Farewell to a Generous Spirit

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Mourners walk past rows of floral tributes from various community organizations. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

Services for the late philanthropist and businessman George Aratani were held March 2 at the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo.

More than 900 people came to pay their respects to Aratani, the founder of Mikasa and Kenwood, who passed away on Feb. 19 at the age of 95. He was remembered for his great generosity, donating to numerous organizations, political campaigns and causes in the Japanese American community.

Religious services were led by Rimban Hiroshi Abiko of Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple. ABC7 Eyewitness News sports anchor Rob Fukuzaki chaired the memorial program and also covered the event for KABC. Eulogies were offered by Frank Kawana on behalf of the family, Professor Lane Hirabayashi, the first holder of the UCLA George and Sakaye Aratani Chair on the Japanese American Incarceration, Redress and Community, and Shoichi Sayano of Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple.

“They say people like him maybe come only once in a lifetime,” Bill Watanabe, former executive director of the Little Tokyo Service Center, told KABC. “For my lifetime, he's the role model. He's the one that everybody looks up to in terms of what it means to give back to the community.”

Among the organizations that have received support from Aratani and his wife, Sakaye, are the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Japanese American National Museum and East West Players, which named a theater, a central hall and a courtyard, respectively, in honor of the couple. Aratani was a recipient of the UCLA Medal and the Japanese government's Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Rosette.

He co-founded Keiro Senior HealthCare more than 50 years ago, and spent his final days at its nursing home in Los Angeles. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

Guests arrive at the Aratani Theatre, formerly the Japan America Theatre. (MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

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