2014 Women of the Year Announced

The Downtown Los Angeles JACL and the Southern California Japanese Women's Society announced that Fujima Seiyumi, Hiroko Hirayma, Yoshi Sato and Keiko Yonamine Reich as their 2014 Women of the Year. The women received scrolls from Mayor Eric Garcetti's Office and from Los Angeles County Board of Supervisor Mike Antonovich's Office that sent scrolls signed by all five county supervisors.

In addition, the women received 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 Japanese American Citizens League

Celebrating 85 years of Advocacy in 2014

The Downtown Los Angeles Chapter is the first official Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and will be celebrating 85 years of existance in 2014. The Group is ably led by a hard working board of directors that include Kitty Sankey, Rodney Nakada, Amy Tambara, Patty Sookdet and George Kita.

The Downtown Los Angeles Japanese American Citizens League has been a spark plug in the Little Tokyo Community by hosting the annual Woman of the Year Event held at the New Otani Hotel, the Holiday Cheer Program, a L.A. Dodger outing for the Senior Citizens at the Little Tokyo Towers and for given out an annual scholarship for Ninth Street Elementary School alumnus applying to college.

In recent years, the Downtown L.A. Japanese American Citizens League has supported the Kamehameha Schools program in Hawaii and has advocated for diversity in the judiciary. The Downtown JACL has been a force in helping to improve the quality of life for others. The Downtown Chapter is like no other and 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 79 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 Downtown L.A. Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League 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 Los Angeles Japanese American Citizens League 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 53 years, co-sponsored the Women of the Year annual luncheons in recognition of the individual achievements of Japanese American women.

The Downtown L.A. Japanese American Citizens League 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. The chapter supports a scholarship for graduates of Ninth Street Elementary School, sponsors an annual Dodger Night for residents of Little Tokyo Towers, and administers the annual Holiday Cheer program that provides monetary supplements to the needy.