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2009 Honorees


Japanese American Optimist (JAO) Club of Greater Los Angeles

In 1954, a group of Japanese Americans banded together with a goal of forming a club that was committed to community service. At the same time, Bunji Hamasaka, Fred Miyake of the Highland Park Optimist Club were searching for energetic men to help form a new optimist club. They found them in Eiji Tanabe, Kiyo Yamato and Kiyomi Takata. Together they assembled 88 Japanese Americans from all walks of life and joined Optimist International. The club became known as the Japanese American Optimist Club of Greater Los Angeles (JAO). The motto of Optimist International back then was “Friend of the Boy.” This has since been changed to “Friend of Youth,” but the fundamental goal of all Optimist clubs stays the same – first and foremost, a service organization dedicated to youth.

JAO Christmas

Service projects are the essence of the JAO with clubs activities mainly focused on today’s youth. The club has sponsored Essay and Oratorical contests, Communication Contest for the Hearing Impaired, youth appreciation night, youth dental month program and both athletic and academic scholarships. Since the mid 1980’s, JAO has sponsored Halloween and Christmas parties for disadvantaged children and their families. A child receiving a gift from Santa Claus is an unforgettable sight and this is the motivation that continues to drive the club. The JAO has moved forward with projects such as our Thanksgiving lunch program, a spring art project, kite flying to name a few. There have been lawyers, judges, and law enforcement officers honored in an annual Respect for Law program. JAO has sponsored fingerprinting and photography of kids for the parents record keeping and bicycle safety demonstrations. The club has had Earthquake Relief Program for victims of the Northridge Earthquake. The club has sponsored youth outings to Disneyland, the Wildlife Way Station, and Museum of Tolerance and to the Long Beach Aquarium. JAO supports the Optimist Youth Homes with monetary donation, goods and manpower. Residents of the Youth Home have been taken to the mountains, boating and fishing trips and sporting events. The club visits the Youth Home facility in Highland Park and has brought such sports personalities as L.A. Raider Henry Lawrence and Olympic Gold Medal winner Paul Gonzalez to speak. The club has also supported such worthy programs such as the Optimist Blind Youth Association and the Braille Institute Olympics.

JAO also extends its service to the seniors in the community. The club has sponsored senior citizen outings to Solvang and on a Manzanar Pilgrimage. The JAO Pancake Breakfast in association with the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center (JACCC) Children’s Day provides free pancake breakfast to all the residents of Little Tokyo Towers and the children participating in the Chibi K Fun Run. The club also supports other service organizations such as Little Tokyo Service Center, Keiro Services, and Visions for KEIRO, Little Tokyo Public Safety (KOBAN) and the JACCC.

Before the formation of the Nisei Week Foundation, JAO was one of four organizations responsible for organizing Nisei Week. Every fourth year, the club was responsible for the entire Nisei Week festivities. The formidable task of managing the reception, parade, carnival, coronation ball, exhibits and entertainment were all handled by JAO. The JAO had sponsored the Nisei Week Samurai 5K Run in the past.

Sports and youth work are especially compatible pair and the founders of JAO realized and committed the club to sporting events for youth from day one. The JAO Softball League was first to be created. They used to play at Evergreen Playgrounds in Boyle Heights, later moved to Webster Jr. High School. Sunday afternoons you would find all eight diamonds in use with 50 to 60 teams participating and club members serving as organizers, umpires and scorekeepers. There was a Volleyball League, a JAO Swim Meet and the Griffith Park Cross- Country Run. JAO sports programs involve children from all over the southland. Even the world famous Los Angeles Marathon, one of the most prestigious events of its type, can trace its origin to the JAO. Kenji Taniguchi, in conjunction with the Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation and the Los Angeles Police and Rifle and Pistol Club, created and developed the concept of the L.A. Marathon. One of the noteworthy sports program in club history was the JAO Boy’s Basketball Program. This ambitious league grew to have participants numbering in the thousands with dozens of teams in friendly competition to instill teamwork and good sportsmanship. The enormity and complexity of such a large program was incredible and eventually outgrew the resources of the club. In order to continue the program, Shig Kohashi, Kenji Taniguchi, Howard Ogawa, Yoichi Ogawa and Henry Okamura brought together several other youth groups and formed the Community Youth Council (CYC) who manages the league to this day. Currently the JAO Girls Invitational Basketball program is our largest youth program and this year it is celebrating its 40th year of existence. JAO Girls Invitational Basketball program is believed to be the largest of its kind in the United States. Our girls basketball program has grown to over 1,200 girls and over 90 teams playing year round.

JAO truly believes through sports children can develop a strong character, learn teamwork and discover the value of hard work. This is why the club will always be committed to its sports programs.

From the beginning, the JAO has tried to be one of the largest and most active clubs in the Pacific Southwest District. When the Pacific Southwest District was split the JAO was placed in the Pacific Southeast District, and the tradition continues. The club has regularly achieved distinction from Optimist International as Honor Club. The club has won the Community Service Involvement Award of Optimist International, the Governor’s Award, Zone club of the year, Zone Achievement Award, Zone Youth Work Award, the Governor’s Membership Award, the Friend of Youth Award, the District Achievement Award, the Added Dimension Award and the Boy’s Work Award, 2004 PSED Optimist Club of the Year. Fourteen past presidents have been honored with the title of Distinguished President and many of our secretaries have earned Distinguished Secretary titles. JAO always tries to live up to the standards of excellence our founders have set. JAO intends to keep this tradition alive with ambitious new projects that will enhance the lives of children.

The Japanese American Optimist Club has enjoyed much success throughout its 54 years of service, thanks to the dedication of its members and the tremendous support it has received from the community.


Visual Communications

VC LogoFounded in 1970, Visual Communications is the first media arts center in the nation dedicated to the honest and accurate portrayals of theAsian Pacific American peoples, communities and heritage through the media arts. Our mission is to promote intercultural understanding through the creation, presentation and support of media works by and about Asian Pacific Americans.

VC was created with the understanding that media and the arts are important vehicles to organize and empower communities, build connections between generations, challenge perspectives, and create an environment for critical thinking necessary to build a more just and humane society. Committed to cultural and artistic diversity, VC has produced work and developed programs intended to positively affect the artistic landscape in California. These programs are complemented by the long-standing collaborative efforts with other community-based organizations in the development of a culturally engaged society.

Throughout Visual Communications history, individual programs have evolved to meet the changing needs of a diverse Asian Pacific Community of over 20 different languages, cultures, and nationalities. Visual Communications has continued to serve as a conduit for the Asian Pacific global communities to the American public through its numerous arts programs. Visual Communications programming includes: the annual Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and quarterly community film screenings; the Armed with a Camera Fellowship Program for emerging media artists; media education and literacy programs for youth; and seminars and workshops on digital video production for senior citizens and adult learners. Visual Communications also provides production services for non-profit organizations and serves as fiscal sponsor for numerous film and video productions that have garnered countless awards (including an Academy Award). Visual Communications is also home to one of the largest photographic and moving image archives on the Asian Pacific experience in America.

This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, VC’s keynote event held annually at the beginning of Asian Pacific Heritage month. This years festival will run from April 30th through May 7th. Please check the website at www.vconline.com for additional information.


Go For Broke National Education Center

Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the Go For Broke National Education Center was founded in 1989 by Japanese American World War II veterans representing the 100th Infantry Battalion, 442nd Regimental Combat Team, Military Intelligence Service (MIS), among other units. Members of 100th/442nd, a segregated Army unit formed on Feb. 1, 1943, rose in defense of the nation at a time of great peril, suspicion, and mistrust to become the most decorated unit in U.S. military history for its size and length of service, including 21 Medals of Honor.

The mission of the National Education Center, headquartered in Torrance, California, is to ensure that the veterans’ American story of citizenship, loyalty, and patriotism is preserved and taught to educators so that it might provide valuable lessons for and inspire future generations. To accomplish its mission, the National Education Center’s programs include the Hanashi Oral History Program, which has recorded nearly 950 oral histories of Japanese American WWII veterans and others nationwide and in Japan through the Aratani US-Japan Historical Initiative. In addition, the organization received a grant through the U.S. Army to record the histories of American soldiers in the MIS who served as linguists in occupied Japan. 700 of the oral histories are accessible on the www.GoForBroke.org website.

Its education efforts include the American Story Teacher Training Program workshops held in select regions of the United States. These workshops teach teachers how to integrate the veteran story into classroom instruction. Additionally, digital curriculum ensures the National Education Center is able to meet the future trend of technology in education. Currently digital curricula are being produced to enable interactive teaching applications utilizing oral histories in the classroom. Interactive programs provide visitors of www.GoForBroke.org with an online educational experience utilizing oral histories and other media.

The origin of the National Education Center is the building of the Go For Broke Monument located in the Little Tokyo district of downtown Los Angeles at Temple and Alameda streets. Unveiled a decade ago in June 1999, the nine-foot-high, 40 feet in diameter Monument stands as an eternal tribute to the heroics of the segregated Japanese American units and the other men and women who served overseas during World War II. It is the first of its kind on the mainland U.S., and includes more than 16,000 names.


Brian Kito - Fugetsu-Do

Brian Kito was born in Boyle Heights in 1956 and later moved to Monterey Park in 1961. He graduated from Schurr High School in 1975 and California State University, Los Angeles in 1980 with a BS Degree in Business Management/Finance. During the summers, beginning at age 13, he began working at his family’s store, Fugetsu-do Confectionery and in 1975, started full time. In 1986, he took the title of the shop to further on the tradition of the family owned business.


Fugetsu-do, established by Brian’s grandfather in 1903, celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2003 and this year marks its 106th year in business. Since the 100th anniversary, many contemporary styles of mochi have been introduced and become very popular selling items, such as the Strawberry Peanut Butter and Chocolate filled Mochi.


Not only does Brian work hard at his business, but also is a community activist that often fights for small businesses in the Little Tokyo area. He devotes his time to various community groups such as the Little Tokyo Redevelopment Advisory and Nisei Week Committee where he chaired an opening ceremony, oversaw the street arts and crafts, and worked on the Nisei Week Queen and coronation committees over the course of 20 years. He currently serves as the Vice-President of the Historical Cultural Neighborhood Council and has been the Little Tokyo Business representative since 2004. In addition, Brian has been a Board member of the Little Tokyo Community Council since it’s inception in 2000.


Brian was very instrumental in the 1996 establishment of the Little Tokyo Koban after he was asked to help with the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association in 1991. As part of the association, he ran volunteer patrols to address the security issues of the area and visited many tourists and Japanese speaking residents of Southern California to discuss various safety issues. The Little Tokyo Koban, a model for security in the Downtown area, has assisted over 150,000 people since it was opened and has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to duplicate this volunteer effort and its results.


But Brian’s biggest passion is for the family owned and operated business that is dear to his heart. As a purveyor of fine Mochi, Brian has shared his passion with others, most notably with the Saishin Dojo summer school program since 1988. Young children of all ages flock to his classes on a yearly basis to learn the art of Mochi making.


Fugetsu-do Confectionery currently ranks as the oldest Japanese American business in the United States that is still operated by the same family in the same business.


2008 Recipients

Cold TofuCold Tofu


Tatsuhiko "Ted" Wakao,
Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California

KeiroKeiro Senior Healthcare

Frances Hashimoto


Frances Hashimoto,
Mikawaya Bakery & Confectionary







2007 Recipients

Commander Terry S. Hara


Gerald "Jerry" T. Fukui

Japanese American National Museum



2006 Recipients

Left: Arika Yanka (presenter "Aurora Foundation"), Wendy Anderson, Doug Erber (Japan America Society), Kellye Wallett, Don Baker (Japan America Society), Margaret Makihara Cerrudo (AT&T), Tim Dang (East West Players) and Dr. Gordon Sasaki (Emcee)

2005 Recipients

Top Row Right: Kellye Wallet (Emcee), Tom Selinske (Award Sponsor- Encore Awards) Middle Row: Stone Ishimaru (Community Treasure Award), Kiyoshi Takeda (Pasadena Nisei Seniors), Natsu Serisawa (Community Treasure Award), Hitoshi Sameshima, Wendy Anderson (Cherry Blossom Festival) Front Row - Aurora Foundation - Founder & President Akiko Aagishi far right 2005 Senator Daniel Inouye Leadership and Community Treasures Recipients

2004 Recipients

Front Left: Dr. Gordon & Joanne Sasaki, Marian & Frank Sata, Ted Tajima, Wendy Anderson, Kellye Wallett Back Left: Pasadena Mayor Bill Bogtaard, John (representing Pasadena Buddhist Church), Hal Suetsugu (representing San Fernando Valley Japanese American Community & Cultural Center) and Pasadena Councilmember Sid Tyler.
Not Pictured: Nora & James Mitsumori


Community Treasures

2006 Honorees

Actor Rodney Kageyama

Mary Nomura, The Songbird of Manzanar

2005 Honorees
Artist Natsu Serisawa
Photographer Stone Ishimaru

Teachers Making A Difference Recipients

2009 Recipients
2009 Teachers
Emcee and presentation by Ted Chen, NBC4

Eugene Field Elementary, Pasadena
DEBBIE CHIN - Brightwood Elementary, Monterey Park
Co-Owner, Los Angeles Sparks
JOSE GUZMAN - James Madison Elementary, Pasadena
FUMIKO ISHII - Irvine Valley College/ Saddleback College
NADINE ISHIZU - Carver Elementary, San Marino
JOANNA MILLER - Norma Coombs Alternative School, Pasadena
MICHAEL MORGAN - Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School, Los Angeles
DR. AKEMI MORIOKA - University of California, Irvine
- Mark Keppel High School, Alhambra
KATHY SAWADA -Colburn School of the Performing Arts
LILA SCHOB - Loma Alta Elementary
JANICE SEGALL - Glassell Park Elementary, Los Angeles
MARGIE TASHJIAN - Roosevelt Elementary, Pasadena
TERESA TRENDLER - Pasadena City College, Pasadena
STACY WILLIAMS - McKinley Elementary, Pasadena
LINDA YOSHIOKA - Elizabeth Learning Center, Cudahy

2008 Recipients

Emcee and presentation by Ted Chen, NBC4

REGGIE BERRY – Norwalk/La Mirada School District
REBECCA CARUSO – Cleveland Elementary, Pasadena
JOYCE WAKANO CHINN, Vanalden Elementary, Reseda
JOE GIVENS – Willard Elementary, Pasadena
LESLIE HONG, Cleveland Elementary, Pasadena
RON HOSHI, Asst. Principal, Oxford Academy, Cypress
SHARON ITO – Brightwood Elementary, Monterey Park
BONNIE KASAMATSU –South Hills High School, West Covina
DR. HIROKO C. KATAOKA – California State University, Long Beach
STAN KONG – Professor, Pasadena City College
ANN OGAWA, Belmont Education & Career Center, Los Angeles
MYRON GEE, Belmont Education & Career Center, Los Angeles
CATHY OKITA – Ranch Hills Elementary, Pomona
THERESA PETERS – Mayfield Senior School, Pasadena
DR. GAY YUEN – Professor, Charter Colleges of Education, California State University at Los Angeles

2007 Recipients

Honorees with emcee Ted Chen, KNBC co-anchor and general assignment reporter for "Channel 4 News
REGGIE BERRY – Goals For Life, Norwalk/La Mirada School District
EBONY BATISTE – 96th Street Elementary, Los Angeles
NANCY BULGIN – Temple City High School, Temple City
RAYCHELLE CADE – 42nd Street Elementary, Los Angeles
RALPH DURAN – San Miguel Avenue School, South Gate
SATOMI EZAKI – El Marino Language School, Culver City
IRENE GERMAINE - Nueva Vista Elementary, Bell
HARUYO GINNY KAJIWARA - Willard Elementary, Pasadena
CAPRICE LACY – Charles W. Barrett Elementary, Los Angeles
KATHRYN LOURY – Madison Elementary, Pasadena
JUN LUGUE – Muscatel Middle School, Rosemead
KIMIE MATSUMOTO – Southeast Japanese Language School & Los Alamitos High
LEONARD NARUMI – Schurr High School, Montebello
CHAD PRADO – traveling music teacher at 4 elementary schools, Pasadena
JENNIFER SASAI – Walker Junior High, La Palma
ROBERT SORTINO – Cleveland Elementary, Pasadena
DOTTIE STALLWORTH – 74th Street School & Gifted Magnet
VERNITA SUTTON – Crenshaw High School, Los Angeles
ROSE TOYAMA – Martin Luther King Elementary, Los Angeles
SUZANNE YORK – Sierra Madre Elementary, Sierra Madre

2006 Recipients
Jackie Counts, South Junior High, Anaheim
Amy Froeschle, Webster Elementary, Pasadena
Barry Glick, Brightwood Elementary, Monterey P)ark
Cherise Hoskins, Eliot Middle School, Pasadena
Jon Imamura, San Marino High, San Marino
Dorothy Jean-Luis, Madison Elementary, Pasadena
Luis Lopez-Perez, Century High, Alhambra
Tim Mathos, Bell High, Bell
Dennis Nasitka, San Gabriel School District
Alex Schultz, Pasadena High, Pasadena
Dan Taguchi, Hamilton High, Los Angeles
Dr. Cathy Wei, Pasadena City College/USC
Tim Wright, Westridge School, Pasadena


2005 Recipients

Kathy Fujita, 2nd grade - Silver Spur Elementary School , Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District
Eric Gothold, 7th/8th grade, Reading Intervention, Art & Leadership – Washington Middle School, Pasadena Unified School District
Maryellen Hagerman, 4th grade – Noyes Elementary, Pasadena Unified School District
Cynthia Lake , Visual Arts – John Muir High School , Pasadena Unified School District
Jane Ishida Sattari, Title 1 Resource Teacher – Bursch Elementary, Baldwin Park Unified School District

Also being honored for “Team Teaching” are:
Elena Ruiz, Lilia Franco-Vasquez & Annette Aghadjanian, 1st Grade – Linda Vista Elementary, Pasadena Unified School District

George Kiriyama Educational Excellence Award

2010 Recipient
Don Nakanishi, UCLA

2009 Recipient
Richard Katsuda


2007 Recipient
Alan Nishi










2006 Recipient


















Leadership Award

Community Treasures


George Kiriyama