By TIMOTHY CHUMAN
With a new Nisei Week Foundation president each year, Leiton Hashimoto has been looking to be the next person to fulfill the duties as president and host a successful Nisei Week.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Hashimoto attended the University of Denver in Colorado before returning to his home state. After living in Hawaii for a while longer, he made the move to California, where he still lives today.
Some of Hashimoto’s hobbies include fishing, both fresh water and deep sea, and shooting sporting clays. He is also a member of the Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu Dojo of Little Tokyo under Sensei Art Ishii.
Hashimoto’s involvement in the Japanese American community has extended far beyond Nisei Week. Since moving to Los Angeles, he has been a member of the Japanese American Optimist Club of Los Angeles, which works with underprivileged children.
Hashimoto also volunteers with the Go For Broke National Education Center. Since joining the organization, he has been involved with their Hanashi Program, which interviews World War II veterans to record and perpetuate their stories for the generations to come. He has also served on the dinner committee of the Evening of Aloha Gala hosted by Go For Broke since its inception.
Hashimoto’s involvement with Nisei Week has lasted for 30 years now as he has volunteered at the Hawaii Cherry Blossom Festival and with the Nisei Week Hospitality Committee under Uncle Bobby and Aunty Marian Chun prior to his stint as president.
As president of the Nisei Week Foundation this year, Hashimoto is excited for all of the festivities and upgrades that will be incorporated into the week.
“Many of the events and activities will be the same as in the past, but Aki the Akita, our mascot, has a different look. Not only is he more updated, but he is also outfitted to match this year’s theme,” said Hashimoto. “We have more merchandise for sale besides just T-shirts and we are making an effort to produce more video coverage of Nisei Week and expand our market to the younger generations.”
This year’s Nisei Week theme, “Ohana: Bringing People Together,” was thought of by Hashimoto because he saw a similar trend in the cultural diversity within Hawaii and Little Tokyo.
“Here in Los Angeles, if you look at the demographics of Little Tokyo, it has changed from predominantly Japanese and Japanese Americans to an area made up of and frequented by multiracial ethnicities. We have our own melting pot right here in Little Tokyo, which is why I came up with the theme of bringing people together,” Hashimoto said.
While Nisei Week may no longer be exclusive to Japanese and Japanese Americans, it is not necessarily a negative thing. Hashimoto views it as an opportunity to not only bond with other races, but to connect to the younger generation as well.
“My hope is that people will come to Nisei Week and realize that it is a time when everyone can come together as one big happy family, or ohana, and enjoy the Japanese and Japanese American cultures,” he said. “I’d like to see families and the younger generations attending so they partake of all of the activities and ingrain Nisei Week in their minds and want to continue the legacy for years to come.”