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An Emperor, Abe Lincoln, And Four Presidents

November, 2004

November, 2004, LOS ANGELES - It came with no advance notice. The phone rang. I picked up the receiver. It was the Vice Consul of Japan in Los Angeles, Yuko Kaifu, calling to inform me that I was to be honored by the Government of Japan. I was to be granted the Order of the Rising Sun with Gold Rays and Rosette at an audience with His Majesty, Emperor Akihito, at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. I was stunned! Out of the clear blue sky, with no forewarning, I, an American, was not only going to be given an international recognition by the Government of Japan, but granted an audience with the Emperor! I must have stammered some clumsy words of appreciation and hung up. I was so shocked I can't clearly remember what I said.

It still seemed like a dream as I flew over the white cotton clouds of the Pacific on my way to Tokyo. The letter from the Consul General of Japan's office that followed the phone call said the decoration was for my years of promoting U.S.-Japan relations. It said that my service with the Japanese American Citizens' League, the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission as President Bill Clinton's appointee, the Japan-U.S Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange, and my work with the Japanese American National Museum were appreciated, recognized, and honored by the Government of Japan. All those activities could surely be considered altruistic public service but they also integrated my pride in my Japanese ancestry with my American nationality. Most of all, I enjoyed being engaged with and contributing to all of those activities. Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would be flying to Tokyo to be granted a decoration by the Emperor of Japan in the Imperial Palace for activities I enjoyed and found personally engaging.

The street alongside the moat surrounding the Imperial Palace is the favorite running route for runners in central Tokyo. It's the longest stretch without a cross street. I have run it often when I've been in Tokyo. On this occasion, however, I was going across the bridge over the moat onto the Palace grounds. There were dignitaries from many other countries who were also being honored. I chatted briefly with honorees from Canada, Australia, Brazil, Pakistan, and Mexico among many others who were gathered on the palace grounds. Three of us were Americans, one from St. Louis and two from Los Angeles. Staff from the Imperial Household, wearing somewhat Napoleonic looking coats with double rows of gold buttons down the front, were everywhere answering questions, giving directions, and organizing us.

We were lined up in formation and escorted up the grand staircase to the Imperial Audience Hall. If Japanese minimalism could be described as grandly elegant, this room had to be it. Two sides of the vast room were horizontal shoji screens. Both end walls were entirely covered by woven tapestry with only a pale hint of pastel clouds in the design. About a half-dozen crystal chandeliers of contemporary design hung from the ceiling. In the center of the room was a low, carpeted platform. There was no other furnishing. A man in a gold-buttoned coat announced the Grand Chamberlain and an extraordinarily tall, slim, imperious-looking man stepped forward. He wore a formal swallowtail coat. He instructed, in softly commanding tones, the procedure that was to be followed in the ceremony. Gold-buttoned staffers quietly sidled up to those who did not understand Japanese to whisper translations into their ears.

We were told when the Emperor would make his entrance, how we were to bow, when we were to bow, how often and how long we were to hold our bows. Then he stepped away and grandly announced the entrance of His Majesty, the Emperor. Silently, seemingly automatically, the shoji screen slid open. It revealed a magnificent garden with a placid lake. I could see the Emperor walking down the veranda as he approached the opened shoji screen. We all bowed in unison as instructed. We rose when he entered the audience hall. He too was dressed formally in a swallowtail coat. There were a few more bows as he stepped up onto the low dais. We bowed again before he began to speak. In contrast to the Grand Chamberlain, the Emperor's voice was warm, affable, and somewhat high pitched.

He maintained a gracious smile throughout. He thanked all of us for the services we had rendered in promoting friendship between our nations and Japan and wished us good fortune in our future endeavors. With those simple congratulatory words, he stepped down and smilingly passed in review before us. The opposite shoji screens noiselessly slid open. The Emperor turned at the opened screens, smiled and nodded back to us. We again bowed down in unison. When we rose up, we could see him regally walking away down the veranda.

That evening and for another day after, friends and relatives in Japan celebrated this extraordinary honor for me with every meal. They wanted to see and touch the splendid medal that I had received. One very busy friend could join me only for a late night drink after work. As he toasted me in the rooftop lounge of the Imperial Hotel overlooking Tokyo, the lights of the city seemed to be sparkling in happy celebration with us. If only my parents could have lived to share these moments with me, I thought. How complete this honor would have been.

I had to cut my stay in Tokyo short because I had a professional engagement scheduled in Honolulu, Hawaii. The location was as if it had been perfectly pre-planned - half way back from Tokyo to Los Angeles. I had been engaged to narrate Aaron Copeland's "Lincoln Portrait" with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra on Veterans' Day Weekend at the Blaisdell Concert Hall. The concert itself seemed as if it had been perfectly pre-arranged for this Japanese American - an American note to follow a decoration from the Government of Japan. This Veterans' Day concert in Honolulu was celebrating a great American President and honoring all those throughout history who had fought for our democracy.

The singularly American music of a groundbreaking American composer with the immortal words of a great American President, Abraham Lincoln - and I had the honor of speaking them. It was one honor following another - one Japanese and this one, American. The concert with the Honolulu Symphony Orchestra was a great popular success and I received laudatory reviews. Of course, there were the Star Trek fans who crowded around the dressing room door for autographs after the concert. The flight back to Los Angeles felt like floating on the proverbial cloud nine.

My stay back in Los Angeles, however, had to be abbreviated. Two nights in my own bed and I was off again to another hotel bed - this time in Little Rock, Arkansas. It was the opening of the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center and Park. This is the official name of the President Bill Clinton Library. I was off to help celebrate this exciting and historic occasion.

I remembered the excitement of my flight to Bill Clinton's first inauguration back in January of 1993. We arrived in Washington D.C. to a gray, overcast sky. But, on the morning of the inauguration, the sum broke through and gave the new President from Arkansas a crisp, bright, golden inauguration. I called it, "the luck of Clinton." There was the sense of a new beginning with new ideas and new energy. There was optimism in the crisp inaugural air for the future of America.

Indeed, Bill Clinton's two-term presidency was filled with extraordinary achievements. The fresh initiatives and reforms he brought to government transformed the nation. Despite all the turbulence during his tenure, he left the nation with a surplus. Mindful of his human weaknesses, I am still a Bill Clinton admirer. He gave me the opportunity to serve on the Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, an independent Federal agency. He invited me to my first State Dinner at the White House. Bill Clinton was the President who corrected a grievous oversight of over a half-century by honoring 19 Japanese American veterans of Word War II with the highest military recognition the nation can grant, the Medal of Honor. Among those 19 veterans is the U.S. Senator from Hawaii, Daniel Inouye, who lost his right arm on a bloody battlefield in Italy.

The Clinton Presidential Center is the repository, museum, and library of the records of his presidency. I am a part of the content of the Center and had contributed financially to the building as well. I feel I am a part of the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center.

I arrived in Little Rock excited as well as with a sense of history. The sky was gray and overcast - again, just as it was on his first inauguration. I assured everybody, "Don't worry. There's the luck of Clinton."

The morning of the opening of the Clinton Presidential Center was still gray and overcast. But I could see a patch of blue in the sky far to the south. Pointing it out to the people gathered for the opening, I reassured them, "Look over there. There's the luck of Clinton approaching." Alas, the tiny blue patch of sky drifted off in the opposite direction chased away by the ominously black rain clouds. Even before the program began, it started to rain. It was cold, icy rain. We were not only wet when the program began but visibly shivering under our ponchos. Then the rocker, Bono, began to sing. We didn't need to hear him howl out at us, "When the rain came, when the rain came." We knew. We were sitting in the pouring rain, wet and freezing. It got so cold we thought we were in danger of hypothermia. The four Presidents, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton were yet to be introduced. It would be an extraordinary moment - four presidents all in the same place at the same time. But, we couldn't take the cold any longer. We fled back to the hotel to watch them introduced on television. The four presidents smiled bravely but we knew how uncomfortable they must have been. They were good soldiers. They all showed themselves to be extraordinary people. Their collective grace, humor, warmth, and eloquent mutual respect made us all feel proud to be Americans. The four men truly are presidential. We applauded all four U.S. Presidents from the warmth and cozy comfort of our hotel.

The gala reception the night before in the Presidential Center that preceded the opening, however, was a glittering affair. The new building glowed in celebratory lights. Fireworks exploded like exotic flowers in the darkened Arkansas sky. There were political luminaries everywhere. I spotted Leon Panetta, Joe Lockhart, and Paul Begala from the Clinton administration; George Stephanopoulos and Geraldo Rivera from the media; Howard Dean from the presidential primaries; and Jessie Jackson, former California governor, Gray Davis, and the former Mayor of Detroit, Dennis Archer were among the celebrants. It was rumored that Brad Pitt and Barbra Streisand were also there but I didn't see them. I really didn't need to see Bono to have him sing to us the coming of the rain. It was a dazzling and rainless opening reception.

The Presidential Center is a magnificent museum overlooking the Arkansas River on one side and a sensitively restored historic structure, the Old Choctaw Railroad Station, which is now the Clinton School of Public Service, on the opposite side. It also contains the library for researchers as well as the repository of the papers from the Clinton years. The William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Center is a new landmark of Little Rock and a proud center of learning and inspiration to build a better future for America.

People Reveal The Weirdest Thing About Themselves

Reddit user Isitjustmedownhere asked: 'Give an example; how weird are you really?'

Let's get one thing straight: no one is normal. We're all weird in our own ways, and that is actually normal.

Of course, that doesn't mean we don't all have that one strange trait or quirk that outweighs all the other weirdness we possess.

For me, it's the fact that I'm almost 30 years old, and I still have an imaginary friend. Her name is Sarah, she has red hair and green eyes, and I strongly believe that, since I lived in India when I created her and there were no actual people with red hair around, she was based on Daphne Blake from Scooby-Doo.

I also didn't know the name Sarah when I created her, so that came later. I know she's not really there, hence the term 'imaginary friend,' but she's kind of always been around. We all have conversations in our heads; mine are with Sarah. She keeps me on task and efficient.

My mom thinks I'm crazy that I still have an imaginary friend, and writing about her like this makes me think I may actually be crazy, but I don't mind. As I said, we're all weird, and we all have that one trait that outweighs all the other weirdness.

Redditors know this all too well and are eager to share their weird traits.

It all started when Redditor Isitjustmedownhere asked:

"Give an example; how weird are you really?"

Monsters Under My Bed

"My bed doesn't touch any wall."

"Edit: I guess i should clarify im not rich."

– Practical_Eye_3600

"Gosh the monsters can get you from any angle then."

– bikergirlr7

"At first I thought this was a flex on how big your bedroom is, but then I realized you're just a psycho 😁"

– zenOFiniquity8

Can You See Why?

"I bought one of those super-powerful fans to dry a basement carpet. Afterwards, I realized that it can point straight up and that it would be amazing to use on myself post-shower. Now I squeegee my body with my hands, step out of the shower and get blasted by a wide jet of room-temp air. I barely use my towel at all. Wife thinks I'm weird."

– KingBooRadley


"In 1990 when I was 8 years old and bored on a field trip, I saw a black Oldsmobile Cutlass driving down the street on a hot day to where you could see that mirage like distortion from the heat on the road. I took a “snapshot” by blinking my eyes and told myself “I wonder how long I can remember this image” ….well."

– AquamarineCheetah

"Even before smartphones, I always take "snapshots" by blinking my eyes hoping I'll remember every detail so I can draw it when I get home. Unfortunately, I may have taken so much snapshots that I can no longer remember every detail I want to draw."

"Makes me think my "memory is full.""

– Reasonable-Pirate902

Same, Same

"I have eaten the same lunch every day for the past 4 years and I'm not bored yet."

– OhhGoood

"How f**king big was this lunch when you started?"

– notmyrealnam3

Not Sure Who Was Weirder

"Had a line cook that worked for us for 6 months never said much. My sous chef once told him with no context, "Baw wit da baw daw bang daw bang diggy diggy." The guy smiled, left, and never came back."

– Frostygrunt


"I pace around my house for hours listening to music imagining that I have done all the things I simply lack the brain capacity to do, or in some really bizarre scenarios, I can really get immersed in these imaginations sometimes I don't know if this is some form of schizophrenia or what."

– RandomSharinganUser

"I do the same exact thing, sometimes for hours. When I was young it would be a ridiculous amount of time and many years later it’s sort of trickled off into almost nothing (almost). It’s weird but I just thought it’s how my brain processes sh*t."

– Kolkeia

If Only

"Even as an adult I still think that if you are in a car that goes over a cliff; and right as you are about to hit the ground if you jump up you can avoid the damage and will land safely. I know I'm wrong. You shut up. I'm not crying."

– ShotCompetition2593

Pet Food

"As a kid I would snack on my dog's Milkbones."

– drummerskillit

"Haha, I have a clear memory of myself doing this as well. I was around 3 y/o. Needless to say no one was supervising me."

– Isitjustmedownhere

"When I was younger, one of my responsibilities was to feed the pet fish every day. Instead, I would hide under the futon in the spare bedroom and eat the fish food."

– -GateKeep-

My Favorite Subject

"I'm autistic and have always had a thing for insects. My neurotypical best friend and I used to hang out at this local bar to talk to girls, back in the late 90s. One time he claimed that my tendency to circle conversations back to insects was hurting my game. The next time we went to that bar (with a few other friends), he turned and said sternly "No talking about bugs. Or space, or statistics or other bullsh*t but mainly no bugs." I felt like he was losing his mind over nothing."

"It was summer, the bar had its windows open. Our group hit it off with a group of young ladies, We were all chatting and having a good time. I was talking to one of these girls, my buddy was behind her facing away from me talking to a few other people."

"A cloudless sulphur flies in and lands on little thing that holds coasters."

"Cue Jordan Peele sweating gif."

"The girl notices my tension, and asks if I am looking at the leaf. "Actually, that's a lepidoptera called..." I looked at the back of my friend's head, he wasn't looking, "I mean a butterfly..." I poked it and it spread its wings the girl says "oh that's a BUG?!" and I still remember my friend turning around slowly to look at me with chastisement. The ONE thing he told me not to do."

"I was 21, and was completely not aware that I already had a rep for being an oddball. It got worse from there."

– Phormicidae

*Teeth Chatter*

"I bite ice cream sometimes."


"That's how I am with popsicles. My wife shudders every single time."


Never Speak Of This

"I put ice in my milk."


"You should keep that kind of thing to yourself. Even when asked."

– We-R-Doomed

"There's some disturbing sh*t in this thread, but this one takes the cake."

– RatonaMuffin

More Than Super Hearing

"I can hear the television while it's on mute."

– Tira13e

"What does it say to you, child?"

– Mama_Skip


"I put mustard on my omelettes."

– Deleted User


– NotCrustOr-filling

Evened Up

"Whenever I say a word and feel like I used a half of my mouth more than the other half, I have to even it out by saying the word again using the other half of my mouth more. If I don't do it correctly, that can go on forever until I feel it's ok."

"I do it silently so I don't creep people out."

– LesPaltaX

"That sounds like a symptom of OCD (I have it myself). Some people with OCD feel like certain actions have to be balanced (like counting or making sure physical movements are even). You should find a therapist who specializes in OCD, because they can help you."

– MoonlightKayla

I totally have the same need for things to be balanced! Guess I'm weird and a little OCD!

Close up face of a woman in bed, staring into the camera
Photo by Jen Theodore

Experiencing death is a fascinating and frightening idea.

Who doesn't want to know what is waiting for us on the other side?

But so many of us want to know and then come back and live a little longer.

It would be so great to be sure there is something else.

But the whole dying part is not that great, so we'll have to rely on other people's accounts.

Redditor AlaskaStiletto wanted to hear from everyone who has returned to life, so they asked:

"Redditors who have 'died' and come back to life, what did you see?"


Happy Good Vibes GIF by Major League SoccerGiphy

"My dad's heart stopped when he had a heart attack and he had to be brought back to life. He kept the paper copy of the heart monitor which shows he flatlined. He said he felt an overwhelming sensation of peace, like nothing he had felt before."



"I had surgical complications in 2010 that caused a great deal of blood loss. As a result, I had extremely low blood pressure and could barely stay awake. I remember feeling like I was surrounded by loved ones who had passed. They were in a circle around me and I knew they were there to guide me onwards. I told them I was not ready to go because my kids needed me and I came back."

"My nurse later said she was afraid she’d find me dead every time she came into the room."

"It took months, and blood transfusions, but I recovered."


Take Me Back

"Overwhelming peace and happiness. A bright airy and floating feeling. I live a very stressful life. Imagine finding out the person you have had a crush on reveals they have the same feelings for you and then you win the lotto later that day - that was the feeling I had."

"I never feared death afterward and am relieved when I hear of people dying after suffering from an illness."



The Light Minnie GIF by (G)I-DLEGiphy

"I had a heart surgery with near-death experience, for me at least (well the possibility that those effects are caused by morphine is also there) I just saw black and nothing else but it was warm and I had such inner peace, its weird as I sometimes still think about it and wish this feeling of being so light and free again."


This is why I hate surgery.

You just never know.



"More of a near-death experience. I was electrocuted. I felt like I was in a deep hole looking straight up in the sky. My life flashed before me. Felt sad for my family, but I had a deep sense of peace."



"Nursing in the ICU, we’ve had people try to die on us many times during the years, some successfully. One guy stood out to me. His heart stopped. We called a code, are working on him, and suddenly he comes to. We hadn’t vented him yet, so he was able to talk, and he started screaming, 'Don’t let them take me, don’t let them take me, they are coming,' he was scared and yelling."

"Then he yelled a little more, as we tried to calm him down, he screamed, 'No, No,' and gestured towards the end of the bed, and died again. We didn’t get him back. It was seriously creepy. We called his son to tell him the news, and the son said basically, 'Good, he was an SOB.'”



"My sister died and said it was extremely peaceful. She said it was very loud like a train station and lots of talking and she was stuck in this area that was like a curtain with lots of beautiful colors (colors that you don’t see in real life according to her) a man told her 'He was sorry, but she had to go back as it wasn’t her time.'"


"I had a really similar experience except I was in an endless garden with flowers that were colors I had never seen before. It was quiet and peaceful and a woman in a dress looked at me, shook her head, and just said 'Not yet.' As I was coming back, it was extremely loud, like everyone in the world was trying to talk all at once. It was all very disorienting but it changed my perspective on life!"


The Fog

"I was in a gray fog with a girl who looked a lot like a young version of my grandmother (who was still alive) but dressed like a pioneer in the 1800s she didn't say anything but kept pulling me towards an opening in the wall. I kept refusing to go because I was so tired."

"I finally got tired of her nagging and went and that's when I came to. I had bled out during a c-section and my heart could not beat without blood. They had to deliver the baby and sew up the bleeders. refill me with blood before they could restart my heart so, like, at least 12 minutes gone."


Through the Walls

"My spouse was dead for a couple of minutes one miserable night. She maintains that she saw nothing, but only heard people talking about her like through a wall. The only thing she remembers for absolute certain was begging an ER nurse that she didn't want to die."

"She's quite alive and well today."


Well let's all be happy to be alive.

It seems to be all we have.

Man's waist line
Santhosh Vaithiyanathan/Unsplash

Trying to lose weight is a struggle understood by many people regardless of size.

The goal of reaching a healthy weight may seem unattainable, but with diet and exercise, it can pay off through persistence and discipline.

Seeing the pounds gradually drop off can also be a great motivator and incentivize people to stay the course.

Those who've achieved their respective weight goals shared their experiences when Redditor apprenti8455 asked:

"People who lost a lot of weight, what surprises you the most now?"

Redditors didn't see these coming.

Shiver Me Timbers

"I’m always cold now!"

– Telrom_1

"I had a coworker lose over 130 pounds five or six years ago. I’ve never seen him without a jacket on since."

– r7ndom

"140 lbs lost here starting just before COVID, I feel like that little old lady that's always cold, damn this top comment was on point lmao."

– mr_remy

Drawing Concern

"I lost 100 pounds over a year and a half but since I’m old(70’s) it seems few people comment on it because (I think) they think I’m wasting away from some terminal illness."

– dee-fondy

"Congrats on the weight loss! It’s honestly a real accomplishment 🙂"

"Working in oncology, I can never comment on someone’s weight loss unless I specifically know it was on purpose, regardless of their age. I think it kind of ruffles feathers at times, but like I don’t want to congratulate someone for having cancer or something. It’s a weird place to be in."

– LizardofDeath

Unleashing Insults

"I remember when I lost the first big chunk of weight (around 50 lbs) it was like it gave some people license to talk sh*t about the 'old' me. Old coworkers, friends, made a lot of not just negative, but harsh comments about what I used to look like. One person I met after the big loss saw a picture of me prior and said, 'Wow, we wouldn’t even be friends!'”

"It wasn’t extremely common, but I was a little alarmed by some of the attention. My weight has been up and down since then, but every time I gain a little it gets me a little down thinking about those things people said."

– alanamablamaspama

Not Everything Goes After Losing Weight

"The loose skin is a bit unexpected."

– KeltarCentauri

"I haven’t experienced it myself, but surgery to remove skin takes a long time to recover. Longer than bariatric surgery and usually isn’t covered by insurance unless you have both."

– KatMagic1977

"It definitely does take a long time to recover. My Dad dropped a little over 200 pounds a few years back and decided to go through with skin removal surgery to deal with the excess. His procedure was extensive, as in he had skin taken from just about every part of his body excluding his head, and he went through hell for weeks in recovery, and he was bedridden for a lot of it."

– Jaew96

These Redditors shared their pleasantly surprising experiences.


"I can buy clothes in any store I want."

– WaySavvyD

"When I lost weight I was dying to go find cute, smaller clothes and I really struggled. As someone who had always been restricted to one or two stores that catered to plus-sized clothing, a full mall of shops with items in my size was daunting. Too many options and not enough knowledge of brands that were good vs cheap. I usually went home pretty frustrated."

– ganache98012

No More Symptoms

"Lost about 80 pounds in the past year and a half, biggest thing that I’ve noticed that I haven’t seen mentioned on here yet is my acid reflux and heartburn are basically gone. I used to be popping tums every couple hours and now they just sit in the medicine cabinet collecting dust."

– colleennicole93

Expanding Capabilities

"I'm all for not judging people by their appearance and I recognise that there are unhealthy, unachievable beauty standards, but one thing that is undeniable is that I can just do stuff now. Just stamina and flexibility alone are worth it, appearance is tertiary at best."

– Ramblonius

People Change Their Tune

"How much nicer people are to you."

"My feet weren't 'wide' they were 'fat.'"

– LiZZygsu

"Have to agree. Lost 220 lbs, people make eye contact and hold open doors and stuff"

"And on the foot thing, I also lost a full shoe size numerically and also wear regular width now 😅"

– awholedamngarden

It's gonna take some getting used to.

Bones Everywhere

"Having bones. Collarbones, wrist bones, knee bones, hip bones, ribs. I have so many bones sticking out everywhere and it’s weird as hell."

– Princess-Pancake-97

"I noticed the shadow of my ribs the other day and it threw me, there’s a whole skeleton in here."

– bekastrange

Knee Pillow

"Right?! And they’re so … pointy! Now I get why people sleep with pillows between their legs - the knee bones laying on top of each other (side sleeper here) is weird and jarring."

– snic2030

"I lost only 40 pounds within the last year or so. I’m struggling to relate to most of these comments as I feel like I just 'slimmed down' rather than dropped a ton. But wow, the pillow between the knees at night. YES! I can relate to this. I think a lot of my weight was in my thighs. I never needed to do this up until recently."

– Strongbad23

More Mobility

"I’ve lost 100 lbs since 2020. It’s a collection of little things that surprise me. For at least 10 years I couldn’t put on socks, or tie my shoes. I couldn’t bend over and pick something up. I couldn’t climb a ladder to fix something. Simple things like that I can do now that fascinate me."

"Edit: Some additional little things are sitting in a chair with arms, sitting in a booth in a restaurant, being able to shop in a normal store AND not needing to buy the biggest size there, being able to easily wipe my butt, and looking down and being able to see my penis."

– dma1965

People making significant changes, whether for mental or physical health, can surely find a newfound perspective on life.

But they can also discover different issues they never saw coming.

That being said, overcoming any challenge in life is laudable, especially if it leads to gaining confidence and ditching insecurities.