JA National Museum to hold annual gala


LOS ANGELES — The Japanese American National Museum will hold its annual gala Saturday, April 16 at the J.W. Marriott Hotel. The silent auction and reception will be held at 5:30 p.m., followed by the dinner and program at 7 p.m.

The theme of the gala dinner, the museum’s largest fundraiser, is “Continuing Family Stories: The Expanding Nikkei Community.” The event will highlight some of the contributions and stories of Nikkei in the post-World War II era, including those who arrived in America in the 1960s and 1970s and beyond.

The Noritoshi and Fusako Kanai family and the Jane Aiko Yamano family will be recognized during the dinner program. Sansei illustrator/writer Stan Sakai will also be honored for his cultural contributions.

The Kanai family moved to the United States in the 1960s so Noritoshi could run the U.S. subsidiary of Mutual Trading Company (MTC), which specialized in food products from Japan. Seeking to grow the business beyond the Japanese community, he encouraged the establishment of the first sushi bar in America at the Kawafuku restaurant in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo. Other Japanese restaurants soon followed and American eating habits were changed. Mutual Trading imported other Japanese foods, supplied such burgeoning chains as Benihana, and enhanced the quality and variety of Japanese cuisine.

Fusako, who married Noritoshi in 1952, became involved with various community social groups, and helped to raise funds for the museum, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C. and the Kyodo System Japanese Language School.

Yamano, who was born in the United States, has become a leading authority on both traditional and contemporary kimono fashion. Her father Mike helped to run the Yamano Beauty College in Los Angeles, part of the family business started by Jane’s grandmother, Aiko, in Japan. When Jane was 12, her family was summoned to Japan and she, despite speaking virtually no Japanese, was expected to begin training to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps. Aiko began her career sweeping floors in a beauty salon, but she eventually opened her own business. With her six sons, she established the Yamano Beauty College after the war as well as a language school and a college for aesthetics and cosmetology.

Jane succeeded her grandmother in 1984 and has become a cultural trendsetter in kimono fashion.

Sakai was born in Kyoto, to a Japanese American father and Japanese mother. He and his family moved to Hawai‘i when he was 2. After graduating from the University of Hawai‘i with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, he moved to the mainland to work for a sportswear company while picking up freelance work doing lettering for comic books.

When he heard of a publisher looking for new material, he combined his childhood interests of Japanese samurai movies and American comic books to create his iconic character, Usagi Yojimbo, a samurai rabbit living in the late 16th and early 17th century in Japan. “Usagi Yojimbo” has been translated into 12 other languages.

Sponsorships are available at various levels.

For more information, call the museum at (213) 625-0414.

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