By 2014 San Jose National JACL Convention Committee

SAN JOSE — Known as “The Valley of Heart’s Delight,” San Jose’s highly fertile soil and climate were naturally suitable for agriculture. Today, little remains of this past.

The 2014 National JACL Convention’s host chapter, San Jose JACL, is proud to feature this history and the important role that Japanese Americans played in shaping and contributing to the valley’s agriculture history through a theatrical reading of “Valley of the Heart.”

This special reading will be held on the evening of the first day of the convention at Le Petit Trianon. Built in 1923, the Le Petit Trianon building is a replica of the Petit Trianon in Versailles and is home to many of San Jose’s arts groups. It is a magnificent and intimate space to experience live performances.

In 2013, “Valley of the Heart” was performed to sold-out audiences at the El Teatro Campesino Playhouse in San Juan Bautista. It is a love story rooted in true historical events and set in the Santa Clara Valley. Opening in the days leading up to Pearl Harbor, the story shows the dramatic interaction of two families, the Yamaguchis and the Montanos, and their respective fates during World War II.

A scene from Luis Valdez's "Valley of the Heart."
Randall Nakano, Andres Ortiz and Cara Mitsuko in last year’s production of Luis Valdez’s “Valley of the Heart.”

Ichiro Yamaguchi, an Issei, is a strawberry farmer working the land with his family. Cayetano Montano, a first-generation Chicano immigrant from Mexico, lives on the Yamaguchi ranch with his family as neighbors and sharecroppers. Coming out of the Great Depression, both immigrant families struggle to provide for the future of their American-born children.

“Valley of the Heart” is the latest piece by playwright Luis Valdez. From the migrant labor fields to Broadway, Valdez remains true to his original vision — performances that address the Chicano experience in America in a context meaningful to all Americans. He is best known for his work in film and television including “Zoot Suit,” “La Bamba” and “Corridos,” winner of the Peabody Award.

Prior to the reading and only a short walk from the theater will be the convention’s welcome reception at the City of San Jose Rotunda. Designed by renowned architect Richard Meier, the rotunda is a glass-encased gallery stretching over 100 feet high and is the showpiece of the environmentally friendly City Hall complex with its use of natural light. Here attendees will enjoy a celebration of food and company to celebrate the official opening of the convention.

The San Jose JACL acknowledges CATS (Contemporary Asian Theater Scene), Joyce Iwasaki, Judy Niizawa and Joyce Oyama as event sponsors for the reading of “Valley of the Heart.”

These events on Day One of the convention are included with the full convention package. Additional tickets for these events are available for family members joining any conventioneers.

On the following days, conventioneers will get down to the business of the National JACL Convention. But all work and no play makes for a dull adventure in San Jose. So the San Jose National JACL Convention Committee has put together some outings, events and workshops for conventioneers, boosters and their families to attend. For the most current business meeting schedule for both JACL delegates and Youth Council attendees, check the website at

Tours, Tours, Tours (July 10-12)

San Jose is a modern city with plenty of history and unique activities for every age to share. The Convention Tours Committee has scheduled some special tours that will provide a fun perspective of the City of San Jose and some of its unique history with the Asian American Pacific Islander community. Here is a list of the tours currently available. Signups are required and availability is limited, so check out the registration website ( to reserve your spot or contact the chapter office at (408) 295-1250.

San Jose City Hall Rotunda.
San Jose City Hall Rotunda.

Tour 1, Heritage Walking Tour, Thursday, July 10, 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Cost: $20

Visit the historic assembly center site that is now the home of Yoshihiro Uchida Hall. Listen and talk to community icon Yosh Uchida about his experiences from the assembly center to being coach of the world-renowned San Jose State University Judo Team and the architect of judo as an Olympic event. Then explore one of the three remaining Japantowns in the nation to learn about the rich immigrant history of Silicon Valley. Attendees can enjoy lunch in Japantown and visit the many local merchants, historic landmarks and service organizations in the Nikkei community. Note that there will be substantial walking outdoors. For more information about Japantown, visit

Tour 2, Tech Museum of Innovation, Thursday, July 10, 2 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Cost: $20

The Tech Museum of Innovation, located in Downtown San Jose, the heart of Silicon Valley, is focused on inspiring the innovator in everyone who visits. Hands-on and interactive exhibits, divided among themed galleries, offer guests a memorable experience. The Tech is the only museum to offer visitors of all ages the comprehensive Silicon Valley experience in genetics, earth sciences, alternative energy, virtual design, microchips, and more. Experience a movie “in the round” at the phenomenal Imax Theatre. Visit their website,

On your own, explore historic Downtown San Jose. Visit museums, art galleries and historic sites all within a five-minute walk from the Tech. Take a stroll to San Pedro Square for a grand selection of lunch fare or a quick afternoon snack while visiting the historic Peralta Adobe and Thomas Fallon House. For the youngsters there is the Children’s Discovery Museum, which inspires creativity, curiosity and lifelong learning. Visit their website,

Tour 3, Livermore Premium Outlets, Thursday, July 10, 2-6:30 p.m. Cost: $20

Spend your afternoon strolling the impressive outlet mall nestled in the Tri-Valley region of the Bay Area. Enjoy the over 130 designer stores; there’s a treat for everyone. Attendees will receive VIP coupon books upon arrival. Visit their website,, and select Livermore Premium Outlets.

Tour 4, Paypal/EBay Headquarters, Friday, July 11, 8-10 a.m. Cost: $30, limited to 15 people

Headquartered in San Jose, PayPal/Ebay has reshaped the way the world shops and pays. Take this limited opportunity to experience the cutting edge of technology in Silicon Valley and the world. Hear and talk with Edwin Aoki, chief architect (technology, not buildings) for AOL for 10 years and now leading Paypal’s technology development efforts. He is the man on the leading edge of technology in a world of new advancements. Tour the headquarters to see an example of how Silicon Valley shapes the world every day, and learn more about the fascinating world of the commerce revolution. All this and the hospitality of coffee and pastries to boot.

Tour 5, J. Lohr Winery and Gordon Biersch Brewery, Friday, July 11, 2-5:30 p.m. Cost: $50.

Did you know that Silicon Valley has wineries? It’s easy to forget this area’s role as California’s first premium wine production region. French and Italian immigrants who settled here during the Gold Rush era recognized the rich soils and Mediterranean climate as the perfect New World home for their European grape varietals. Sample the award-winning J. Lohr wines and taste the rewards of the valley’s bounty.

What began over 20 years ago as a dream of bringing together fresh, handcrafted beer and made-from-scratch, world-class cuisine is today a reality at Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurants from coast to coast and across the Pacific to Hawaii and Taiwan. Tour the facilities and learn how beer is brewed at the state-of-the-art brewery in the Japantown neighborhood. Sample some of the interesting variations of the brew master’s craft.

Tour 6, Winchester Mystery House, Saturday, July 12, 8:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Cost: $50 adults/$40 kids age 6-12

Winchester Mystery House is an extravagant maze of Victorian craftsmanship – marvelous, baffling, and eerily eccentric. Wander through 110 of the 160 rooms of this mansion, designed and built by the Winchester Rifle heiress. Sarah Winchester was convinced by a medium that continuous building would appease the evil spirits of those killed by the famous “Gun that Won the West” and help her attain eternal life. The grand estate tour includes a look into the mansion, garden, and a behind-the-scenes tour of the eccentric life of Mrs. Winchester. Visit their website,

Tour 7, Santana Row, Saturday, July 12, 9:30 a.m.-12 p.m. Cost: $20

Discover Silicon Valley’s premier destination for shopping, dining, living, and more. With over 70 shops and 20 restaurants, there’s something for everyone. Visit their website,

Special Evening Concert with Hiroshima, Thursday, July 10, 8:30 p.m. (doors open at 8 p.m.)

Hiroshima includes (from left)
Hiroshima (from left): Dean Cortez, Kimo Cornwell, June Kuramoto, Danny Yamamoto, Dan Kuramoto.

The Grammy-nominated group Hiroshima will perform on stage in a rare South Bay Area appearance at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Ballroom.

In the four decades since they first convened, the Los Angeles-based ensemble of Dan Kuramoto (keyboards, woodwinds, composer, producer), virtuoso June Kuramoto (koto, composer), Kimo Cornwell (piano, keyboards, composer), Danny Yamamoto (drums, percussion), and Dean Cortez (bass) has blended R&B, pop, world music and jazz to create their own niche in the music world. Integrating traditional Japanese instruments into their musical blend, the band was founded by Sansei in 1974. The resulting sound was a pioneering voice in the contemporary world music movement of the late 20th century.

Ever evolving, the twice Grammy-nominated group, highlighted by the sound of June Kuramoto’s shimmering koto (noted by Stanley Clarke to be the world’s best) creates music and sounds totally unique —with depth, heart and soul. After more than 30 years in the recording industry, and over 4 million records sold, Hiroshima has recorded a series of best-selling albums for Arista, Epic, Qwest and Heads Up and are now venturing on their own. Their 19th CD, “J-Town Beat,” is about the effort to retain culture in America, explore their roots and the importance of saving Japantowns.

Hiroshima’s awards and credits extend beyond the music industry. They include East West Players’ 46th Anniversary Visionary Award, Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Community Impact Award for Excellence in Arts & Entertainment (from the California State Assembly), America Society of Young Musicians’ All That Jazz Award, and more. As individuals, band members have collaborated on numerous projects as diverse as the movie “The Last Samurai” (June Kuramoto) and Luis Valdez’s “Zoot Suit” (Dan Kuramoto).

For those attending the convention under the full convention package, one admission ticket for this special concert event has been included. Additional tickets will be available on the convention website at and at Nikkei Traditions, 219 Jackson St., San Jose, (408) 297-7554, in the heart of San Jose Japantown.

Special thanks to Midori Kai ( and Nikkei Traditions ( for their generous sponsorship support for this concert event.

“We Are America” Workshops, Friday, July 11

As busy as the conventioneers are with the business meetings, some of the more remarkable events that will be available for attendees will be the workshops covering unique discussion topics with the convention theme “We Are America.” Each session is designed to be 90 minutes in length. Attendance for each workshop is estimated to be in the range of 15 to 40 individuals, consisting primarily of convention registrants. Signups are required to ensure availability of space.

The convention committee workshop team leader solicited input for the local workshop topics and selected four that would be of greatest interest while providing a nexus to the convention theme. These are presented below.

• “Breaking the Mold” (presenters: Roy Hirabayashi and PJ Hirabayashi; moderator: Dr. Lisa Hirai Tsuchitani)

American-born, but inspired by their cultural heritage, these artists have created an expression that makes them unique representatives of Japanese Americans in today’s society. They are also activists and leaders in their fields of education and music. Inspired by the civil rights movement of the ’70s, these artists broke stereotypes of Japanese Americans as being quiet and meek to build a sound that is truly American. Roy and PJ Hirabayashi are founders of San Jose Taiko and 2011 recipients of the National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship in Folk and Traditional Arts.

• “Collecting Oral Histories: A Model for a Successful Speakers’ Bureau; A Guide to Preparing a New Generation” (Presenters are current members of the Sonoma County JACL Speakers’ Bureau: Jodi Hottel, former coordinator and trainer; Henry Kaku, present coordinator; Marie Sugiyama, chair of the Oral History Committee)

Does your chapter want to share the lessons of the incarceration of Japanese Americans with a wider audience? Have you wanted to reinvigorate your chapter’s cadre of speakers but not known how to go about it? In this workshop, you will learn how one chapter has reinvented its Speakers’ Bureau, training a new generation to follow in the footsteps of its Nisei predecessors. The workshop leaders will give you plenty of materials to take with you, as well as a little inspiration.

• “Nikkei Genealogy Society: Finding Your Japanese Roots in the U.S. and in Japan” (presenters: Linda Harms Okazaki, Melinda Crawford)

Have you ever wanted to learn more about your family history? Have you wondered about when and where your Issei ancestors immigrated, or what really happened to your relatives in camp? Do you want to know more about where your family lived in Japan? Genealogy is a popular hobby and documenting your personal family history is a way to have a deeper understanding of the Japanese American experience. You will learn to document your own ancestral history in the United States, then take those clues to find your family in Japan. Topics will include immigration, laws in the U.S., vital records, internment camp files and more. There will be a Q&A following the lecture. This lecture is open to all levels.

Okazaki is a fourth-generation San Franciscan who is passionate about teaching people how to discover their personal ancestry. She is active in the genealogical and Japanese American communities, and has been an avid genealogist since 1998 with research interests in Japan, California, New York, Australia and England.

Dancers at last year's San Jose Obon Festival. (Rafu Shimpo photo)
Dancers at last year’s San Jose Obon Festival. (Rafu Shimpo photo)

• “Model Minority: A Documentary Presentation and Workshop” (presenter: Darby Li Po Price; moderator: Connie Masuoka)

The model minority myth is a complex and contradictory stereotype of Asian Americans as academic overachievers. While many believe the stereotype as positive, it causes many problems. Disproportionally tracked by parents, counselors and social expectations into math-intensive fields, regardless of their preferences, they struggle to maintain mental health and aspirations. Viewed as overachievers, Asian Americans are denied affirmative action and academic assistance despite their needs. This workshop opens discussion to overcome impediments to student learning and success. It will discuss how problems and solutions intersect ethnicity, culture, socio-economics, gender, immigration status, language usage, age, location, parenting styles, and other variables.

Price is a professor of Asian American studies at San Jose State University.

San Jose Japantown Obon, July 12-13

Conventioneers will have the great opportunity to attend the Obon Festival held by the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin. The JACL delegates and their families are invited to attend the annual festival to enjoy food and entertainment, and participate in one of the largest Obon dances in the United States, with more than 1,200 participating.

This year, in recognition of the convention, thefestival is dedicating one of the Obon dances – San Jose Bayashi/JACL Ondo – to the JACL. The music was composed by Matt Ogawa of San Jose Taiko and the choreography was created by Hanayagi Reimichi (Reiko Iwanaga), head Obon Odori instructor and choreographer.

Sponsored by the temple since before World War II, the festival takes place on the temple grounds. You can also experience the colorful vibrancy and diversity of one of the three remaining Japantowns in the mainland United States. This is your opportunity to catch performances by the Chidori Band, four collegiate taiko groups, and the renowned San Jose Taiko.

The convention will be held at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, which is offering special conventioneer rates. Early bird deadline for the full convention package for the registration price of $250 ($200 for youth/students) is June 15. Don’t miss out on this great discount and great convention event.

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