By GWEN MURANAKA
RAFU ENGLISH EDITOR IN CHIEF
In the Year of the Rabbit, things are hopping at the Venice Japanese Community Center. As VJCC plans its next phase of expansion, more than 400 gathered on Sunday to celebrate at the annual Shinnen Enkai and Keiro Kai.
In May, the community center will break ground on a new multipurpose room to complement the existing gymnasium and classrooms.
“We took a survey of the community and found there is a need for a multipurpose room for the children,” said John Ikegami, 2010 VJCC president.
He noted that currently there isn’t enough space for all of the sports activities, including judo and kendo, and that the cost to rent gym space from local schools has become increasingly expensive.
Inside the bustling VJCC on Sunday, all of the groups were pulling together to entertain the large gathering. Boy Scout Troop 764 posted colors and also helped to serve the guests. On the sides of the auditorium, bonsai and shuji kakizome (New Year’s calligraphy were on display. The VJCC also began selling its new book, written by Perry Miyake, which chronicles the history of the center.
Emcee Jeff Shimoyama said the VJCC exemplified Martin Luther King’s call for people to help each other through public service.
“Venice started as farmland, and through hard work and coming together of leaders, we were able to build this community center,” said Shimoyama.
Thirty-seven Keiro honorees were recognized for reaching their 80th birthday, and received congratulations from 11th District City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl and Assemblymember Betsy Butler (D-Torrance).
Kazie Kame and Ikegami were recognized as Persons of the Year. Eleanor Suzuki and Kay Shimizu received the Distinguished Service Award. Jennifer Ogasawara was given the JACL George Inagaki Community Service Award.
Jim Akioka, longtime facilities manager, who turned 80 last year, was among the Keiro honorees. He called himself a newcomer, having moved to the area in the ’50s after the Korean War from Central California.
“The people give all their energy to help as much as they can. It isn’t like work at all,” said Akioka.
2011 Keiro honorees are Akira Abe, Jim Akioka, Yoshio Akiyama, Mike Amate, Larry Araki, Mabel Ikemoto, Thomas Ikemoto, Fumiko Ishikawa, Soki Ito, Noboru Kamibayashi, Robert Kawano, Shoko Kishi, Chiyeko Kishimoto, Kenji Koda, Mary Kusaba, William Lavenberg, Emiko Matsumoto, James Matsumoto, Harry Miura, Yae Miyahata, Miyo Nakaji, Mary Nishikawa, Sakae Okuda, Tatsumi Omote, Jack Oriba, Albert Saiki, Bob Shiyu Shibasaki, Lorraine Soda, Jane Suenaga, Marguerite Tanaka, Takako Teruya, Chiyeko Tomari, Yukiko Tomita, Mabel Tsukuda, Jean Yamamoto, Sidney Yamazaki and Mary Yanokawa.