House ‘Jack’ built highlights living landmark
The passion that Sadamu “Jack” Oshiro has for his work as manager of one of Kadena’s well-known eateries has not diminished with time. In fact, Oshiro, 76, seems to enjoy his job with the enthusiasm of a neophyte that has something to prove.
But Oshiro is no beginner. As manager of Jack’s Place for more than 36 years, he continues to oversee every detail of the operation. It has earned Jack’s a reputation as one of the finer places in Okinawa to enjoy a meal.
Oshiro did not start out to be in the food industry. At age 18, he had plans to attend college in the United States and was accepted at the University of Ohio. However, one day he visited a friend who worked at a base club, 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 born in Okinawa, Oshiro has had a bit of the “luck ‘O the Irish,” so to speak. At age 12, with the American military troops making their way inexorably across the Pacific, he along with other children were sent to the mainland for safety.
At the time, 13 year-olds were being drafted into the Imperial Japanese Army. On their way to evade gunfire and torpedoes, another ship carrying Japanese children was unintentionally sunk by U.S. Navy ships. Oshiro’s vessel was untouched.
Oshiro spent the remainder of the war in Miyazaki Prefecture, where he says he was excited.
“I was just a kid,” he says. “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. The experience could have embittered the young man. But thanks to his father, ironically, it didn’t.
“My father taught me that sometimes we are involved in circumstances beyond our control,” Oshiro says. “We should not hate our fate, but live as best as we can.” It’s principle he appears to apply to his work as well.
Oshiro designed the extensive and eclectic menu for Jack’s Place. He works every evening along with longtime hostess Kiyo Sakuda to greet customers and encourage employees, ensuring that everything from the décor to the settings is as good as it can possibly be.
It was as a tribute to this devotion to quality, as well as to his popular personality, that the club was named after him. One day, over 30 years ago, when the place was still known as Skoshi Room – the little Kadena Officer’s Open Mess – he was called in for an “emergency.”
“When I arrived,” 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 with which to replace “Skoshi Room” with “Jack’s Place.”
You can sample some of the restaurant’s trademark excellence in the form of a variety of dishes 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.
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 hopes see many more.
Get to Jack’s Place by taking the first right after Gate 1, just up from the Student Transportation Office. It’s open every day except Monday for dinner only. For more information, call 634-JACK (5225).
This story was originally published in Stripes Okinawa, Sept. 18, 2009 edition.