)

My favorite part of the myth is Jesus’ supposed decedents have not let the fact that they are related to arguably the most important person to ever walk our planet get to their heads. In fact, a reporter asked one of them if they were going to do anything for Christmas and this was their answer:

“I’m not really planning anything at all for the 25th as it doesn’t really matter to us,” said 52-year-old Mr Sawaguchi. “I know I am descended from Jesus but as a Buddhist it’s just not all that important.” (Source)

Thankfully, it appears that most people in the village don’t actually believe any of this. They seem to mostly want to play along because it brings tourists—from I imagine all over the world—to a small village no one would visit otherwise and spend money at the museum gift shop.

“We’re not saying that the story is true or what is written in the Bible is wrong,” a village official told the BBC. “All we are saying is that this is a very interesting old legend. It’s up to the people who come here to decide how they interpret it.” (Source)

Are you interested in visiting Kirisuto no Sato? It’s apparently quite a commute from Tokyo. For specifics, check out CNN’s Travel article.

What do you think? Any chance Jesus didn’t die on the cross and ended up in Japan as a garlic farmer instead?

Follow me at @ksakai1  

My Father’s Lost Concentration Camp (Pt. 2 of 2)

In April of this year, I was asked by Southern California Public Radio to do a presentation about my family as part of their new series called, Unheard LA. The following is the video from my talk, followed by my original speech (broken into two parts). Please note, the text is from the original draft of the speech, so at points is considerably different than the actual talk I gave.

https://www.facebook.com/KPCCInPerson/videos/1461691680518601/

Be sure to read, Part 1. 

CHAPTER 5: The story (cont.)

The “camp” my family was sent to was in Topaz, Utah.

Now imagine: People going from sunny and WARM Hawaii to the high deserts of Utah—where in the winter there was a snow on the ground and in the summer it was often over 100 degrees. They couldn’t have been prepared for that.

It is important not only to know where they were but why. In 1943, America needed soldiers and people to help the war effort. And there were 120,000 Japanese Americans sitting idly in these “camps.” But the problem was that the government couldn’t tell the “good” Japanese Americans versus the “bad” Japanese Americans. So, they created a loyalty questionnaire.

The two most important questions were questions 27-28.

There were only two possible answers to these questions. Yes, Yes and No, No. Answering one of them no, meant you were answering them both no. These two questions literally divided my community and its effects can still be felt today.

So why did people answer yes-yes? It’s pretty simple actually. They were loyal and willing to prove it. And they had no allegiances to any other country. The No-Nos were a bit more complicated. Some said, take me out of camp, take me out of this prison, I’m willing to answer yes, until then: No. And they believed Question 28 was a trick question, because the basic underlying assumption was that you had allegiances to another country.

How did my grandfather answer these questions? No Question 27 and No to Question 28.

Here are my grandfather’s words on why he answered the way he did:

  1. As an American citizen, he was insulted.
  2. He thought if he answered yes-yes, he and his family would be released on the mainland where they had no friends and family and into communities where anti-Japanese sentiment prevailed.
  3. If they were going to be deported anyway – as my grandfather believed – a ‘yes’ answer would not look good.

And, because of his answer, they were sent to Tule Lake.

…where all the “bad” Japanese were sent.

In 1944, the US government passed a law that allowed American born citizens to renounce their citizenship voluntarily during wartime. The bill was designed to pave the way for the mass deportation of Japanese Americans after the war.

It was under this law that my grandfather (and other Japanese Americans like him) renounced his citizenship. He said he did this because he was convinced that Japanese Americans were going to be deported to Japan and it’s better to be first rather than last in line. Secondly, there were pro-Japanese factions in camps that threatened him and his family if he didn’t renounce his citizenship.

Once Tule Lake closed, they were sent to Crystal City, Texas.

This camp was for an “enemy aliens” and had to adhere to the Geneva Conventions, meaning better food and shelter than the “regular camps”. And when I looked into it, there was a swimming pool in Crystal City

After the war, my grandfather and other Japanese Americans realized renouncing their citizenship was a mistake. They worked with Wayne Collins, a wonderful lawyer from San Francisco, who said, “You can no more resign your citizenship in a time of war than you can resign from the human race.” He argued their renunciations had been the result of the unlawful detention and the terrible conditions in Tule Lake and not their decision.

My grandfather argued he was an American by birth. His rights had been violated. But he wanted to remain in the country.

After much hand wringing, my grandfather and his family were allowed to stay…

… they were given $25 dollars each and one way tickets back to Hawaii. Their citizenship was returned to them 10 years later.

I don’t look at my grandfather’s story through rose-colored glasses. There are many disturbing things about his story. In fact, the first time I read it I thought he was a spy. Unfortunately, my grandfather passed away before I was born. I have so many questions I wish I could ask him. The most important being, did he know about Pearl Harbor.

But even without those answers, I no longer believe he was a spy. He just got caught in a wave of hysteria and was making the decisions he thought was best for him and his family. Blaming my grandfather also takes blame away from the government, who incarcerated 120,000 based entirely on their ethnicity.

Now that I know the story, I use every opportunity to pass the story to my son.

CHAPTER 6: Passing the story

It started with a trip to Manzanar when he was four.

But this was not just a one-time thing. Every time we pass places where Japanese Americans were incarcerated here in Southern California, I make sure to remind him. So that includes Santa Anita Race track, Griffith Park, Pomona Fair Grounds, and Tuna Canyon. I tell him, “this is where they locked up our people.”

This is my life’s work, to share the story of my family and others who were locked up. In fact, I constantly tell my son that we, as decadents of people who were locked up in these “camps,” have a moral responsibility to make sure that it never happens again to anyone ever. And I share it with all of you in the hopes we don’t let history repeat itself again.

Follow me on Twitter @ksakai1.