Cherry Blossom Festival to Present Inouye, Community Treasure and Blossom Awards

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Cherry Blossom Festival SoCal has announced its 2011 honorees, who will be recognized on Saturday, Sept. 24, at 12:30 p.m. on the Blossom Stage.

The festival will take place Sept. 24 from 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sept. 25 from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Little Tokyo. Entrance is at Temple and Alameda, next to the Little Tokyo Metro train stop. Admission is $1 general, free of children 3 and under.

Sen. Daniel Inouye Cherry Blossom Leadership Awards

• JA Living Legacy is committed to educating the general public about the roles of immigrant Japanese and Americans of Japanese ancestry in American history. It uses oral histories as the primary means to capture and convey the lives, experiences and memories of these people and to promote the education of all Americans by engaging the general public in community enrichment programs.

• Grateful Crane Ensemble’s mission for the past 10 years has been to present educational and theatrical programs in appreciation for the unique hardships and inspiring contributions of Japanese Americans, particularly the Issei and Nisei, in the nation’s history. Through storytelling, music, drama and humor, it is committed to telling the camp story to educate and remind everyone of this dark chapter in American history, and to remain vigilant so that it never happens again.

Jan Perry

• Los Angeles City Councilmember Jan Perry is making a positive change in the lives of her constituents, whether implementing cutting-edge improvements or ensuring delivery of fundamental services. Now in her third term as the Ninth District’s councilmember, Perry represents some of the most diverse and vibrant communities in Los Angeles, including Bunker Hill, Little Tokyo, and South Los Angeles.

• The Manzanar Committee is dedicated to educating and raising public awareness about the incarceration and violation of civil rights of persons of Japanese ancestry during World War II, and to the continuing struggle of all peoples when constitutional rights are in danger. It organizes the annual Manzanar Pilgrimage and was instrumental in the establishment of the Manzanar National Historic Site.

• Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress was founded in 1980 as the National Coalition for Redress/Reparations to fight for compensation and an apology for Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II, educate the general public, and support similar campaigns against injustice. In 2000, the Los Angeles chapter of NCRR adopted a new name, Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress, which better reflects the chapter’s ongoing work — participation in the broad areas of civil rights as well as continued commitment to redress for Japanese Latin Americans and others who were ruled ineligible.

Community Treasure Awards

Arthur Nakane

• Yukari Kai is under the instruction of Kyuka Kanesaka, one of the top-ranking certified teachers in the U.S. from the Kyugetsu School of Kimekomi Dolls, headquartered in Tokyo, and the ambassador of Kyugetsu to the U.S. Yukari Kai has been active in promoting the Japanese culture to the American community since its founding. Today, wooden bodies of the dolls are mass-produced by mixing wood dust with glue and other substances such as seaweed, and pouring it into a mold. “Ki” means wood and “mekomi” is the technique that is used to tuck the fabric into the grooves on the doll’s body

• Arthur Nakane has been a one-man band since the 1970s. His repertoire of over 2,000 songs includes many of his favorite Beatles and Elvis hits, which he performs in English, Spanish and Japanese. Prior to retirement and becoming a full-time musician, Nakane was a shop teacher at La Canada High School and a Los Angeles Unified School District math teacher, and he still works as a translator. A few years ago he was featured as the “Man with More Moves than Elvis” in an article in L.A. Times Magazine and performed at Sundance, where a short film about him called “Secret Asian Man” was shown. He has appeared on “Roseanne,” “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and “America’s Got Talent.” Every year he donates his time to play in Pasadena’s Central Park on Thanksgiving and Christmas when Pasadena Union Station offers dinners to the homeless.

Blossom Award

• Born and raised in Southern California, Ken Kanesaka graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He attended Tokyo University, and in 2001 was accepted into Shochiku Kamigata Kabuki Jyuku. In 2003 he graduated at the top of his class and was apprenticed by Japan National Living Treasure Sakata Tojuro. Kanesaka was granted the name of Nakamura Gankyo, becoming the first non-Japanese citizen in the kabuki theater’s history, dating back to the early 1600s. He is currently back in the U.S., where he earned his master’s degree at USC and is currently working on his Ph.D. at UCLA in classical Japanese. He has also been a choreographer for television ads and shows and currently runs his own dance studios.

Education Awards

• As previously announced, the George Kiriyama Educational Excellence Award will go to Glenn Omatsu, who teaches Asian American studies at CSU Northridge, UCLA and Pasadena City College.

• As previously announced, the Teachers Making a Difference Awards will go to Craig Ihara of CSU Fullerton; Arlene Nakamura, former LAUSD teacher; Cynthia Loo of Peoples College of Law; Susie Ling of Pasadena City College; Janet Bennett of Brightwood Elementary School in Monterey Park; Diane Bonfils of Mayfield Senior High School in Pasadena; Freda Berg Yoshioka of Campbell High School in North Hollywood; and Dianne Fukawa of Fujima Seiyumi Kai.

The Cherry Blossom Festival SoCal, which is celebrating its 10th birthday, is produced by an all-volunteer team promotes the culture of Americans of Japanese ancestry and the Japanese culture through the celebration of cherry blossoms. The festival had 60,000 attendees in 2010. This year’s theme recognizes the history of Japanese Americans during the World War II era and the Japan Rebuild/10,000 Origami Cranes Project.

Opening ceremonies will be held Saturday at 10:30 a.m. on the Blossom Stage, followed by entertainment and, at 3 p.m., the Kimono Fashion Show featuring Councilwoman Perry. On Sunday at 3:15 p.m., the Most Photogenic Dog Contest will be held.

The festival will also include the Kids Zone with crafts, storytelling and entertainment; the Hawaiian Village; the Cultural Pavillion with demonstrations and exhibits; the Martial Arts arena; odori dancing, with audience participation, at 2 p.m. both days; craft vendors; a food court and food trucks; the J-Pop Stage; and the Beer and Sake Garden.

This year’s grand honorary chairs are Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), Councilwoman Perry, and actress/watercolor artist Kellye Nakahara Wallett. The honorary chairs are Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Los Angeles), California State Controller John Chiang, Gardena Mayor and Los Angeles County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Macon, Georgia International Cherry Blossom Festival founder Carolyn Caryton, “California’s Gold” host Huell Howser, Dr. Gordon and Joanne Sasaki of the Japanese American Medical Association, Japon Bistro proprietor Koji; and actress Amy Hill.

The Cherry Blossom Festival SoCal is a 501(c)3 organization under the fiscal sponsorship of the Pasadena Arts Council. For more information, visit www.cherryblossomfestivalsocal.org.

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