By SUSAN UYEMURA
Over 200 people gathered at the Kyoto Grand Hotel in Little Tokyo to pay tribute to the Nisei Week Pioneers. Emcee Kenneth Kasamatsu did an outstanding job keeping the program on schedule. Nisei Week President Hayato Tamura did the introductions of each honoree. The five honorees were Haruo Hayashi, Fusako Kanai, Hiroshi Kawabe, Kosuke Okamoto and Junwo Jim Yamashita.
Hayashi, a 442nd RCT veteran, was nominated by the Central Coast Service Club and was honored for his active service to the Arroyo Grande community where he was the first Asian American elected to the Lucia Mar Unified School District.
Kanai was nominated by Japanese Women’s Society of Southern California where she served as president from 1997 to 2000 and continues to play an advisory role. In 2002, for her dedication in fostering Japanese cultural understanding in America and her lifetime contribution to serving the community, Kanai was awarded a Kunsho, the Hokan Sho Order of the Precious Crown, by the Japanese Emperor.
Kawabe was nominated by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California where he served as president in 1992, and was recognized for his efforts to improve business relations between the U.S. and Japan, and his support of many community organizations.
Okamoto, nominated by the Nanka Kenjinkai Kyogikai, has been active in that organization and the Yamaguchi Kenjinkai, as well as working to build U.S.-Japan relations.
Yamashita, nominated by the Orange County Nikkei Coordinating Council, served in the 442nd RCT during World War II and played a key role in the foundation of a number of groups including South East Youth Organization (SEYO) and the Americans of Japanese Ancestry World War II Memorial Alliance.
The honorees were introduced in Japanese by Junko Yamane. Each awardee was presented by certificates from Councilmember Jan Perry, Consul General Junichi Ihara and a specially designed certificate by the Nisei Week Foundation. Tamura explained that each certificate contained a unique photo of this year’s Nisei Week. The luncheon concluded with a special thanks from the honorees made by Pioneer Kosuke Okamoto in both Japanese and English.
“It is truly an honor to be recognized today by all of you. Each of us in our own way worked hard to support our family and the involvement in the Japanese American community,” said Okamoto.
Special guests included: Councilmember Jan Perry, Consul General Junichi Ihara, Takashi Horie, chairman of the Japanese Business Association of Southern California, Toshio Handa, president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Frances Hashimoto, president of the Little Tokyo Business Association, Kenji Fukuoka, president of the Nanka Kanjinkai Kyogikai. Invocation was provided by Rinban Hiroshi Abiko.
Sponsors Union Bank provided everyone with a travel mug and Memorial Alliance gave a complimentary Educational CD Rom of “Echoes of Silence.” “Echoes of Silence” contains the profiles of all of the Nisei Killed-in-action soldiers and their officers plus additional information such as short stories, photos and short video tributes. Dessert was provided by Mikawaya. All floral decorations were donated by Scotty’s Flowers in Hacienda Heights.
The Nisei Week Foundation was established in 1999 and it is a California 501(c)3 non profit organization. Its primary mission is to oversee and organize the Nisei Week Japanese Festival.