By KATSUO YAMASAKI
My wife and I moved into the Keiro Retirement Home in October 2014. At the time, Keiro told us that they will take care of us the rest of our lives. We did not know that Keiro was on sale.
Now Keiro is sold to a company called Pacifica LLP. Why was Keiro sold? The recent financial statements show that Keiro is making money but CEO Shawn Miyake says the future prospects are not so promising, so he wants to change the course while it is financially strong. Pacifica obviously sees more value in Keiro that Keiro management fails to see.
Keiro was not founded to make money but founded as a nonprofit organization in 1961 by a group of eight community leaders to help impoverished Japanese American senior citizens to live their last days in health and dignity.
One day in 1970, Fred Wada and his wife, Masako, were driving along Boyle Avenue and saw the Jewish Home for the Aged for sale. Mr. Wada wanted to buy the property and convert it into a retirement home for JA seniors. To raise the $1 million down payment, Mr. Wada got together with seven other founders to put their houses up as collateral. Keiro Retirement Home, which we now call “our home,” was born.
The donations came from both shores of the Pacific. Yes, donations came from Japan, too. That is why the Japanese are interested in how Keiro is doing. That is why the Emperor of Japan visited Keiro on June 22, 1994 and said that “the Japanese Americans worked hard to help achieve the prosperity of the United States. It makes me feel very proud for the part you played.”
Shinzo Abe came in 2009, though as a private person, between his two administrations as prime minister. The Honorable Harry Horinouchi, consul general of Japan in Los Angeles, came here to celebrate Senior Citizens Day on Sept. 11, probably for one last time.
Fred Wada was awarded a medal by the Japanese government for his efforts to bring the 1964 Olympic games to Tokyo. Fuji Television dramatized him as “the man who brought the Olympics to Tokyo.” Mr. Wada also was given the prestigious Eiji Yoshikawa Cultural Award in recognition of the role he played in founding Keiro.
Now Keiro is sold. Why did Shawn Miyake give it up so easily? W.T. Wimpy Hiroto asked in The Rafu Shimpo (6/24/15), “Why was there no public discussion of Keiro’s threatened status? The problems. Possible solutions. It’s chances of survival in the face of Obamacare ramifications…”
The Keiro management says it needs to sell because changes in the healthcare market and demographics will not permit it to keep providing services going forward as it has been in the past. If that is indeed the case, then the buyers will need to change the business model going forward. If the business model must change, the delivery of healthcare services must change also.
Mr. Miyake says the second- and third-generation Japanese have so assimilated with American society that they do not need Keiro. It is only half true. There are many “new Isseis,” just like my wife and me, who came here after World War II. Many more are coming. They need the healthcare facilities Keiro provides.
More than half of the Keiro residents, for example, do not read or speak English. The figures published by Japanese Consulate show that there are 800,000 Japanese living in the United States. Change in demographics is hardly an acceptable argument.
The donations from Japan and the United States helped to build and operate Keiro’s healthcare facilities in accordance with the Article of Incorporation and the Bylaws. Keiro will now sell the facilities to Pacifica and spend the proceeds of the sale on community-based programs. The state attorney general has allowed it, so it must be a practice legally acceptable. Emotionally, however, I cannot help but feel that there is something not quite right.
Are the Keiro founders’ visions 50 some years ago so outdated in the fast-changing world of 2015 that the Keiro’s business model needs to be updated? Whatever the reasons, we are about to lose the greatest achievement and the iconic flagship of the JA community.
As Mary Nakamura wrote in The Rafu Shimpo (6/30/15), “It is so difficult to see all the hard work of Mr. Fred Wada and Mr. Edwin Hiroto destroyed and turned ashes.”
The community is in an uproar over the situation but an effort to save has come a few months too late. The attorney general has pronounced Keiro dead. What more can you do?
I do not agree with what Mr. Miyake has done but I personally congratulated him for his efforts to preside over the sale to Pacifica because I do not believe, as some have alluded, that he did it for his personal gain. He did what he believed was right in his own way.
Keiro is dead and I feel sad that we just watched and let it die.
Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.