Top News Stories of 2011

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JANUARY

Jan. 3: Jean Quan is sworn in as mayor of Oakland, becoming the first Asian American woman to take the helm of a major U.S. city. She would later be criticized for her handling of the Occupy Oakland protesters.

Edwin Lee is sworn in as interim mayor of San Francisco by Judge Katherine Feinstein as Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom watches at City Hall. (Photo by Paul Sakuma/AP)

Jan. 11: Edwin Lee is sworn in as mayor of San Francisco, becoming that city’s first Asian American chief executive. Formerly the city’s chief administrator, he agreed to serve the remaining year of former Mayor Gavin Newsom, who was elected lieutenant governor.

Jan. 24: Assemblymember Warren Furutani (D-Long Beach) is re-elected chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus. Assemblymember Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward) is re-elected vice chair.

Jan. 28: The 25th anniversary of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, which claimed the life of Astronaut Ellison Onizuka and six others, is observed on and around this date from Hawaii (Onizuka’s birthplace) to Florida.

Jan. 30: The first annual Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution is observed throughout California. Korematsu (1919-2005), who challenged the constitutionality of the internment, was born on Jan. 30.

FEBRUARY

Jian Hong Li at his preliminary hearing. (Photo by Mario G. Reyes/Rafu Shimpo)

Feb. 3: Jian Hong Li is arraigned in Los Angeles Superior Court for the January 2010 murder and attempted robbery of Hideko Oyama, manager of the Chetwood Hotel on Fourth Street. At year’s end, a trial has yet to be held.

Feb. 4: The Gardena-Carson Community Adult School in Gardena is formally renamed the George Kiriyama Adult School. Kiriyama, who passed away in 2005, was the school’s principal and a board member of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Feb. 7: The body of Yoshiya Watanabe of Rancho Palos Verdes is found in the Scholl Canyon area near Glendale. He was missing for three days after driving off in his son’s car.

Feb. 9: Joe Louie Kurihara of West Covina is sentenced to a year in county jail, a year in a residential drug treatment program and five years probation for leaving his 3-year-old son alone in a car in a Pasadena parking garage for nearly 24 hours last fall.

Feb. 9: The 10th anniversary of the Ehime Maru tragedy, in which a Navy submarine collided with a Japanese fishing vessel off the coast of Hawaii, killing nine, is observed by family members of the victims at a park in Honolulu.

Feb. 10: Toyo Miyatake Way is dedicated at Sakura Crossing in Little Tokyo. The street name and a full-size bronze relief honor Miyatake (1896-1979), a noted Little Tokyo photographer who documented camp life in Manzanar.

Feb. 10: A special session of the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, is held to honor U.S. District Judge Robert Takasugi, who passed away in 2009. Speakers include his son, Superior Court Judge Jon Takasugi.

Feb. 15: Former Assemblymember Ted Lieu of Torrance, a Democrat, wins a special election in the 28th Senate District, defeating Republican Bob Valentine. Lieu succeeds Jenny Oropeza, who died in office.

MARCH

March 2: Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) announces that he will step down after his term expires in 2012. The third-oldest member of the Senate, he has served since 1990. Candidates for his seat will include Rep. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, and former Gov. Linda Lingle, a Republican.

March 4: The 11th Japanese American Leadership Delegation visits Japan. The 13 delegates will experience the March 11 earthquake while in Tokyo.

A tsunami hits residences in Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, on March 11. (Kyodo News)

March 11: A 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami strike northeastern Japan, leaving about 20,000 people dead or missing, and thousands more homeless. The Fukushima Dai Ichi Nuclear Power Plant is heavily damaged, releasing radiation and forcing an evacuation of the area. Rescue and recovery efforts will continue for the rest of the year, with fundraisers held across the U.S. and around the world. Japanese Americans in Southern California and beyond will play a key role in getting needed volunteers and supplies to the Tohoku region.

March 14: UCLA Chancellor Gene Block and the Asian American Studies Center denounce an anti-Asian rant posted by student Alexandra Wallace on YouTube. Wallace later apologizes and leaves the school.

A crowd lines up to offer prayers and incense for earthquake tsunami victims during a public memorial in Little Tokyo's JACCC Plaza. (Photo by Mario G. Reyes/Rafu Shimpo)

March 17: Nearly 1,000 people gather in JACCC Plaza to mourn for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami and to offer help for the survivors.

March 22: The replica of the space shuttle Challenger in Little Tokyo’s Weller Court is removed for repairs by modelmaker Isao Hirai.

March 29: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and U.S.-Japan Council President Irene Hirano Inouye convene a meeting with Japanese American organizations and leaders to plan aid to tsunami victims.

March 30: Kelly Shimizu of Los Angeles is struck and killed by a big rig while walking by the Santa Monica Boulevard on-ramp to the northbound San Diego Freeway. The driver does not stop and is located later.

APRIL

JACL National Executive Director Floyd Mori

April 2: The 10th Cherry Blossom Festival of Southern California, scheduled for this weekend in Little Tokyo, is postponed until Sept. 24-25.

April 16: JACL National Executive Director Floyd Mori announces that he will step down by the end of the year. He has served since 2007. This month also marks the end of Craig Ishii’s tenure at JACL’s Pacific Southwest regional director. He later co-founds the Kizuna youth leadership organization.

April 25: A groundbreaking ceremony is held at the corner of Venice and Lincoln to celebrate the progress of the Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker. The proposed design of the marker and the proposed text of the plaque are unveiled.

April 30: Riki Higashida and other members of the Granada Hills Charter High School Academic Decathlon team win first place in the national Academic Decathlon competition in Charlotte, N.C.

MAY

May 1: “The Sisters of Manzanar,” a one-act opera about the internment, is presented in Fresno by the Central California District Council of JACL, the California Opera Association and actor George Takei.

May 3: The Los Angeles City Council’s Information Technology and Government Affairs Committee gives approval for the City of Los Angeles to negotiate a ground lease with the Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation to construct the Budokan sports facility.

May 5: Riverside Mayor Ron Loveridge visits Sendai, Riverside’s sister city, to present a $500,000 check for disaster relief to Mayor Emiko Okuyama.

May 9: NBC announces that Ann Curry, long-time news anchor for the “Today Show,” will replace Meredith Vieira as co-host. Curry, one of nation’s best-known Nikkei journalists, makes her debut on June 9.

May 10: The Senate votes to confirm Judge Edward Chen to be a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Chen, a U.S. magistrate udge for the Northern District of California, was appointed by President Obama.

May 15: At its commencement ceremony, University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco presents honorary degrees to Japanese Americans who were denied diplomas in 1942 because of Executive Order 9066.

Detective Daniel Hanabusa is awarded the Medal of Honor by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. (Photo by Mario G. Reyes/Rafu Shimpo)

May 16: Nisei World War II veterans from the Sacramento area are among the honorees at an Asian Pacific American Heritage Month ceremony held on the Assembly floor at the State Capitol by the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus.

May 19: Senate Republicans block the nomination of UC Berkeley legal scholar Goodwin Liu to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, handing President Obama his first defeat in a judicial nomination.

May 20: During its spring commencement, Santa Ana College honors its Japanese American students who forced to leave in 1942 due to Executive Order 9066. Twenty students, most represented by surviving family members, are recognized through the California Nisei College Diploma Project.

May 24: U.S. Solicitor General Neal Katyal publicly states that wartime Solicitor General Charles Fahy acted dishonorably in defending the convictions of Fred Korematsu and Gordon Hirabayashi for violating internment orders imposed on Japanese Americans.

May 26: Detective Daniel Hanabusa is one of 10 LAPD officers receiving the Medal of Honor, the department’s highest honor. He and others are cited for their actions during a dangerous narcotics operation.

May 26: An agreement is signed between the National Japanese American Historical Society and the Presidio Trust to rehabilitate Building 640 at the Presidio of San Francisco as the Military Intelligence Service Historic Learning Center. The building housed the first MIS Language School in 1941.

May 28: Santa Rosa Junior College honors 10 Japanese American students who attended SRJC in the early 1940s and were forced by the government to abandon their studies. One of them, Eiko Yamakawa Sakaguchi, personally receives her honorary degree.

May 31: Gardena seafood dealer Ginichi Ohira pleads guilty in Los Angeles federal court to a misdemeanor charge of knowing selling endangered whale meat to local sushi restaurants, including the now-closed The Hump.

JUNE

June 5: Keiko Fujimori, daughter of disgraced Peruvian ex-president Alberto Fujimori, narrowly loses a bitterly fought runoff election for president to Ollanta Humala, a former army general.

June 7: Technical Sgt. Shinyei Rocky Matayoshi of Hawaii is inducted into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes as a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism as a member of the 442nd RCT.

June 14: Peruvian President Alan Garcia Perez apologizes for the mistreatment of Japanese Peruvians by the government during World War II. Japanese Peruvians were rounded up and shipped to internment camps in the U.S.

Los Angeles County Undersheriff and Gardena Mayor Paul Tanaka.

June 18: The Japanese government announces two local recipients of its spring 2011 decoration: Mack Makoto Miyazaki, former president of the Orange County Japanese American Association, and Maki Hiroyuki Miyahara, former president of the Kendo Federation of the U.S. Also, Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii will receive the highest honor, the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Paulownia Flowers.

June 18-19: A medical team from Hiroshima examines Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors living in Southern California as part of a biennial visit that also includes San Francisco, Seattle and Honolulu. The team also speaks to the press about the effects of radiation from the Fukushima power plant.

June 20: Paul Tanaka is elevated to undersheriff, second in command of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, by Sheriff Lee Baca. Tanaka, who is also mayor of Gardena, is a 30-year law enforcement veteran.

June 24: U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announces that the National Park Service is awarding 24 grants totaling $2.9 million to preserve and interpret sites where Japanese Americans were confined during World War II.

June 18: Capt. Paul Miyamoto of the San Francisco Sheriff’s department announces his candidacy for sheriff. The 15-year veteran seeks to replace Sheriff Michael Hennssey, who is retiring.

JULY

July 1: Riverside Community College District Trustee Mark Takano announces that he will run next year in the new 41st Congressional District. He previously ran for Congress in the 1990s.

July 3: Seven men from Northern California go missing after their fishing boat, the Erik, capsizes off the coast of Mexico during a storm. Lee Ikegami and Warren Tsurumoto are among the 19 surviving fishermen; Don Lee, organizer of the annual trip, is among the missing. Only one body, that of Leslie Yee, is found.

July 7: Gardena pharmacist Brian Matayoshi, a Torrance resident, is killed by a grizzly bear while hiking in Yellowstone National Park. His wife, Marylyn, survives the attack.

A crane lifts up the refurbished space shuttle Challenger model to be placed atop the memorial to Astronaut Ellison Onizuka in Little Tokyo. (Photo by Mario G. Reyes/Rafu Shimpo)

July 7: A one-ton model of the space shuttle Challenger is returned to Little Tokyo’s Weller Court after a three-month restoration.

July 8: At the JACL National Convention in Hollywood, the JACL National Council passes an emergency resolution calling for accurate implementation of the 2010 “Power of Words” resolution. “Power of Words” advocates say the draft handbook did not reflect the decision to use “concentration camps” instead of  “relocation centers.”

July 12: Assemblymember Warren Furutani announces his candidacy for the Los Angeles City Council seat vacated by Janice Hahn, who was elected to Congress. The 15th Council District seat represents the San Pedro, Harbor Gateway and Watts area. Furutani’s endorsers include Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

July 14: Yukari Miyamae of Colorado is accused of groping a TSA agent during a confrontation at Phoenix’s international airport. Miyamae says she felt intimidated when agents surrounded her and simply pushed one of them away. Sexual abuse charges are later dropped but misdemeanor charges are pending.

July 19: Urasenke School of Tea Grand Master Genshitsu Sen conducts a tea ceremony at the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor as a gesture of peace and goodwill, with survivors of the 1941 attack in attendance.

July 21: Tatsuya Ichihashi is sentenced to life in prison for killing a young British teacher, Lindsay Hawker, in Tokyo four years ago. He evaded capture for more than two years. The case was national news in Japan and the U.K.

July 23: Jackie Hoang of Alhambra, one of two men shot outside the Vault XXI Lounge at the Little Tokyo Galleria, dies at County-USC Medical Center. The gunman remains at large.

July 26: Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) announces he will resign amid political fallout from an 18-year-old woman’s allegations of an unwanted sexual encounter with him. Wu, the first Chinese American member of the House, was also accused of erratic behavior by former staff members.

Bus driver Yasushi Mikuni

July 26: Gov. Jerry Brown nominates UC Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu to the California Supreme Court. Liu was previously President Obama’s nominee for the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, but his nomination was blocked by Republican senators.

July 26: Yasushi Mikuni, the driver of a tour bus that crashed and killed three Japanese tourists and injured 11 in 2010, formally apologizes to families of the victims. He has pleaded guilty to three of 10 felony counts.

July 26: A courtyard mural at the new Neighborhood City Hall in Pacoima is unveiled. It honors 31 local individuals, including six Japanese Americans: San Fernando Valley Japanese Community Center founders Matsuo Usui, Berry Tamura and Tom Ikuta; doctors Sanbo Sakaguchi and Mary Oda; and SFV Judo Club founder Seguro Murakami.

AUGUST

Aug. 1: LAPD detectives release surveillance video showing an elderly woman being mugged while walking on First Street between Los Angeles and San Pedro streets in Little Tokyo. The next day, another video is released, showing a woman who was robbed, apparently by the same man, near the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. The “Backpack Bandit” has been linked to other crimes as well.

Aug. 2: The Rancho Palos Verdes City Council honors the Ishibashi family for its contributions to the local community. The family announced in July that it is selling its five-acre ranch in the Portuguese Bend area of Rancho Palos Verdes after farming in the area for more than a century.

Aug. 2: Norihide Ushirozako, a Japanese national who pleaded guilty to smuggling live turtles and tortoises from Japan to the U.S., will be released from federal custody after being sentenced to time served, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles says. Co-defendant Atsushi Yamagami pleaded guilty to one felony count of smuggling and remains in custody.

Aug. 5: Yasushi Mikuni, the driver of a tour bus that rolled over and killed three Japanese tourists last year, is sentenced to 363 days in jail and three years of probation, and is ordered to pay restitution to the victims. He faced up to 15 years in prison.

Aug. 7: Adan Peralta, the suspected “Backpack Bandit,” is arrested by LAPD officers. Since the victims cannot identify him, he cannot be prosecuted, but he is deported back to Mexico. Police said he will be arrested if he returns to Los Angeles.

Aug. 8: San Francisco Interim Mayor Ed Lee files papers to run for mayor in the November election despite a pledge not to do so when he was appointed. The race is changed for the other candidates, who had not planned to face an incumbent.

Aug. 8: Soji Kashiwagi, executive producer of the Grateful Crane Ensemble, is sworn in as a member of the Pasadena Human Relations Commission.

Aug. 9: For the first time, the U.S. sends a representative to the annual commemoration of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. Jim Zumwalt from the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo carries a wreath to the altar and brings a message from President Obama.

A rendering of the Budokan sports center, to be located in Little Tokyo.

Aug. 10: The Little Tokyo Service Center Community Development Corporation kicks off its capital campaign for the Budokan sports center with a $1 million donation from the Aratani Foundation. The goal is $22 million.

Aug. 13: The space shuttle Challenger memorial in Little Tokyo is formally rededicated. Lorna Onizuka, widow of Astronaut Ellison Onizuka, and Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata are among the guests.

Aug. 13: Erika Mariko Olsen, representing the Pasadena Japanese Cultural Institute, is crowned 2011 Nisei Week Queen at the 71st annual Nisei Week Coronation at Pasadena’s Ambassador Auditorium. Mimi Mitsuko Yang is First Princess and Kay A. Yamaguchi is Miss Tomodachi.

Aug. 14: Nisei veterans of World War II are saluted by Maj. Gen. Rodney Kobayashi in a ceremony held before their participation in the Nisei Week Japanese Festival’s parade.

The ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Heart Mountain Interpretive Learning Center in Wyoming. (Photo by Casey Page/Billings Gazette)

Aug. 15: Kimberly Kimiko Nizato of Bellflower, a former kennel assistant who pleaded no contest to felony animal cruelty for nearly starving her German shepherd to death, is sentenced by Norwalk Superior Court Judge Robert Higa to 30 days in jail and counseling.

Aug. 15: A Japanese student, Ayano Tokumasu from Aichi Prefecture, is swept over Niagara Falls and drowns after falling from a railing on the Canadian side of the Niagara River.

Aug. 16: Public Defender Jeff Adachi jumps into the San Francisco mayor’s race, becoming one of 16 candidates and the only Japanese American.

Aug. 19-21: The grand opening of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation’s Interpretive Learning Center is celebrated, with some 1,000 people in attendance, including former internees. Speakers include journalist Tom Brokaw, Sen. Daniel Inouye, former Sen. Alan Simpson, former Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, and Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Lance Ito.

Aug. 26: Prime

Outgoing JANM Executive Director Akemi Kikumura Yano. (Photo by Mario G. Reyes/Rafu Shimpo)

Minister Naoto Kan announces he will resign after almost 15 months in office amid plunging approval ratings over his government’s handling of the tsunami disaster and nuclear crisis. Three days later, Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda is chosen as the ruling party leader and prime minister.

Aug. 26: Movie producer Jon Peters is ordered by a Los Angeles jury to pay more than $3 million to his former personal assistant, Shelly Morita, who accused him of subjecting her to sexual harassment and a hostile work environment.

Aug. 31: Akemi Kikumura Yano steps down after three years as president and CEO of the Japanese American National Museum. She has been with JANM for a total of 24 years.

SEPTEMBER

Sept. 1: Gov. Jerry Brown swears in Goodwin Liu as a justice of the California Supreme court. Four of the seven justices are now of full or partial Asian descent.

Sept. 3: Russ Yamada of Torrance dies off San Onofre State Beach. The co-owner of Kizuna House was surfing with a group and was found unconscious near his surfboard.

Sept. 4: Gardena Municipal Bus Lines implements a major service change. Trips between Gardena and Downtown L.A. will continue, but not as often. The City Council finalized the plan after holding public meetings with concerned residents.

California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu.

Sept. 6: Over the opposition of some Asian American members, the California Legislature passes a bill banning the sale, trade or possession of shark fins, a delicacy in Chinese cuisine. It was introduced by Assemblymember Paul Fong (D-Cupertino); opponents included Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance).

Sept. 8: The Marine Corps holds a hearing in Hawaii for three Marines accused of beating and humiliating Lance Cpl. Harry Lew of Santa Clara, who took his own life on April 3 in Afghanistan. Lew was a nephew of Rep. Judy Chu (D-El Monte), chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

Sept. 8: Junichi Ihara, who served as consul general of Japan in Los Angeles for three years, returns to Japan for a new assignment with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. A farewell event was held prior to his departure.

Sept. 9: Fox Sports cancels a show, “The College Experiment,” that aired a segment the week before mocking Asian students on the USC campus.

Sept. 14: A new marquee is unveiled in celebration of the renaming of San Francisco School of the Arts after noted artist and arts educator Ruth Asawa, who co-founded the school in 1982.

Sept. 15: The LAPD presents the Purple Heart medal to 82 officers who were injured or killed in the line of duty in the past 90 years. Recipients include Officer Gary Murakami, who was shot and killed in 1968; Officer Stuart Taira, who was killed as a result of a helicopter crash in 1983; and Detective Daniel Hanabusa, who was wounded during a drug bust in 2008.

Carson City Clerk Helen Kawagoe.

Sept. 18: Carson City Clerk Helen Kawagoe suffers a stroke. In updates on its website, the city says that she is “slowly recovering.” Chief Deputy City Clerk Wanda Higaki fills in.

Sept. 19: CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0” starts its second season with Masi Oka (“Heroes”) added as a series regular.

Sept. 19: Some 60,000 people gather in Tokyo for a protest against Japan’s use of nuclear energy, prompted by the ongoing Fukushima reactor crisis.

Sept. 21: President Obama holds his first meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda at the United Nations and says the U.S. will continue to help Japan recover from the earthquake and tsunami.

Sept. 21: A powerful typhoon slams into Japan, leaving 13 people dead or missing in the south-central region before grazing the devastated northeastern coast.

Sept. 24: A Fort Missoula, Mont. courtroom that was used to hold “loyalty hearings” for more than 1,000 resident aliens of Japanese descent during World War II is dedicated at a statewide gathering of historians. The courtroom has been restored with funding from the National Park Service.

Sept. 27: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approves a redistricting plan that leaves boundaries largely unchanged and does not create a second Latino-majority district. Some Asian Pacific Islander groups said the proposed change would have diminished API voting power.

Sept. 30: Financial planner Hitomi Tsuyuki of Coto de Caza pleads guilty in Orange County Superior Court to stealing about $2.8 million from 33 victims, many of whom were elderly, from 1997 to 2007.

OCTOBER

October: Torrance School Board member and State Deputy Attorney General Al Muratsuchi declares his candidacy for the newly drawn 66th Assembly District, which contains most of the South Bay. Lillian Kawasaki of the Water Replenishment District of Southern California declares her candidacy for the 8th District seat on the Long Beach City Council.

Oct. 3: A Yellowstone National Park official says the grizzly bear that fatally mauled hiker Brian Matayoshi in July was euthanized after DNA evidence linked it to the scene of a second hiker’s death a month later. The bear was allowed to remain free after Matayoshi’s death because park officials said it was defending its two cubs.

Oct. 5: A memorial to the Fresno Assembly Center is held on opening day of the Big Fresno Fair. Local Japanese Americans were held at the Fresno County Fairgrounds in 1942 before being sent to bigger camps further inland. Planning for the memorial has been under way since 2009.

The Kyoto Grand Hotel and Gardens and the adjoining Weller Court shopping plaza. (Photo by Mario G. Reyes/Rafu Shimpo)

Oct. 6: Escrow closes on the Kyoto Grand Hotel and Gardens, marking the second time in the past four years that the Little Tokyo property has been sold. UBS Realty plans to run the hotel under the Doubletree by Hilton name.

Oct. 6: The Senate passes a resolution that apologizes for the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese immigration to the U.S.

Oct. 6: 442nd RCT veteran Masao Tamura of Kauai receives France’s Legion of Honor for his role in the liberation of two French towns and the rescue of the “Lost Battalion” of Texas.

Oct. 8: Jun Niimi, former assistant vice minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, assumes his duties as the new consul general of Japan in Los Angeles.

Oct. 15: Keiro Senior Healthcare holds its 50th Anniversary Celebration Luncheon and Genki Living Expo at the Pasadena Convention Center.

Oct. 21: Asian Pacific Islander activists gather in Little Tokyo to show support for the Occupy L.A. movement but also to express concern about the movement’s lack of diversity.

Oct. 22-23: The Japanese American National Museum screens the 1976 made-for-TV movie “Farewell to Manzanar” and announces that it will be available on DVD for the first time. The movie was never released on home video.

Oct. 29: Mountain View City Councilmember Margaret Abe-Koga kicks off her campaign for the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. She is the city’s first Asian American female councilmember.

Oct. 29: Assemblymember Mary Hayashi (D-Hayward) pleads not guilty to a charge of felony grand theft after being arrested Oct. 23 by a security guard at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco. Prosecutors say she left the store with $2,445 worth of items that weren’t paid for. Her spokesman says it was a misunderstanding.

NOVEMBER

Nov. 1: Linda Akutagawa succeeds J.D. Hokoyama as president and CEO of Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics (LEAP). Hokoyama is a founder of LEAP; Akutagawa is a 19-year veteran of the organization.

House Speaker John Boehner presents the Congressional Gold Medal to MIS veteran Grant Ichikawa during a ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. (Associated Press)

Nov. 1-3: After months of planning, the Congressional Gold Medal is presented to the 100th Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team and Military Intelligence Service at a Capitol ceremony featuring congressional leaders of both parties. Celebratory events in Washington, D.C. include a banquet with Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki as keynote speaker, the presentation of Bronze Stars by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, and a ceremony at the National Japanese American Memorial to Patriotism for those killed in action. Regional events are also planned for veterans unable to travel to the capital.

Hitomi Tsuyuki

Nov. 4: A Los Angeles Superior Court jury rejects a couple’s argument that one of Eli Lilly’s top-selling rugs was responsible for the death of their 20-year-old son in 2007. Randy and Eiko Tadai said that their autistic son, Cody, was prescribed Zyprexa with no warning about life-threatening side effects.

Nov. 4: Financial planner Hitomi Tsuyuki is sentenced by Orange County Superior Court Judge James Stotler to 18 years in jail and ordered to pay back $2.8 million that he stole from his clients, many of whom were family friends.

Nov. 5: Esther Kumasaka of Huntington Beach is killed in a two-car crash in that city. She was a passenger in a Honda Acura that was broadsided by a Jeep Wrangler. Her husband survives.

Nov. 8: Assemblymember Warren Furutani and LAPD Officer Joe Buscaino are the top vote-getters in the race for Los Angeles City Council, and will face off in a Jan. 17 runoff election. Winners in SoCal elections include incumbent Jack Tanaka for Diamond Bar City Council, incumbent Pamela Kawasaki for Duarte Unified School District Governing Board, and Jeanie Nishime for El Segundo Unified School District Board.

Nov. 8: Ed Lee, the appointed mayor of San Francisco, is elected in his own right, beating 15 challengers. Paul Miyamoto finishes third in the race for San Francisco sheriff. In nearby Foster City, Steve Okamoto wins a seat on the City Council.

Nov. 9: The National Park System Advisory Board Landmarks Committee recommends the Poston Elementary School, Unit 1, as a National Historic Landmark. Before the vote, former internees of the Arizona camp testified.

Assemblymember Warren Furutani, a candidate for Los Angeles City Council.

Nov. 15: A conferment ceremony is held for two local recipients of the 2011 Fall Decorations from the Japanese government. Dr. Masakazu Jack Fujimoto, former president of West Los Angeles College, and Dr. T. Glenn Webb, former director of the Institute for Study of Asian Cultures at Pepperdine University, receive the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon.

Nov. 17: Steven Ronald Honma of Westlake Village is convicted in Van Nuys Superior Court of voluntary manslaughter for the 2010 shooting death of Norman Schureman, an instructor at Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, during a party.

Nov. 17: To settle the U.S. Department of Labor’s findings of hiring discrimination, Nishimoto Trading Co. agrees to pay $400,000 in back wages and interest to 71 women who were rejected for sales associate positions at the company’s Santa Fe Springs facility.

Nov. 18: Yo Azama, a Japanese language teacher at North Salinas High School, is named the 2012 National Language Teacher of the Year by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

DECEMBER

Dec. 6: Placentia City Councilmember Jeremy Yamaguchi, 22, is chosen as mayor by his colleagues, becoming the youngest mayor in Orange County history and the youngest serving mayor in California.

Dec. 8: The Japanese government apologizes for the mistreatment of Canadian POWs after the Battle of Hong Kong in 1941.

Dec. 8: A Los Angeles jury awards nearly $33 million to Yoshi and Clara Goh Hayakawa, owners of El Segundo ad agency Concept Chaser, who alleged that Pentel of America and its parent, Pentel Co. Ltd., stole their marketing ideas.

Dec. 12: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a city delegation visit Sendai to meet with first responders to discuss emergency preparedness.

Dec. 15: Ventura County District Attorney Gregory Totten announces the filing of a second criminal case against disbarred attorney Russell Takasugi of Moorpark. On top of an earlier case in which he pleaded no contest, he is charged with grand theft, forgery and money laundering.

The new Mitsuwa Marketplace in Irvine. (Photo by Gwen Muranaka/Rafu Shimpo)

Dec. 17: A new Mitsuwa Marketplace opens at Heritage Center in Irvine, becoming the supermarket chain’s second store in Orange County.

Dec. 17: Japanese American veterans of World War II are honored with a parade in Honolulu to celebrate last month’s presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal.

Dec. 20: The First Street Viaduct, which links Little Tokyo with Boyle Heights, is reopened after more than four years of construction work to widen it.

Dec. 21: Eight U.S. soldiers are charged in the death of a fellow GI, Pvt. Danny Chen of New York, who apparently committed suicide in Afghanistan on Oct. 3. Chen said in his journal and other records that he had been subjected to assaults and racial taunts since joining the Army.

Dec. 27: Gov. Jerry Brown appoints Holly Fujie, an equity shareholder for Buchalter Nemer, to the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Dec. 31: Chris Aihara steps down after five years as executive director of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. She has served JACCC in various management capacities for more than 25 years.

Dec. 31: Carson City Clerk Helen Kawagoe steps down for health reasons, ending 37 years of service.

Dec. 31: Uoki K. Sakai, a San Francisco Japantown fish market and grocery store established in 1906, closes its doors.

Jeremy Yamaguchi participates in his first City Council meeting as mayor of Placentia.

A farewell event is held for outgoing JACCC Executive Director Chris Aihara (right). (Photo by Mario G. Reyes/Rafu Shimpo)

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  1. mike toyoshima on

    Would like to know of any updates to this item: “Feb. 3: Jian Hong Li is arraigned in Los Angeles Superior Court for the January 2010 murder and attempted robbery of Hideko Oyama, manager of the Chetwood Hotel on Fourth Street. At year’s end, a trial has yet to be held.”

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