Government of Japan Announces Spring Decorations

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Takeo Uesugi, designer of the Japanese garden at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and Paul Shiba, president of Seinan Senior Citizens Club are among the leaders who will receive Spring 2010 Decorations, the Government of Japan announced on Wednesday. The other honorees are Masako Takiguchi, former chairperson of the Himeji City Committee of Phoenix, Ariz., and the instrumental rock group, the Ventures.

The conferment ceremony for Uesugi and Shiba will be held in Los Angeles, while Takiguchi’s conferment ceremony will be held in Phoenix and The Ventures’ conferment ceremony will be held in Seattle.

Takeo Uesugi

Dr. Takeo Uesugi will receive the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon for his work fostering the development of Japanese gardens in the U.S.

Takeo Uesugi

He was born in Osaka, Japan, in 1940 to a family tied to the tradition of Japanese gardeners and landscapes for generations. After earning a master’s degree in landscape architecture at the UC Berkley, Dr. Uesugi returned to Japan in order to engage in designing the landscape for the Japan Pavilion at the Osaka Expo held in 1970 and started to teach in the Department of Forestry at Kyoto University as a lecturer. In order to further develop the research and teaching of landscape design and Japanese garden, Dr. Uesugi came to America as an assistant professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture at College of Environmental Design, Cal State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

To this day, with continued desire to introduce Japanese gardens to the world, Dr. Uesugi has devoted his time to the practice, research and design of numerous Japanese gardens across the U.S. with the assistance of fellow artisans. The fundamental principle of his philosophy toward Japanese gardens is that understanding of a garden is an essential part of life. By recognizing the unique flavors of the Japanese garden and blending these ideas with the regional climate and lifestyle of the U.S., Dr. Uesugi hopes to create a unique experience for those who are able to appreciate the garden’s beauty. Some of his prominent works include the James Irvine Japanese Garden at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, and the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park, San Diego.

In recognition of his contributions within the field of landscape architecture, Dr. Uesugi received the National Landscape Award, presented by the former First Lady Nancy Reagan, in 1981, followed by several other awards. As his Japanese-themed gardens continued to garner recognition for devotion to the development of theory, design, and construction technology, he was honored to receive the Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 2001.

In order to preserve the beauty of Japanese gardens for future generations, Dr. Uesugi has been committed to developing and mentoring the young leaders of tomorrow. He worked to establish a student exchange program between California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and Kyushu Institute of Design (now Kyushu University) in 1992, which was recognized by his university, which honored him with the Award of Excellence.

The Ventures

Nokie Edwards and Gerry McGee of the Ventures will be given the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette.

The Ventures

Tacoma’s young guitar duo, Don Wilson and late Bob Bogle, formed the nucleus of The Ventures in 1958. In 1960, the band forever changed the sound of rock and roll with their legendary instrumental hit, “Walk, Don’t Run”. Having sold over 100 million records, The Ventures have had an enduring impact on the development of music worldwide.

The Ventures visited Japan for the first time in 1962 as an opening act, and by the time they returned the next year, Japanese fans had become captivated by the group’s energetic guitar driven sound. Since then, The Ventures have toured Japan almost every year, for a total of some 2,400 performances. (The Ventures are currently scheduled to tour Japan for 3 months this year, starting on July 15, for the summer leg of the twice annual visits.)
In addition to their successful Japanese tours, The Ventures also composed over 30 songs specifically catered to the Japanese market and taste. A number of these songs became huge Japanese pop hits in the 1960s and 1970s (some featuring popular Japanese singers of the day). Several of these noteworthy songs include: Futarin-no-Ginza (Ginza Lights), Kyoto-no-Koi (Kyoto Doll), Kitaguni-no-Aoi-Sora (Hokkaido Skies), Ame-no-Midosuji (Strangers in Midosuji), and “Kyoto-Bojo” (Reflections in a Palace Lake). These songs and other Ventures’ tunes still appeal to a wide range of Japanese music fans.

Since there were no language barriers to overcome, The Ventures’ unique “teke-teke sound” (as it was called in Japanese) grabbed the heart of many Japanese teenagers. These young fans in turn formed groups of their own, thus creating a huge boom of electric guitar sales in the country. The Ventures had five of 1965’s top 10 singles in Japan. The Ventures are still the most popular American rock group in Japan.

Paul Kunio Shiba

Paul Shiba will receive the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays for his efforts to enhance Japanese education in the U.S., the inheritance of Japanese culture in Southern California and the enhancement of welfare for Japanese and Japanese American seniors in the Los Angeles region.

Paul Kunio Shiba

During his early years, he moved to his parents’ hometown in Shizuoka prefecture. While his children were enrolled in the Japanese Language School Unified System (Kyodo System), he became involved at the administrative level and worked for the expansion of Japanese language and culture education. In addition, he drew on this experience to become involved in the federation of Japanese language schools in California, the California Association of Japanese Language School, Inc.  He became chairman of the association’s Textbook Management Committee and contributed to the revision of Japanese language teaching materials in the United States.

In addition, Shiba took on leadership roles in the prefectural organizations which bring together the many Japanese and Japanese American residents in the southern California region of common prefectural origins, as well as the federation of these organizations, Nanka Kenjinkai Kyogikai. Through his work in the prefectural organizations, he passed on Japanese culture and traditions and endeavored to promote the participation of younger generation Japanese Americans in Japanese American community activities.

Further, he is president of the Seinan Senior Center, a social services organization based in southwest Los Angeles (the Crenshaw area), which serves Japanese and Japanese American seniors.  In the midst of the unfavorable circumstances of the rapidly aging Japanese American population and the downturn of the economy, he has reinvigorated the activities of the center and through such efforts as the introduction of new programs, has contributed to the welfare of Japanese and Japanese American seniors.

Masako Takiguchi

Masako Takiguchi will also receive the Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays for contributing to the promotion of cultural exchange between Phoenix, Arizona and Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture.

Masako Takiguchi

Takiguchi, a native of Seattle, moved to Wakayama Prefecture, Japan at age 9 in August 1941. After World War II, in September 1956, she came back to the United States.

In 1976, the City of Phoenix, Arizona and the City of Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture establish sister city ties. Takiguchi served as a committee member of the Himeji City Committee of Phoenix, putting special effort into the smooth running of exchange programs between the Phoenix and Himeji and eventually becoming the chairperson from 1991-1993. She played all variety of coordinating roles during the visits of official delegations to and from Phoenix and Himeji.

In 1987, an idea surfaced, that to make a tighter relationship between Phoenix and Himeji, an authentic Japanese garden should be built. Upon learning of this, Takiguchi immediately approached people in many different fields to create an organization for the purpose of realizing this garden. As vice chair in the organization, she played such roles as fund-raiser, negotiator and coordinator. Masako has hosted Himeji city officials, and the Himeji Construction Contractors Association members from the start of the project to the present day. Finally, in 2002, the City of Phoenix Japanese Friendship Garden — Ro Ho En — was completed, and it was possible to present a genuine, traditional Japanese Friendship Garden to the citizens of Phoenix. After the completion of Phase I construction, Mrs. Takiguchi has continued working for the development of the garden in subsequent phases, most recently the Sei Chin (purifying place of the west) restroom which was added in 2009. Masako continues to work on the completion of two more buildings, the Entry Building and the Viewing Pavilion.

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