By RYOKO NAKAMURA
Rafu Japanese Staff Writer
The Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California presented $19,000 in scholarships to 19 bright graduating seniors of Japanese descent on July 28 in Montebello.
The Japanese American Treaty Centennial Scholarship Fund Inc. was established by JCCSC at its annual meeting in January 1960. It was a historic year, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese official delegation to the United States.
The fund is made possible by donations from its members, local businesses, and community members, and as of 2011, it had awarded $763,950 scholarships to 1,637 students since 1960.
At the ceremony, JCCSC President Haruo Takehana said, “This scholarship is extremely modest. It won’t cover your college expenses, but its significance is not the amount. It’s a privilege. We recognize your achievement. We believe that you are the future of our community, and we hope someday you will return to our community.”
Takehana also emphasized the values of being an American of Japanese descent and encouraged the scholarship recipients to have bushido or samurai spirit. “You all have a great future. Never give up, be number one, and kick the samurai spirits in you,” he said.
Yusuke Shindo, deputy consul general of the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles, remarked that Japanese culture places a strong emphasis on the value of education. “This scholarship represents the Japanese American community’s investment in you. I want you to know that many people are looking forward to seeing you grow, achieve greatness, and then return to the community,” he said.
Shindo also remarked on last year’s disaster in the Tohoku area. “Japanese people realized their kizuna (ties) after the disaster. I hope this scholarship greatly strengthens your kizuna with your community,” he said.
After receiving the scholarship on stage, Chika Matsumoto, a graduate of Irvine High School, gave words of appreciation on behalf of the recipients. She expressed particular gratitude to the members of JCCSC and the Japanese American community as well as families and friends. “We promise that your future is in great hands,” she said.
Matsumoto, who is pursuing a career as a bilingual pediatrician, has been accepted to UCLA. As a high school student, she was interested in science, but couldn’t decide exactly what she wanted to do. One day, she passed by the special education center located near the tennis court where she plays. “I waved at a boy who attends the center, and he gave me this big smile. That left an impression on me. I wanted to find a treatment to cure Down syndrome, autism, and genetic illnesses,” she told The Rafu Shimpo.
Yuko Kaifu, senior vice president of the corporate communications department of Union Bank, was introduced as the keynote speaker. She began her career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan and was assigned to work with many bureaus. One of her most significant assignments was to be an official interpreter for Japanese dignitaries, including Empress Michiko, prime ministers, and foreign ministers.
After serving as a consul at the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles, Kaifu became the vice president responsible for U.S.-Japan programs at the Japanese American National Museum. In 2009, she joined Union Bank.
Reflecting on her career path from government work, to the non-profit sector, to private industry, she told the students three important lessons that she has learned: You need your dreams and aspirations; you need resilience and flexibility; and you need to feel good about yourselves.
JCCSC also recognized Ward and Candace Nishida for their long-time support and dedication to the organization and the community. The couple expressed hope that the recipients will commemorate the support they have received from the Japanese American community by someday returning to pass on this same opportunity to the recipients of tomorrow.
The 2012 recipients, the colleges they will attend and their majors are as follows:
Darren Tatsuya Ando, El Modena HS, computer engineering, UC San Diego
Rona Matsumoto Cabrea, John Burroughs HS, computer engineering, UC Berkeley
Kaitlin Chiemi Dunlevy, L.A. Center for Enriched Studies, pre-biology, UC Santa Barbara
Wakana Fujiwara, Palos Verdes Peninsula HS, physiological science, UCLA
Michael Furuya, Huntington Beach HS, computer engineering, UC San Diego
Nicole Ayaka Hamasaki, North HS, English, USC
Adori Iriyama, West HS, environmental management, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Katharine Madoka Ishida, Glendora HS, physiology/neuroscience, UC San Diego
Jocelyn Kenmotsu, El Dorado HS, construction management, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
Chika Matsumoto, Irvine HS, pre-microbiology/immunology, UCLA
Naomi Mori, Torrance HS, business administration, UC Irvine
Nicole Natsumi Nakagawa, John F. Kennedy Middle College, psychology/film and media studies, UCLA
Kiana Nakamura, River Springs Charter School, physics, CSU Fullerton
Yume Nishi, Woodbridge HS, architecture, USC
Mai Tiffany Nishishiba, West HS, international relations, Boston University
Jenna Kiyomi Schurr, California Academy of Math and Science, animal science, UC Davis
Derek Tsukahira, Venice HS, business administration, Santa Clara University
Mason Taizo Uemura, Palos Verdes Peninsula HS, undecided, UC Berkeley
Hiromichi Yamamoto, La Costa Canyon HS, industrial engineering, UC Berkeley