SAN JOSE — The 2011 Spirit of Japantown Awards will be presented on Saturday, Oct. 1, to community and business leader Yoshihiro Uchida and Lynne Santo Yamaichi of the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin Lotus Preschool during the Spirit of Japantown Festival.
Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free. This fifth annual event, hosted by the Japantown Community Congress of San Jose, is held over seven city blocks throughout the 121-year old historic Japantown.
Roy Hirabayashi, president of JCCsj and host of the festival, recently announced the selections and stated, “Both exemplify the directives of the award in their contributions to the enhancement of San Jose’s Japantown as a vibrant community and as advocates and role models for the best interests of its residents and for Japanese Americans.”
Uchida is well known for his leadership and coaching of the San Jose State judo program as well as internationally and at the Olympics. After selling his vast medical laboratory business, he established Uchida Enterprises and became instrumental in such activities as establishing the American Airlines route from San Jose to Tokyo, sponsoring the San Jose Sumo Basho in 1993, and spearheading the creation of the Japanese American Chamber of Commerce of Silicon Valley.
He has been active as a founder, board member, trustee or advisor with the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, Yu-Ai Kai Senior Community Services, San Jose JACL, San Jose Sports Authority and other local and national organizations. He helped build the foundation for recognition of judo in collegiate and international sports circles, and was chosen as the U.S. judo coach at the first Olympics to include judo.
Partly from his early experiences as a Nisei facing discrimination, Uchida has realized the importance of cultivating relationships with civic and community leaders and has fostered communications with many sectors. His many awards include the Order of the Sacred Treasure with Golden Rays from Emperor Hirohito of Japan, induction into the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame in 1996, the San Jose State University Tower Award, and the renaming of the building housing the judo dojo on the SJSU campus as Yoshihiro Uchida Hall.
Yamaichi is the director and founder of the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin Lotus Preschool, which celebrated its 25th year in July. Over 600 came to honor “Miss Lynne” for her foresight and her compassionate administration of the school. They expressed appreciation for the nurturing environment for their children and grandchildren to learn about Japanese culture and custom and thus become a part of the San Jose Japantown community.
Lotus Preschool has provided childcare for over 600 students in Japantown and the larger Japanese American community. Through Yamaichi’s program, they have experienced a curriculum of Japanese culture, daily service at the temple, and working with the seniors at Yu-Ai Kai and Fuji Tower. The 3- to 5-year-old students visit Suzume no Gakko and visit various business and restaurants in Japantown.
Yamaichi is also chair of the Kids Zone for the Spirit of Japantown Festival and has planned the entire section, including entertainment, from its beginning five years ago. Additionally, she and her staff work for the Obon Festival and for Christmas in the Park.
As a student of Japanese classical dance instructor Madame Bando Mitsuhiro, Yamaichi earned the rank of natori and the title Bando Misashizu.
Awards received by Yamaichi include the 2009 Outstanding Contributor to Childcare Award from the City of San Jose and Mayor Chuck Reed. She also received a commendation and plaque from San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin for enriching the community spiritually, physically and mentally.
The awards were designed by Ken Matsumoto of Art Object Gallery and will be presented at the Spirit of Japantown Festival on the Main Stage.
Festival attractions include performances on three stages, food booths, diverse vendors, car show, Anime by Fanime, Kids Zone, martial arts demonstrations and exhibits. A popular attraction is the Sake/Beer/Wine Garden located near the food section.
San Jose Taiko, the acclaimed taiko troupe, will headline at 12:15 p.m. on the Main Stage. The ScoJourners, a local sensation, will bring their eclectic offering of rhymes and beats that cross cultural, race, music and industry barriers. Master of ceremonies will be Robert Handa, KTVU reporter. Other entertainment includes the Wesley Jazz Ensemble, Viv Asia and other multicultural performers.
The Hawaiian Stage will focus on talent from various hula and ukelele groups as well as the appearance of the Metropolitan Band. A wide variety of martial arts demonstrations will be held in the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin Annex. Kids Zone will highlight entertainment for the children.
The Midori Bonsai Club will have its show in Wesley United Methodist Church’s Fellowship Hall. The church will also be the location for the Sogetsu Ikebana display from Madame Kika Shibata and her students.
The festival is geared to showcase the diverse businesses and restaurants that comprise San Jose’s Japantown. Many will be open and participating in the festival.
Open-house activities will be held at the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, the Issei Memorial Building, and the Yu-Ai Kai Akiyama Center.
Major sponsors are Gordon Biersch, Takara Sake, Jack’s Bar, The Mercury News, KTVU 2 and TV36, Southwest Airlines, City of San Jose, Fanime.com, iMCevents.com, Nichi Bei Foundation, Wesley United Methodist Church, San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin, PG&E, Japantown Dental, and the Japanese Chamber of Commerce.
This article originally appeared in Nikkei West.