By RYOKO NAKAMURA
RAFU JAPANESE STAFF WRITER
In the perfect California summer weather, about 150 people gathered at Nanka Kanagawa Kenjinkai’s annual picnic July 10 at Wilson Park in Torrance. From a new-born Gosei to a long-time Nisei member, all enjoyed barbecue, members’ homemade food, and mini-sports games.
It has been 103 years since Issei established the Kenjinkai in 1908. The founders who had the strongest ties with their home prefecture are long gone, and the Niseis are now going.
“(Over the years) the members got less and less, but there are more younger people now,” said Hannah Sato-Sugitani, a Nisei who has been a member of the organization since 1949 when she married Lloyd Shigeru Sato whose father was from Odawara City.
“Kenjinkai means a family history. I learned history and friendship from the Kenjinkai,” Hannah said. Because Kenjinkai organized trips to Japan before, she was able to visit and meet her relatives in Japan. “I want Kenjinkai to keep up the picnics and the tradition so that the fourth and fifth generation can know their old family history.”
Mutsuko Nakamura, who has been a big supporter for the Kenjinkai as a secretary, shares the same wish. She wants to see the students exchange program revived for the younger generations. “We used to have Japanese students from Kanagawa come over and spend time with us.”
She said the program served a dual purpose: Japanese students learn English quickly, and Japanese Americans learn their heritage. “It was a good program. I want to see that again,” said Nakamura.
Since 1959, when he moved to Los Angeles from Oakland, Hichiro Endo has attended to Kenjinkai’s activities every year. This year, he came with his kids and grandkids. “Even though I only have been to Japan for one or two weeks, I’d like to keep my friendships with the people that I met through Kenjinkai,” said Endo.
He feels that maintaining the Japanese traditions in the U.S. is important because “I think that’s everything I have to associate with my being Japanese, and it’s something that we have in common with folks who came here from Japan.”
At the picnic, Frank Kawase, Sansei president of Nanka Kanagawa Kenjinkai, introduced Shigeru Mori, recipient of commendation from Kanagawa prefecture. Mori was recognized for his significant contributions to both Kanagawa and the U.S., and he received the commendation certificate and a medal from Governor Shigefumi Matsuzawa.
“This achievement is not only my achievement, but there was a lot of help and support from Kanagawa Kenjinkai,” Mori remarked. He came to the U.S. in 1959 and after graduating from Pasadena City College, he worked at the Mutual Trading Co., Inc. until his retirement in 2008.
Nanka Kanagawa Kenjinkai holds an annual New Year luncheon in February, a casino day trip to San Diego in April, and a picnic in July. The annual membership fee is $20 per family. For more information, contact Frank Kawase at 714-990-5699 or Email [email protected]