ANAHEIM — When the Japan America Society of Southern California hosts its 110th Anniversary Dinner and Gala Celebration at Angel Stadium next month, it will include arguably the two most Japanese people on the planet.
Angels star Shohei Ohtani and author/TV personality Marie Kondo will both receive the JASSC’s Kokusai Shimin Sho International Citizen Award during the fundraising and membership event, set for Thursday, July 11.
“It’s a unique opportunity to showcase organizations or people who have contributed to U.S.-Japan relations,” explained JASSC President Douglas Erber. “This should take JAS to a new level; we have wonderful goals and many great people, but we are also excited to have programming that will encourage other people to join.”
Highlights for the evening include a red carpet with baseball and Hollywood celebrities, dinner and entertainment. The event begins with a cocktail reception and silent auction and concludes with the honoring of Ohtani and Kondo.
Now in his second season with the Angels, Ohtani was named the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year after a stellar season in which he both pitched and served as a slugging designated hitter.
Ohtani will be recognized for his positive impact on Japanese and American youth, specifically for being a great role model. His first year in MLB as a two-way player inspired fans on both sides of the Pacific.
“It was big news when he signed, but his Spring Training didn’t go so well. Then, he persevered and had an incredible year,” Erber said.
Ohtani’s unprecedented performance during his 2018 rookie season attracted many Japanese tourists to visit Los Angeles and extended opportunities for the people of Japan and the U.S. to continue building on the strong bonds between the two countries.
“If not for him, many people with a love of baseball from Japan wouldn’t have come,” Erber added.
Ohtani returned this season as one of the league’s most feared designated hitters, while rehabilitating as a pitcher.
Erber noted that the JASSC’s relationship with presenting sponsor Nitto Tire USA directly led to hosting Ohtani at this gala, the largest annual event for the JASSC.
Nitto Chairman and CEO Tomoshige Mizutani was introduced to Erber while his company was helping to produce a documentary on former Colorado Gov. Ralph Carr, who was instrumental in helping Japanese Americans who faced internment during World War II.
As the partnership between Nitto and JASSC has evolved, events such as hosting “Iron Chef” star Hiroyuki Sakai for their 2012 gala have been realized.
“Tomo recommended we get Shohei for the dinner, and if we could, he said many people would come,” Erber recalled.
The JASSC met with Ohtani’s agent last September, and was able to work out a date that wouldn’t interfere with the Angels’ busy major league schedule.
Kondo will be honored for her positive contributions to mainstream America’s appreciation of Japan through her best-selling book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” as well as her hit Netflix series, “Tidying Up with Marie Kondo,” a cultural phenomenon that has inspired home makeovers, helping American families clear out the clutter – and choose joy.
Erber said the JASSC first began communicating with Kondo and her company three years ago, when she was looking to take her brand and projects onto an international stage.
“Even if you have a maid or an executive assistant, I think everyone wishes to be a little more organized,” he said.
Kondo’s book was a No. 1 New York Times bestseller, in which she took tidying to a whole new level, teaching that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. She has been featured on more than 50 major Japanese television and radio programs, as well as in Time magazine, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The London Times, Vogue magazine, and the talk shows hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, Rachael Ray, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, and Hasan Minhaj.
She has also been listed as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.
“Our sincere hope is to thank these two individuals for choosing to come to Southern California,” Erber said. “Neither are doing it for themselves – they do it because they want to support the JAS. We hope to continue the relationship and hope it will make it easier to approach other notable leaders and celebrities.”
The JASSC was founded in 1909 as a membership organization to build meaningful relationships between Japanese and Americans. It is the West Coast’s premier educational and public affairs forum dedicated to the U.S.–Japan relationship by offering unique opportunities to become involved in the business and cultural ties between the two countries.
The Society’s calendar includes luncheon programs, business networking mixers, and events highlighting art, music, film, performing arts and other special activities. Annual events include the Women’s Leadership Counts Conference, Japan CUTS Hollywood film festival, Hitachi Japanese Kite Workshops, Japan America Golf Classic, and much more.
The Society is a qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofit, charitable and educational organization and it is supported by 140 Japanese and American corporate members and more than 2,000 individual members.
To attend this fundraising dinner, or to learn about attractive sponsorship opportunities, visit the JASSC website at www.jas-socal.org or call (310) 965-9050, ext. 104.