Watanabe receives Kunsho award

Bill Watanabe and Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles Jun Niimi. photo courtesy of Little Tokyo Service Center

LOS ANGELES — Bill Watanabe, founder and executive director of Little Tokyo Service Center, was awarded the Japanese government’s Kunsho (Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays) on May 18, at the Japanese consul general’s official residence in Los Angeles’ Hancock Park District. Family members and friends of the honoree, and staff members of Little Tokyo Service Center, were in attendance to observe the ceremony.

According to a statement issued from the office of Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles Jun Niimi, who delivered the certificate and the medal to Watanabe, the LTSC chief “contributed to the development of Japanese American society and the enhancement of friendship between Japan and the United States.”

The Japanese consulate statement added, “Through Little Tokyo Service Center, which he established in 1980, Mr. Watanabe has provided social welfare service and family counseling to Japanese residents and Japanese Americans, and has preserved and conveyed the history and cultural heritage of Japanese American communities to Japanese residents as well as to the general public.”

Commenting recently on the honor, Watanabe noted, “Having worked in the community for a long time, I’ve gone to a lot of Kunsho award luncheons, so I know it’s a recognition that’s highly regarded in the community. I think the fact that it comes from the government of Japan makes it pretty special.”

Watanabe revealed that the Kunsho award is “extra special for me because my father, Rokuro Watanabe, got the award back in the 1970s. I know he was very proud of getting that.”

“My father was pretty active in the San Fernando Valley after he retired,” Watanabe said. “He founded the Meiji Club, which is the senior citizens group in the Valley, and he headed it for a long time. He was active with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, the Senior Federation, and the Japanese language school.”

Watanabe added, “I know people really think the Kunsho is a very special award, so I’ve gotten that feeling as well. I feel very honored to get it.”

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