The Downtown Los Angeles Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and the Japanese Women’s Society of Southern California have selected four Japanese American community leaders as the 2010 Women of the Year honorees.
Katsuko Teruya Arakawa, Marilyn Nobori, Nancy Kyoko Oda, and Grace A. Shiba will be honored at a luncheon on Sunday, May 16, beginning at 12:30 p.m. in the Golden Ballroom of the Kyoto Grand Hotel and Gardens in Little Tokyo.
George Kita, president of the Downtown Los Angeles Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League said, “We are so proud to be able to acknowledge the importance of such diverse and talented women.”
“These four women are exemplary leaders of our community,” added Yoko Shiba, president of the Japanese Women’s Society of Southern California.
Katsuko Teruya Arakawa
Music is an important and treasured form of artistic expression. Katsuko Teruya Arakawa has been on her life-long journey in her pursuit of education and the preservation of the Okinawan koto.
Fifty years ago Arakawa’s mother took her to Kochi Nahe sensei’s studio to begin her koto lessons. In 1961, she moved to Hawaii and continued her koto study. In 1965, Arakawa received the Kyoshi Menjo (teaching certificate) and started her koto teaching career, which spans over 41 years. In 1968, she received the Shihan, which is the highest rank in the koto credential. In 1975, she opened the Teruya Katsuko Ryukyu Sokyoku Kenkyukai, Hawaii chapter.
Arakawa has performed countless times in Hawaii. She has performed at the Univeristy of Hawaii Music Arts Festival, the Arts Festival in the NBC Concert Hall, the Canada Okinawa Kenjinkai Okinawa Arts Festival, and numerous recitals of various Okinawan performing arts schools.
In 1980, Arakawa was registered with the Smithsonian Institute as a performing artist of Okinawan Koto Music. In 1989, she received a Gratitude Certificate from Washington D.C. Smithsonian Museum.
After moving to California in 1998, she continued her koto teaching career and established the Teruya Sokyoku Kenkyukai in Los Angeles, Orange, Oceanside, San Francisco, Texas, and New Mexico.
Arakawa has performed at the Getty Center, the University of Michigan Okinawa Arts Festival, the annual Utayabira Wuduyabira & the 90th and 100th Anniversary celebrations of the Okinawa Association of America, Inc., and numerous recitals of various Okinawan performing arts schools.
Arakawa’s gifted knowledge of Koten Ongaku and the technical skills of Koto performance are outstanding. She is often sought after as a koto accompanist for elite sanshin masters. She has performed three times with Master Choichi Terukina from Okinawa, who is a National Living Treasure of Japan. In 2008, she and her students from Hawaii and the mainland USA performed at her 40th Anniversary recital at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Theater. Master Choichi Terukina graciously performed with her again for this festive celebration.
Arakawa has also received grants from the Duffy Foundation and the California State Performing Arts Federation.
In 2006, she received the Apprenticeship Award from the Alliance for California Traditional Arts.
Arakawa has served as the 9th chairperson of the Geinobu (the performing arts committee) and on the board of the Okinawa Association of America, Inc.
Arakawa is married with two daughters and two grandchildren who live in Seattle and Hawaii.
Marilyn Nobori, daughter of Shigeru (Scotty) and Katsu Uyemura, is a native Angeleno. As a youth, she played piano and flute, and then discovered the ‘cello. Nobori was active in the Centeles’ girls’ club and Methodist Youth Fellowship at Centenary UMC. After her mother’s death at age 12, she pursued an interest in religion, becoming a Sunday school teacher and then leading the vacation bible school as a senior. After high school, she studied Religion at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. She completed her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology at Cal State Los Angeles. She later returned to earn a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition. During this time, Nobori combined her interest in sociology and nutrition and volunteered at the Wadsworth VA hospice program.
As a registered dietitian at the Hospital of the Good Samaritan in Los Angeles, Nobori specialized in Oncology but also worked in the rehab and diabetic programs. She was appointed Chief Clinical Dietitian and managed the Nutritional Services section of the Food Service Department. She authored a booklet and consulted on a film strip on nutrition and the oncology patient. Nobori was active in the local professional organization leading the Finance Committee and organizing professional study groups for oncology and nutritional support dietitians. She left dietetics in 1990 and became a full-time mom.
Marilyn and Alan Nobori have been married for 26 years and were blessed with a wonderful daughter, Catherine Aiko Nobori. Nobori and her daughter shared a love of taiko and fue and enjoyed their years as charter members of Centenary UMC’s Chikara Daiko. After two cancer surgeries and the death of her beloved daughter by suicide, Nobori stopped playing taiko and fue. She returned to the drums just three years ago to honor her daughter.
Having retired, Nobori is busier than ever as a volunteer. At Centenary UMC, she is involved with the Prayer Shawl Ministry, the Bereavement Ministries, Bible Study and edits the church newsletter. At the Glendale Adventist Medical Center Beyond Loss program, Nobori facilitates a weekly Survivors of Suicide support group and helps with training facilitators and program planning. She volunteers at the Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services – Suicide Prevention Center and Survivors After Suicide (SAS). Weekly, she volunteers on the 24 hour Crisis Line, facilitates the monthly West Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley survivor support groups, and co-facilitates an 8-week survivors group in the San Gabriel Valley. This year, she will begin suicide prevention outreach by presenting at the Los Angeles District UMC workshop event. She is also on the SAS Advisory Board and edited the SAS newsletter for two years. Every year, at the Alive and Running 5k Run/Walk for suicide prevention, she organizes “Aiko’s Team” to honor and remember her daughter.
Nancy Kyoko Oda
Nancy Kyoko Oda was born in Tule Lake Segregation Camp to Mr. and Mrs. Tatsuo Inouye. She graduated from Maryknoll School and became student body president at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. In 1963, she attained the rank of Shodan in Judo, having practiced at her father’s Sen Shin Dojo in the early days of Girls’ Judo. At UCLA, Oda translated her father’s diary called “Saku” for her dissertation, which he wrote while he was in the Tule Lake stockade.
Oda and her husband, Kay, have two sons, Jon and Daron. The immediate family consists of daughters in law, Monique and Yvonne, four grandchildren, Alexander, Arielle, Devon, and Kyle, and many nieces and nephews and their children who attend public schools.
Oda was recognized by Toluca Lake Elementary first as a volunteer earning a PTA Life Membership, then later as a teacher at Riverside Drive Elementary School. She worked in the snack bar for the Toluca Lake Little and Senior League as well as for North Hollywood High School. Before she started her thirty year career as an educator, she assisted her husband while he was Commissioner of Athletics and President of the SFVJACC and plus kept her children busy at the Sun Valley Gakuen.
Oda has been a member of the SFVJACC for 40 years and is now serving on the Board of Directors. She has been the liaison between the Center and the Bert Corona Charter School located on the Pacoima property. During the 1980’s, Oda coordinated the Valley Nisei Week Queen activities. She has been the JACL Scholarship Chair and has coordinated Grandparent’s Day, an intergenerational cultural event that offers hands on crafts and poetry lessons taught by experts from the Board, the Japanese Language Institute, and Ikebana Club.
Oda is currently the principal for Maurice Sendak Elementary School in North Hollywood. She also left her mark on Hubbard Street Elementary School, which is an Honorary California Distinguished School. Her Healthy Start grant helped many people in the northeast San Fernando Valley. She is a standing member of the Sylmar Kiwanis Service Club and was an elected member of the Sylmar Neighborhood Council. As a mentor teacher, she modeled the art of teaching while at Canterbury Gifted Center.
In 2009, Councilmember Tom LaBonge selected Oda as Pioneer Woman of the Year for opening a new community based school. Oda has been an advocate for Big Sunday, which is the Mayor’s Day of Environmental Service. Her outreach has included local businesses and Arts in Education, Inc. believing that it takes a village to raise a child. Last year, she and her sister Sayuri supported a youth project to clean up and rededicate the Japanese section in the Lancaster Cemetery where her maternal grandparents and 19 pioneers’ headstones were toppled after the war.
Grace A. Shiba
Community service has long been a part of Grace Shiba since her childhood. Her parents, Paul and Mary Shiba, set a great example by serving as volunteers in the community. Since childhood, Shiba led a busy life and attended the Kyodo Japanese Language School daily.
Shiba graduated from the USC with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences. One of the highlights of her college life was when her parents allowed her to participate in the Year in Japan Program when she was a sophomore at USC and studied at Waseda University.
Years later, Shiba was a charter member of the USC Asian Pacific American Student Support Group (APASG) and served in a number of leadership positions such as membership chair, Scholarship Dinner chair, Events chair, and co-president. In 1997, she was nominated to join the Board of Governors of the USC Alumni Association, which is an advisory group to the association. In 2001, the APASS joined as an organization under the USC Alumni Association and the name of the APASS was changed to the USC Asian Pacific Alumni Association. This organization connects USC Asian Pacific alumni with the university and one another worldwide. Shiba again served in a number of positions, ultimately as president from 2002 to 2004.
Prior to USC, Shiba worked for a number of Hyatt Hotels & Resorts properties. She left Hyatt to begin a career in advertising, joining a boutique design agency owned by a fellow Trojan.
Shiba is currently the Senior Director of the USC Alumni Association and directs the efforts of the USC Asian Pacific Alumni Association as well as International alumni programs. She is also a USC ambassador and a member of the Skull and Dagger Honorary Society.
She served as Senior Vice President of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California, Vice President of the Japanese American Treaty Centennial Scholarship Committee, Vice President of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce Foundation, member of the Japan American Society Board of Governors, and member of the Nisei Week Foundation Board of Directors. Shiba is also a former member of the Japanese American Citizens League’s East Los Angeles and Downtown Los Angeles Chapters. Shiba has received the 2004 – USC Alumni Association’s President’s Award and2009 – USC Alumni Volunteer Friend of the Year.
Tickets are $40 per person. The deadline to purchase the tickets is Saturday, May 1. Please mail to Amy Tambara, the Women of the Year Chairperson, the list of attendees and the check made payable to the Downtown LA JACL at 526 1/2 W. Riggin St., Monterey Park, CA 91754. If you have any questions, please call Amy Tambara (English/evenings), at (323) 722-3897 or Rodney Nakada (Japanese/days) at (213) 628-1800.