Discovery of white nationalist in L.A. Nikkei organization causes stir


LOS ANGELES — The Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California found itself in crisis, especially among Japanese Americans, after it was discovered that an avowed white nationalist had been involved with that organization for eight years, including as its corporate secretary.

Two Nikkei who previously served on the chamber’s board of directors but have since resigned — George Nakano and Robert Yasui — recently told the Nichi Bei Weekly that the JCCSC’s leadership is trying to cover up William Daniel Johnson’s lengthy involvement with one of the oldest local Japanese American nonprofit institutions.

Nakano, a retired state assemblyman, and Yasui, an attorney, learned in 2015 from a chamber member that the Southern Poverty Law Center had written extensively about Johnson. The SPLC’s Website reported that Johnson had proposed a 1985 constitutional amendment to revoke the American citizenship of every nonwhite inhabitant and to deport them from the United States.

As recently as 2010, Johnson, 62, a Los Angeles corporate lawyer, still supported white nationalist causes and served as chairman of the racist American Freedom Party, according to the nonprofit that’s “dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry and to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of our society.”

Johnson claimed in his writings that racial mixing causes social and cultural degeneration to the U.S., adding that “racial diversity has given us strife and conflict, and is enormously counterproductive,” the SPLC’s Website states.

Appalled and Disgusted

“I didn’t know about Johnson’s reputation, and I was appalled, shocked and very disgusted to find out,” Yasui stated. “I did independent research and found that Johnson was the highest profile white supremacist leader in the western United States.”

Although Johnson’s white separatist advocacy was revealed to JCCSC’s leaders in March 2015, Nakano and Yasui complained about the chamber’s failure to inform its membership and the Nikkei community about Johnson’s activities.

Yoshio Lee Aoki, who was the JCCSC president in 2015, admitted that when Johnson became a member in 2007, the organization did not perform extensive background checks for prospective members. Chamber leaders didn’t learn of Johnson’s activities until March 2015, when his background was announced at an executive meeting, and he resigned several days later.

Kitty Sankey, JCCSC’s current president, said, “I was shocked when I found out about Mr. Johnson’s membership in the American Freedom Party.”

Johnson had performed some legal work for her relatives, she admitted. “He spoke Japanese and he helped write a will. I did not know that he was a member of the American Freedom Party. He was no longer our attorney once I found out. Mr. Johnson was a nice guy. That’s why we were shocked.”

Refuting accusations of a cover-up, Sankey stated, “The members of the chamber now know that Johnson was a member of the American Freedom Party. When we found out, we called a general membership meeting to let them know.”

Seeking Full Disclosure

Johnson’s involvement with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California is “a big deal,” said former legislator Nakano. “This guy is making a living primarily off of Shin-Issei, and probably a lot of them don’t know about him … I think it would be irresponsible on our part not to push for disclosure.”

On March 11, 2016, one year after Johnson resigned, Nakano, Yasui and insurance agent Dean Aihara met with the current and past chamber officers, and it appeared that the officers were finally going to take action, Nakano said. “We felt it was important that the leaders of the chamber take the initiative … But it has now been many months since the meeting and there has been no sign that the disclosure is going to take place.” 

Contradicting accusations that the chamber was covering up Johnson’s involvement with them, Aoki declared, “I don’t think there’s any foundation as to what Nakano said. I have told them that the chamber’s office is wide open for them to come in and to do any fact-finding exploration.”

Most of the chamber members are from Japan, explained Aoki, a native of Japan who attended high school and college in America. He estimated that JCCSC now has 205 members, with 132 corporate members (from Japanese or American corporations) and about 73 individual members, of which less than 10 are Japanese Americans.

The Japan-born members didn’t necessarily share Nakano’s sentiments “because our backgrounds and experiences are not the same,” Aoki remarked. “Mr. Nakano gave us an explanation about what his parents had gone through and what the community had gone through during the war. That’s when it kind of hit us. But because of the different backgrounds, we weren’t as sensitive as Mr. Nakano felt we should be. At the same time, the chamber was sensitive enough that we asked Mr. Johnson to resign … But to go one step further, there’s nothing to base further action on.”

Kunsho Factor?

The turmoil stemming from Johnson’s involvement with the Shin-Issei and their organizations could hurt the chances of some chamber officers receiving the Japanese government’s kunsho medal, Nakano and Yasui asserted.

“Part of the reason the chamber leadership wants to cover up,” Nakano charged, “is because historically, when people wanted to get the kunsho medal from the Japanese government, they would run for president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce. Then they would get somebody from the chamber to lobby for them for the medal.”

“I have never heard that,” countered Aoki, who now serves as JCCSC’s business adviser. “The chamber does not have any say in who gets the kunsho in the Southern California area. People have the misunderstanding that the chamber has the final say to recommend to the consul general of Japan as to who should be nominated or elected — We don’t.”

If the news about Johnson’s connections to the Japanese Chamber of Commerce were to become public, the Japanese American community is going to regret what takes place, Nakano predicted. “If Japanese people with businesses needing city of L.A. approval are using Johnson for legal services, they’re going to be in hot water.”

All chamber members need to disclose their connection to Johnson, Yasui declared. “He continues to make money performing legal business for Japanese individuals and corporations … By our acquiescence, we allow him to continue to make money off of our community without people being aware.”

Johnson has had “no contact” with the Japanese Chamber of Commerce since his resignation, Sankey stressed. “I don’t know if he has spoken to members individually. I have not had contact with him and neither has the chamber of commerce, to my knowledge. We do not have any ties with him at all.”

White Ethno-State

Johnson recalled to the Nichi Bei Weekly in a telephone interview that as soon as the chamber leadership found out about his white nationalist views, they asked for his resignation. “I didn’t want to hurt the chamber … I really feel bad that my involvement created such a problem for the Japanese Chamber of Commerce. It’s done such a good job promoting the history, the culture of Little Tokyo area.”

“I’ve been a white nationalist for 37 years,” Johnson announced. “I guess people knew I was a white nationalist … but the chamber did not know.”

Johnson studied Japanese at Brigham Young University and is fluent in Japanese. He earned a law degree from Columbia University in 1981, and worked for law firms in Japan and South Korea before returning to the U.S. to continue working for Japanese businesses and American Japanese clients for the past 35 years.

Johnson said he formed his views as a young lawyer in Japan. “Of all the people, I probably admire the Japanese the most. I think they have a good balance on life. If you take a look at the museum in Manzanar, it’s just a small museum, nothing gaudy. It’s a respectful presentation. If you go to Europe where they have the memorials for the Jews, it’s just over the top. They talk about it nonstop, they never let it go.”

A native of Arizona who grew up in Oregon, Johnson advocates a separate white ethno-state. “I think that unless we do something, the white race and western civilization will die out. So I think we need to be able to have a country just for whites.”

Japan has kept its nationalist identity, said the Los Angeles-based lawyer. “Japan has remained Japanese, except now they’re following the American example more than they should, letting more people in. China is mostly Chinese. It’s only the white countries that have rejected their white heritage. That’s what I’m fighting.”

He said for the last 50 years, the media and the schools everywhere have been “beating up on white people. They said that white people are the cause of all the problems — they enslaved the people, and all that kind of stuff. Of course, we’re going to be demoralized when we have 50 years of anti-white propaganda. That’s what I’m fighting against.”

The white nationalist said he has nothing against non-white people. For the past 30 years he has not proposed stripping them of their citizenship; he doesn’t think it’s practical now. But he still advocates deporting undocumented immigrants. “It’s not just Mexicans, but illegal aliens from all over the world.”

“I’m a big Trump supporter,” declared Johnson, who served briefly as a Trump delegate during the presidential campaign until his white nationalist views were exposed. “Trump is not necessarily a white nationalist, he’s nationalist. The West has embraced globalism … which hurts the American people who do the work. That’s what I’m fighting against and Trump is too.”

4 responses to “Discovery of white nationalist in L.A. Nikkei organization causes stir”

  1. Don Hata Avatar
    Don Hata

    This has not been reported in So Cal by the Rafu Shimpo. Thanks for the information.

  2. Mickie Okamoto Avatar
    Mickie Okamoto

    Non-news as the organization quickly dismissed Johnson upon finding out the facts. The source of this piece is strange coming from Robert Yasui who was co-chair of the Membership Committee who screened and admitted Johnson. What is he covering up? Yasui, also an attorney like Johnson has been suspended by the State Bar of California as detailed on their website which the reporter failed to check on. Nakano is a termed out politician who the entire JA community in SoCal avoids due to crazy rants and his only looking out for his views and causes. Both Yasui and Nakano cowardly resigned instead of choosing to educate the institution and handling the situation. They choose to complain on the sidelines and hurl conspiracy theories when they know that they are already marginalized and not taken seriously or respected. Just sad.

    1. Mickie Okamoto-Tsudama Avatar
      Mickie Okamoto-Tsudama

      Just as a note:

      This comment was not written by Mickie Okamoto-Tsudama from Los Angeles who serves on the Kizuna board. While I can not deny that there it may be another individual with the same name/spelling, there is also suspicion that the comment was written in my name with a dishonest intent.

  3. mo nishida Avatar
    mo nishida

    i’m wondering who mickie okamoto is, the spelling of the first name kinda throws me off. the reason i wonder is because the terms ‘cowardly resigns’ and other stuff makes me wonder if mickie o. might be lookin for an ass whippin. where i come from you don’t call anyone a coward unless you’re lookin for a fight.

    i think robert y. has to respond to your accusations, as far as george n. is concerned, i consider my self a part of our community. so your accusation that ‘the entire j-a community in so. cal. avoids’ is a flat out lie.

    george n.., i recall used to complain how he was getting stone walled by the chamber leadership at the old ‘baby seinan’ once a month lunches we used to go have. the problems in leadership seem to be universal in our community, personally i think we should begin talking about it openly, like ‘speak your mind’.

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