Everyone in attendance, including Deputy Consul General Yusuke Shindo (center), drank a New Year's toast. (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)
Assemblymember Betsy Butler presents commendations to the Keiro Kai honorees. (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

The Venice Japanese Community Center honored seniors and welcomed the Year of the Dragon at its 2012 Shinnen Enkai and Keiro Kai on Jan. 15.

Held in the VJCC’s auditorium and attended by more than 400 people, the New Year’s celebration began with a performance by Koshin Taiko and presentation of colors by Boy Scout Troop 764. Shosui Shigekawa recited a shukugin (celebratory poem) and Rev. Jim Miyabe of Venice-Santa Monica Free Methodist Church gave the invocation.

Emcee Jeff Shimoyama said that VJCC has played “a pivotal role in my life” and that the Keiro Kai is “a good opportunity for me to say thank you for all you have done, not only for our family but for the entire community.”

Outgoing VJCC President Randall Tamura (left) was recognized as VJCC's Person of the Year by John Ikegami, past president and last year's honoree. (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

Quoting Martin Luther King — “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” — Shimoyama added, “As I reflect back upon my many years of involvement at VJCC, I saw so many people that sacrificed their weekends and their weeknights so that the youth of the community could have a better life and experience sports, languages and Japanese American culture in a way that would be real to them and that they could pass on to the next generation. So many people have made serving a way of life.”

Randall Tamura, board member and outgoing president of VJCC, delivered greetings. He was also one of the day’s honorees and served as emcee of the entertainment portion of the program.

Deputy Consul General Yusuke Shindo expressed appreciation for the Japanese American community’s sympathy and support for victims of last year’s earthquake and tsunami. Noting that Japan has selected “kizuna” (bond or ties) as the kanji that best represents society’s sentiment for the year, he said that he looks forward to “strong and warm kizuna with the people of Southern California.”

Greetings were also given by Joseph Hari, West L.A. area director for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Cecilia Castillo, field deputy to Councilmember Bill Rosendahl.

Assemblymember Betsy Butler of the 53rd District, who also attended last year, commented, “I’m so delighted and inspired by all the octogenarians, I do have an 85-year-old mother who’s going on 60, so I hope and pray that I have those same genes. It’s just an honor to be around you.”

Butler introduced ACR 46, which allows the Venice Japanese American Memorial Marker Committee to erect a memorial marker at the northwest corner of Venice and Lincoln to commemorate the World War II internment. She announced that the marker will probably be unveiled this spring.

Nisei Week First Princess Mimi Yang drew the winning tickets during the raffle. (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

As Tamura read their names, the 41 Keiro honorees, all in their 80s, were escorted to the front of the room by Boy Scouts and presented with awards from the VJCC and from Butler. The following individuals were recognized:

June Akioka, Natsuko Akiyama, Richard Chun, Mary Collim, Arnold Fujita, George Goto, Felisa Greene, Kiyoshi Hamada, Miwako Hashimoto, Dorothy Huntington, Kikuye Ige, Robert Ito, Kay Kawano, Kimiko Koyama, Lillian Kozai, Thomas Lee, Tamiko Lowe, Elmer Lum, Michiko Matsuda, Masaye Miura, Daisy Mori, Aiko Mui;

David Nakano, Toichi Nakashima, Lillian Neeno, Tom Nishimura, Fusae Nishina, Stanley Noguchi, Takateru Okabayashi, Eddie Sekine, Ryoko Shibata, Kuniko Shimoguchi, Mike Shiraki, Tom Shishido, Tanya Sisikin, Mitzi Takimoto, Nancy Tanaka, Aiko Tomikawa, John Watanabe, Henry Yamada, Koashi Yoshida.

Tamura was recognized as VJCC’s Person of the Year. He was introduced by last year’s honoree, board member and past president John Ikegami, who said the center was very appreciative of Tamura’s support over the years. Tamura also received certificates of commendation from Villaraigosa and Rosendahl.

The JACL George Inagaki Community Service Award winner, Delcene Kuwata, was announced by Sharon Kumagai of Venice-Culver JACL. Calling Kuwata an “unsung hero,” Kumagani noted that she has served for many years, developing the youth council and basketball leagues, volunteering at carnivals, and co-chairing VJCC’s Nisei Week committee. Kuwata did not appear on stage.

Tad Suzuki, one of the VJCC’s komon (advisors), installed the 2012 Cabinet and Board of Directors. “I’m sure your leadership will be an asset to the community center,” he said.

Fujima Ransei (Michiko Yamamoto) performed "Kanto Harusame Gasa." (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

The new officers are Hiro Harada, president; Kelvin Uyeda, corporate secretary; Sharon Aratani, treasurer; Jim Akioka, facilities manager-vice president; Hitoshi Shimizu, auditor; and Ken Sogabe, membership. The board members include Dave Hirota, Eric Inouye, Kazie Kame, Jack Kurihara, Norm Matsubara, Fusako Ogasawara, Jim Shibata, Rich Yang and Ross Yasuda.

Suzuki also led the “kampai” (toast), which was done with Martinelli’s apple cider.

Drawings for prizes were held throughout the entertainment program, with Nisei Week First Princess Mimi Yang, representing VJCC and West Los Angeles JACL, picking the winning numbers.

In addition to Koshin Taiko, the entertainment lineup featured:

Hula by Halau Keali’i O Nalani under the direction of Kumu Keali’i Ceballos;

Japanese dances, “Koi no Shima” and “Yuzuki” by Azuma Kotobuki Kai, “Kanto Harusame Gasa” by Fujima Ransei (Michiko Yamamoto), and “Teinsagu nu Hana,” “Eboshi Tatara Uta” and “Shiosai” by Fujima Seiyumi Kai;

Ukulele songs, “Sugar Time,” “Haole Hula,” “Shiretoko Ryojo” and “Aloha Is,” by Venice Hui Akane under the direction of Bob Matsunaga;

Koto and shakuhachi songs, “Kojo no Tsukisho,” “Kumoi Jishi” and “Matsurika,” under the direction of Eiko Idota;

Minyo by Nippon Minyo Nishimura Kai.

There were also exhibits of calligraphy by Bunka Shodo Kai, shuji kakizome (New Year’s calligraphy) by Venice Gakuen, bonsai by Marina Bonsai Club, and shochikubai (New Year’s arrangement with pine, bamboo and plum blossom) by Shunrei Uyeno.

Komon (advisor) Tad Suzuki installed the 2012 officers and board members. (Photo by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)
Entertainment included Koshin Taiko (above) and Halau Keali’i O Nalani (below). (Photos by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

Left: Aiko Akioka and Yoko Sugimoto of Fujima Seiyumi Kai perform "Eboshi Tatara Uta." Right: Nippon Minyo Nishimura Kai closed the entertainment program. (Photos by J.K. Yamamoto/Rafu Shimpo)

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  1. Names for the dancers from Fujima Seiyumi are: Aiko Akioka and Yoko Sugimoto. They are the two young girls in the dark blue yukatas, red obis and red head coverings. I danced with Janet, but this is not us. Sorry for the late comment.