Businessman and philanthropist George Aratani dies

Businessman and philanthropist George Aratani passed away Feb. 13, the U.S.-Japan Council said in a statement.

According to the Densho Encyclopedia, Aratani was 95 years old.

Aratani launched post-World War II international trade efforts that included Mikasa Inc. a tableware company, which the U.S.-Japan Council said was “doing $400 million in annual sales when it was sold in 2000 and later, Kenwood.”

When Mikasa went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1994, Aratani and his wife Sakaye launched the Aratani Foundation. The foundation has supported numerous Japanese American organizations and programs including the Japanese American National Museum, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and recently, they made a generous contribution to the U.S.-Japan Council Earthquake Relief Fund, the statement said.

Aratani was an early supporter of USJC and served on the U.S.-Japan Council board of councilors.

“George was another legend in fostering U.S.-Japan relations and his loss is a difficult one for so many of us that knew him well,” USJC Board President Irene Hirano Inouye said. “My knowledge about U.S.-Japan relations was greatly influenced by George, who led the museum’s successful Japan Campaign in the 1990s and taught me a great deal about Japan,” she continued.

Daniel Okimoto, chairman of the USJC board of councilors, described Aratani as “not only a pioneering entrepreneur and hugely successful business executive, but also a committed philanthropist who gave generously to worthy Japanese American causes.”

“With the recent passing of George Aratani and Sen. Daniel K. Inouye, the Nikkei community has suffered the loss of true pioneers and second-generation giants, who blazed new and challenging trails that opened the way up for younger generations of Japanese Americans to follow,” said Okimoto.

“We owe them a profound debt of gratitude, which can best be repaid by doing all that we can do to build upon the foundation that they have built both for the Nikkei community and for U.S.-Japan relations.”

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