Bay Area Community Leaders to Receive Foreign Minister’s Commendation

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SAN FRANCISCO — Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced the recipients of the 2012 Foreign Minister’s Commendation, including two Bay Area Japanese American community leaders.

Allen Okamoto and his wife, Pat. (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

The commendations are awarded to individuals and groups of outstanding achievements in international fields, to acknowledge their contribution to the promotion of friendship between Japan and other countries. The commendation also aims to promote the understanding and support of the Japanese public for their activities.

This year, the commendation will be awarded to 62 individuals and 18 groups from around the world (of which seven individuals and five groups are from Japan, and 55 individuals and 13 groups from overseas), who will be presented with award certificates and commemorative gifts.

In the jurisdiction of the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco, which covers Northern California and Nevada, the following two individuals are being recognized.

• Allen Okamoto of San Francisco for promotion of mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S.

Over a period of 40 years, Okamoto has contributed to the preservation of San Francisco Japantown and deepened local understanding of Japanese culture by serving on the board of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, a leading organization in the region’s Japan-affiliated community.

He also served as co-chair of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Committee, now in its 45th year, and on the board of the Japantown Foundation, which supports community organizations.

Okamoto has been active in grassroots U.S.-Japan exchange through his work as co-chair of the San Francisco-Osaka Sister City Association, which includes governmental, student, sports, and cultural exchange.

• Shoji Kubota of Alameda for promotion of mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S.

Kubota moved to the U.S. in the early postwar years. He soon dedicated himself to aiding Japanese immigrants who had come to California by way of the Refugee Relief Act of 1953 to settle permanently, also helping coordinate relations between Japan-affiliated communities and the American system and its citizens.

After regional immigrant communities in Northern, Central, and Southern California came together to form the North America Immigrants’ Association, Kubota was selected as its first chairman. He held the post for many years, promoting mutual aid among immigrant communities and a variety of other initiatives.

Since retiring from the chairmanship, he has remained active in promoting understanding between immigrants and local American communities. Kubota’s years of service have greatly aided Japanese immigration activities overseas.

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