JCCCNC celebrates 25 years, honors longtime community fixtures

The Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California (JCCCNC) celebrated its 25th year since opening at 1840 Sutter St., with a night of entertainment, auctions and Hawaiian comfort food. More than 400 JCCCNC supporters attended the “25 Years of Opening Our Doors” fundraiser, held Sept. 24 at the center, which is located in San Francisco’s Japantown.

The event began with a silent auction featuring handmade crafts, dinners, sports memorabilia and art to help raise funds for the nonprofit, followed by a flamenco performance by Las Japonesas Flamencas.

The event, emceed by Mike Inouye of NBC Bay Area and Jan Yanehiro, the director of Multimedia Communications at the Academy of Art University, was a four-hour tribute to the accomplishments of the nonprofit and those who have served the community.

The program’s slogan was “remembering our past and celebrating our future.” Inouye remarked that as many as 200,000 people pass through the JCCCNC’s doors each year.

The event featured a display that showed the founding days of the community center and videos of interviews with the 25th anniversary honorees: Yo Hironaka, Kaz Maniwa and Allen Okamoto. Yanehiro and others at the dinner described the three honorees as tireless supporters of the community.

“They’ve served more than 25 years in some cases,” said Dianne Fukami, president of the board of directors at the JCCCNC. “It’s been an honor serving with you.”

Maniwa has been a part of the board of directors for 39 years. He joined, convinced that a community center was an important asset to Japantown. Additionally, he helped found the California Japanese American Community Leadership Council, a statewide organization of Nikkei nonprofit groups that the JCCCNC helped establish. He also served as the group’s board chair.

Okamoto is the son of Takeo and Kay Okamoto. Takeo Okamoto was the first board president of the JCCCNC. Allen followed his father’s footsteps, serving as an active participant in community organizations, including the JCCCNC, the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival and the San Francisco-Osaka Sister City Association.

Hironaka is the only Nisei currently on the JCCCNC’s board. Her connection to older generations has been described as being invaluable to the center. Community members have praised her skills as a fundraiser and volunteer. She received a separate honor for her volunteerism.

The dinner presented Hironaka and Shigeyuki Doi with the Kay Okamoto Volunteer Service Award and Nobusuke Fukuda with the Takeo Okamoto Community Leadership Award. The awards were given to the three for their excellence in volunteerism and their modesty in leading the community.

Hironaka and Doi each received $250 for themselves and another $250 to donate to a nonprofit of their choice. Fukuda received $500 for himself and another $500 for a nonprofit.

“This award was really a surprise for me,” said Hironaka. She reminisced about Kay Okamoto and her work in the community during the acceptance speech.

Doi, a 442nd Regimental Combat Team veteran, is a longtime supporter of Sakura Kai, an East Bay organization that serves seniors. Yanehiro said that more than 100 people nominated him for the award. His young granddaughter wrote in her letter, “All he did is share.”

Doi admitted he was “really scared” while standing up on the podium, but he thanked the crowd on behalf of the Sakura Kai. “To all of you here to support this wonderful organization, thank you and god bless you all,” he said.

Scott Okamoto presented the award to Fukuda, who once served as his Boy Scout Troop 58 scout master. Fukuda, who devoted much of his life to helping children both as a welfare administrator and a volunteer in the community, is also a former president of the JCCCNC board.

Fukuda expressed his gratitude toward the community. “We worked together very well. Without these people, this community would cease to exist,” he said of the crowd gathered at the dinner.

JCCCNC Executive Director Paul Osaki spoke about the nonprofit’s ongoing efforts in administering its Northern Japan Earthquake Relief Fund. He and Diane Matsuda introduced 12 Japanese relief workers who had spent the week learning about mental health issues and community programs aimed at aiding disaster survivors with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Matsuda said the workers hoped to “make life a little better” in the disaster afflicted regions and asked those gathered to show support to all the people of Japan. The group was given a standing ovation.

Osaki presented a video montage of the past six months regarding northern Japan and the JCCCNC’s efforts. The video included footage of the initial earthquake, the ensuing tsunami and the relief work that the JCCCNC had aided. The video also described future plans for the relief fund.

Also present at the dinner were the Consul General of Japan in San Francisco Hiroshi Inomata, state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francsico), San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, and other leaders in the Japanese American community.

 

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