18th Annual PSW JACL Luncheon Awards

September 20, 2014

2015 Women of the Year Announced

Kimiko Goya

Mrs. Kimiko Goya worked as a Japanese school teacher for 25 years, since 1986, before retiring in 2011. In 1999, Goya became the President of the Majikina Honryu Majikina Aiko Ryubu Dojo.  In 2002, Goya was chosen by the Okinawa Association of America (OAA) to chaperone seven students. In 2004, Goya was appointed by the OAA to be the Fujinbu Chairperson. 

In 2011, Goya became the President of the Okinawa Association of America, becoming the first elected woman President in their 103 years of history. In the wake of the earthquake and tsunami disaster that struck Japan, Goya oversaw the collection of material and monetary donations, which raised $24,039.00 to date.  In addition, she participated in the Nisei Week Parade in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles

Yoshie Hirata

In January 2001, Hirata started to volunteer at Keiro Retirement Home as an Assistant Treasurer of FKRH and activity helper.  She also joined the Japanese Community Pioneer Center as a volunteer and is a member of the Board of Directors, Treasurer, and office worker to this day.

It has now been fifteen years since Hirata volunteered for the community.  As a Japanese national, Hirata has always wished to serve the Japanese community in some capacity. During her 15 years of volunteer services, she has spent many happy days and has been fortunate to meet so many friends. 

Martha Nishinaka

Nishinaka and her husband, Wesley, and their children are members of Centenary United Methodist Church. Nishinaka has been the United Methodist Women president at Centenary for over 10 years; a service and fellowship group that fundraises to support local, national, and global efforts to improve the lives of women, children, and youth.

She founded the first and only Christian-hapi-cladded “Obon Hoppers”, who participate at Obons throughout California.  Nishinaka has lead the Centenary’s Little Tokyo Community Yard Sales, Collectors Show, and Boutique; coordinating a Fun Walk for Hunger Awareness through Skid Row, the Artist District, and Little Tokyo; serving lunches to the homeless in Skid Row; being a key leader at Centenary’s Annual Arigato Bazaar; coordinating Centenary’s Public Ondo Gatherings; hosting Centenary’s Open House and Open Mike Events; organizing the free Little Tokyo Annual Halloween Costume and Public Ondo Party at Centenary, and Centenary’s Little Tokyo Community Peace and Goodwill Fair.

Pearl Omiya

Pearl serves as the Executive Director at the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center (ESGVJCC) overseeing its operations, finances, programs, and services.  Serving over 1500 families annually, Omiya provides leadership and oversight to over 25 different programs and classes that are offered weekly, and include Taiko (Japanese drumming), martial arts, Japanese language school, computer classes, senior programs, and many more.  In addition, Omiya oversees nearly a dozen annual events that serve the community, including two large festivals and the annual Family Health Fair co-sponsored with Assembymember Roger Hernandez.

>As the Executive Director, a position she has held since 2006, Omiya provides leadership and guidance to four staff members, in addition to advising the ESGVJCC’s Board of Directors.  She also supervises dozens of interns and volunteers throughout the year.  Omiya works closely with the City of West Covina to oversee its annual Cherry Blossom Festival and Sister City Student Exchange Program. 

During her tenure as Executive Director, Omiya led a $1.5 million capital campaign, the largest in the ESGVJCC history, to construct a new multipurpose room which is used for senior programs, Japanese language classes, martial arts, recreational classes, and other educational programs.  Due to her leadership, the construction loan was successfully retired after only four years.

Nancy Takayama

In the early 2000’s, Takayama found herself recruited to serve on both SFV JACL and SFV JA community center boards.  In 2004, Takayama was elected to serve as the President of the SFV JACL, as well as a board member of the JACL-Pacific Southwest District (PSW).  Takayama has also engaged with promoting the historical legacy of Japanese Americans through her volunteerism as a board member for the Grateful Crane Ensemble since 2010.  Takayama held the SFV JACL presidency for five years and continued on the PSW board until 2012 when she decided to work for PSWD JACL full-time.  Thus her involvement grew from San Fernando Valley, to working with the PSWD mission of protecting civil rights and preserving the JA heritage in the broader historical geographical preservation region of Southern California and the Southwest region of the United States.  Recently, Takayama joined the Little Tokyo Business Association and also became involved in the Little Tokyo Community Council to preserve the community’s strong legacy, as well as to help maintain the environment of the oldest Japantown in the region.

Takayama is also a strong community supporter in the fight to preserve the Tuna Canyon Detention Center property, which was recently designated as a historical site in Los Angeles County.  With that success, the Tuna Canyon committee established a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization to make the most out of the Tuna Canyon property, and transform it into an educational learning site.  This was of particular interest as she subsequently learned that her maternal grandfather was held captive there.

The Downtown Los Angeles JACL and the Southern California Japanese Women's Society announced their 2014 Women of the Year: Fujima Seiyumi, Hiroko Hirayma, Yoshi Sato and Keiko Yonamine Reich.

The women received scrolls from Mayor Eric Garcetti, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and certificates from Congressmembers Judy Chu, Henry Waxman, Xavier Becera, Karen Bass and State Assemblymember Roger Hernandez. The women received a warm reception from the more than 400 guests that attended the event at the Quiet Cannon Restaurant in Montebello on Sunday May 4, 2014. Rimban William Briones from the Los Angeles Hompa Hongwanjii Buddhist Temple did the Opening Meditation and the Closing Meditation. George Kita and Kay Inose did the opening remarks. Fujiam Seijumi did the response on behalf of all the honorees. 2014 marked the 51st annual event.

The luncheon committee members that made this event possible were Hiroko Ikuta, Kay Inose, Kitty Sankey, Rodney Nakada, Nancy Nix, Itsuko Ramos, Tomoko Sakurai, Patrica Sookdet, Amy Tambara, Marie Tanaka, Yoshiko Yamaguchi, Kiyoko Yoshiyama.

Downtown Los Angeles Chapter
Japanese American Citizens League Our
85th Anniversary

The Downtown Los Angeles Chapter is one of the oldest chapters of the Japanese American Citizens League is celebrating 85 years of volunteer work 2014. The Group is ably led by a hard working board of directors that include Kitty Sankey, Rodney Nakada, Amy Tambara, Nancy Nix, Patty Sookdet and George Kita.

The chapter has been a spark plug in the Little Tokyo Community by hosting the annual Woman of the Year Event, the Holiday Cheer Program, a L.A. Dodger outing for senior citizens at the Little Tokyo Towers and for providing scholarships to graduates of 9th Street Elementary School who are applying to college.

We welcome new members to our meetings. If you would like to join our chapter, please contact Kitty Sankey at (310) 838-8553 or email her at kitty_sankey@hotmail.com. Make a difference in the Little Tokyo Community and join our chapter today!

How we began in 1929

The year was 1929 when a group of Nisei (second generation Japanese Americans) banded together in Los Angeles calling themselves the Japanese Citizens Association. The Association's first president, Masao Igasaki, was a Hawaiian Nisei who had just passed the bar and was beginning his legal practice in Los Angeles. Serving with Igasaki were James Suyenaga as vice-president, Elmer Yamamoto as secretary, Dr. Edward Tanaka as sergeant-at-arms, and Thomas Takayama as treasurer.

Soon, as a result of conferencing in Seattle, Washington, the newly formed Japanese American Citizen League (JACL) declared the first official JACL chapter noting its representation of the major population center for Americans of Japanese ancestry. Thus, the “Association” became the JACL-Downtown Los Angeles Chapter (DLA). The 85 years since has seen many distinguished leaders preside over its meetings, beginning with pre-war presidents: Kay Shugahara, John Maeno, Herbert Wada, Ken Matsumoto, Fred Tayama, Shigemi Aratani, and Dr. Masaru Horii.

The Downtown Chapter, forced to curtail its civic work by wartime hysteria and Executive order 9066, reactivated in July 31, 1946 with Frank Chuman (author of the acclaimed The Bamboo People) at the helm. Frank was followed in subsequent years by John Aiso (WWII Military Intelligence Service language School head and the first Japanese Supreme Court Justice), Dr. John Watanabe, Dr. George Kambara, Harry Honda (longstanding editor of the JACL newspaper, Pacific Citizen). Harry M. Fugita, David Yokozeki, Kei Uchima, Duke S. Ogata, Frank Suzukida, and Katsuma Mukaeda.

Past presidents of the DLA JACL Chapter have served the community in various capacities in both local and national JACL and also as leaders in their respective fields including business, law, medicine, journalism, banking and politics. Such include Frank Omatsu, Father Clement, Frank M. Tsuchiya, Ed Matsuda, Alfred Hatate (also JACO District Governor), Kiyoshi Kawai, and Ted Kojima.

Those who served additionally as Japanese Chamber of Commerce president or vice president are Eiji Tanabe (known for his work as a Nisei Week founder), Soichi Fukui, Takito Yamaguma (1972, 4th Imperial Order of Japan recipient), Toshi Yamamoto(1997, Order of the Secret Treasure, Gold and Silver), Mitsuhiko Shimizu and Joe Hazama.

The chapter has benefited from the leadership skills of Sansei (third generation Japanese Americans), presidents – George Fujita, Patrick Ogawa, Mary H. Nishimoto, George Kita, Gary Itano, Greg Tanaka, and Rodney Nakada. This leadership tradition, fostered by JACL, found Paul Igasaki, grandson of the first Downtown Los Angeles Chapter president Masao Igasaki, serving as the JACL Washington, D.C. representative. In fact, current president Kitty Sankey is the granddaughter of Gongoro Nakamura, a 1959 DLA president and a former president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce.

The Downtown LA JACL has mounted Issei (first generation Japanese in America) Recognition programs; presided over ensuring the franchise of the Issei obtained through the McCarren Act during the early fifties; participated in Nisei Week events and planning; and for 51 years, co-sponsored the Women of the Year annual luncheons in recognition of the individual achievements of Japanese American women.

The chapter has supported Little Tokyo health Fairs for the elderly and the Shogun Santa Parades for the local youth and their parents; actively contributed toward achieving redress and reparations for the WWII injustices; and supported programs in local schools.

In addition to supporting the efforts of many organizations concerned with the artistic, cultural, historic, and social development of Americans having Japanese or Asian/Pacific heritage, the Downtown Los Angeles Chapter has often come to the defense of groups and individuals who have had their civil and constitutional rights threatened.