From "Okinawa Bits and Bites"
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Legend or Living Landmark – Jack of ‘Jack’s Place’
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
The passion that Sadamu “Jack” Oshiro has for his work as manager of one of Kadena’s well known eating establishments has not diminished with time. As a matter of fact, the seventy-something Oshiro seems to enjoy his job with an enthusiasm one would associate with a neophyte having something to prove.
But Oshiro is no beginner. He has presided as manager of Jack’s Place for over 36 years and continues to oversee every detail of the operation, which has earned a reputation as one of the finer places in Okinawa to enjoy a meal.
He did not start out to be in the food industry. As a young man of 18 he had plans to attend college in the United States and was actually accepted at the University of Ohio. But one day he visited a friend who was working at a club on the base, which had fallen into American hands after the bloody battles of World War II.
The club was busy and the manager asked Oshiro if he wanted to work. It was a fateful decision leading to a long and successful career.
Although Oshiro was born in Okinawa, he has had a bit of the “luck ‘o the Irish”, so to speak. As the Americans made their way inexorably across the Pacific, he was sent with other children to the mainland where it was thought he would be out of harm’s way. He was twelve years old, just short of his thirteenth birthday, a fact that kept him from being drafted into the Japanese Army. As they zig zagged on their way to evade gunfire and torpedoes, another ship carrying children was mistakenly sunk by ships of the US Navy. All aboard were lost at sea. Oshiro’s vessel was untouched.
Oshiro spent the remainder of the war in Miyazaki, where, he says, he was excited by what he considered an adventure. “I was just a kid,” he remarks, “so I didn’t really understand what was going on.”
Returning to Okinawa he discovered that his father had been killed during an air attack. “It was a Grumman plane,” he says. The elder Oshiro lived long enough to write out a will. The experience could have embittered the young man, but he says, “My father taught me that sometimes we are involved in circumstances beyond our control. We should not hate our fate, but live as best as we can.”
In the film, The Last Samurai, the character played by Tom Cruise notes that the Japanese, upon awakening , spend the rest of their day attempting to bring perfection to everything they do. The observation, in general, is fairly accurate and could describe the attitude of Oshiro in his work.
The extensive and eclectic menu at Jack’s Place is of his design. He is there every evening along with longtime hostess, Kiyo Sakuda, to greet customers, encourage employees, assuring that everything from the décor to the settings is as good as can be.
It was as a tribute to his devotion to quality as well as to his warm personality that the club was named after him. It happened over thirty years ago when the place was known as Skoshi KOOM – the Little Kadena Officer’s Open Mess – when he was called to the main club for an “emergency.”
“When I arrived at the club,” he relates, “I found about 400 people waiting to give me a surprise testimonial party.”
He was greeted with a standing ovation and a song written especially for him was performed. As a finale he was handed a brand new sign to replace “Skoshi KOOM” with “Jack’s Place.”
You can sample some of Jack’s trademark excellence in the form of a variety of dishes and at reasonable rates. Jack’s Place specializes in Kobe beef and also offers fine seafood, Japanese and Chinese cuisine and garlic dishes, along with a kids’ menu.
Jack Oshiro is an integral part of Kadena’s history, happy to relate his experiences. He’s seen a lot of changes, watched young officers become flag officers, and, no doubt, will see many more.
Jack’s Place can be found by taking the first right after Gate One, just up from the Student Transportation Office. Open every day except Monday for dinner only.
Phone: (DSN) 634-JACK.