On April 30, Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) held a seminar entitled “Community Building: Nikkei Businesses and Corporate Social Responsibility” at the Toyota Meeting Hall in Torrance.
The event, which drew over 250 attendees, focused on Japanese and Japanese American business perspectives on corporate social responsibility and local community building.
“Corporate social responsibility” describes efforts on the part of companies to drive social change and give back to their communities.
This seminar was part of LTSC’s ongoing efforts to strengthen connections within the diverse Southern California Nikkei community.
“LTSC is pleased to be hosting an event around issues of community building, diversity, inclusion and corporate responsibility,” said LTSC Executive Director Dean Matsubayashi. “We know that building bridges through communication and understanding is better for business and better for individuals and the families we serve.”
LTSC Social Services Department Director Margaret Shimada explained, “Well-being, health, housing, mental health, aging and other issues affect all of us, whether you are a corporate executive, college student, community worker or a stay-at-home parent and regardless of language or cultural identity. The more we can understand and reach out to each other, the stronger our individual and community support systems become.”
“This is the first time ever that Nikkei businesses have gotten together to talk about their role in bridging the community. We were fortunate to have a wide range of speakers from global to local Shin-Issei businesses,” added LTSC South Bay Community Engagement Coordinator Dr. Hiroko Higuchi.
The event featured an onstage interview of Takuya Hirano, president of Microsoft Japan, by Kaori Iida, Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK) Los Angeles bureau chief. The interview was followed by a discussion with panelists Hirano; Yayoi Sato, manager, International Partnerships and Client Services, Los Angeles Dodgers; Mitsuyasu Shigeta, founder and owner of the Shin-Sen-Gumi Group; and Yoichi Komiyama, CEO and chairman of Lighthouse, with Iida serving as moderator.
Hirano explained how a “growth mindset” can help promote both a healthy work environment as well as community building. “You can try to do your best, try to accomplish what you’re asked to do. But you have to take a step back and look around you and say, ‘Have I contributed to [other people’s]success?’”
During the panel discussion, speakers shared their views related to corporate responsibility and community building. Sato described how she has worked to expand the audience for the Dodgers’ Japan Night promotion from primarily prewar Nikkei immigrants and their families to include newer Nikkei immigrants and people in Japan. She also pointed out the difficulties of informing and mobilizing the Nikkei community, due to a lack of centralized community communications channels. Sato said that more Nikkei participating in community events is a way to bridge community gaps.
Shigeta said he started the Shin-Sen-Gumi Summer Festival as a way to show appreciation for Nikkei pioneers. Sales from the festival benefit the community. Shigeta stressed the importance of showing “kokoro” (heart) as a way to connect diverse communities. This motivates him to treasure Japanese culture, emphasize personal development for his employees, and hire local staff.
Komiyama spoke about the relationship between prewar and postwar Nikkei immigrants. He encouraged postwar immigrants to learn about prewar Nikkei experiences and hardships, claiming more recent immigrants have benefited from the struggles of the original Issei, Nisei and Sansei. Komiyama supports education opportunities of Shin Nisei that will help to bridge Nikkei communities in the future.
LTSC is a social service and community development organization that has been creating positive change for the people and places in Southern California for more than 38 years. For more information, visit www.ltsc.org.
Photos by JUN NAGATA/Rafu Shimpo