The Nisei Week Foundation announces the 2015 Nisei Week Pioneers, who will be recognized during the 75th annual Nisei Week Japanese Festival in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo.
The six pioneers this year are a diverse group who are some of the most active and dedicated leaders of the greater Los Angeles Japanese American community. They will be honored at a special 2015 Pioneers Luncheon to be held at the Doubletree by Hilton (120 S. Los Angeles St., Los Angeles) on Wednesday, Aug. 19, at 12 noon. Tickets are $50 per person or $500 per table of 10 and can be obtained by contacting the Nisei Week Foundation office at (213) 687-7193 or email@example.com.
Following are profiles of the 2015 Nisei Week Pioneers.
• Richard Yutaka Fukuhara was born on Aug. 20, 1944, at Camp Minidoka, Idaho. In September 1945, like the thousands of internees, the Fukuhara family of five returned to Los Angeles with two suitcases. Fukuhara’s dad found housing in one of the mini-trailers previously occupied by military personnel in Long Beach. His father managed to resume his gardening business and later opened M’Hara Nursery in Long Beach.
Fukuhara attended Long Beach Poly High School, and majored in photojournalism at Long Beach City College. He was a part-time sports photographer for The Long Beach Press Telegram and part-time photographer for Memorial Hospital of Long Beach while being a full-time student.
In 1966, Fukuhara was drafted into the U.S. Army and was a staff photographer at Fort Huachuca, in Arizona before being transferred to Fort Lewis in Washington to join the 75th Engineers Battalion as a unit photographer. Because of logistical equipment problems, the 75th never deployed to Vietnam and stayed stateside.
After his military obligation, Fukuhara attended UCLA and the Art Center School of Design. In 1970 he opened Fukuhara, Inc. Photography studio in Signal Hill. His client list included Toyota, Nissan, IBM, Exxon, Occidental Petroleum, Hunt Wesson Foods, Baskin-Robbins, and Bumble Bee, to name a few.
For the past 25 years, Fukuhara has devoted his time to community service and art. He credits his parents as role models for his community involvement. His father, Henry Kiysoshi Fukuhara, received the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Silver Rays, from the emperor of Japan in 1991. His mother, Mary Sadako Fukuhara, was recognized as the 1987 Long Beach Woman of the Year.
Fukuhara’s community involvement includes: El Toro Young Marines, Orange County Junior Orchestra, Long Beach Japanese Cultural Center, Orange County Optimists, Kokoro Taiko of Long Beach, Nikkei Games/“Games for the Generations,” Love to Nippon, Los Angeles Tanabata Festival, and Los Angeles-Nagoya Sister City Affiliation.
He was an active member of the Irvine Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors for six years, serving as co-chair and recognized as the “Irvine Ambassador of the Year” for three consecutive years. Fukuhara was an advisor to the USC Institute for Genetic Medicine Art Gallery, and president of the Nanka Yamaguchi Kenjinkai for three years, currently serving as an advisor. He is a contributing writer/photographer for Rafu Shimpo.
As an artist, Fukuhara has had many solo and group exhibitions locally, and two solo exhibitions in Japan. His current project, “Shadows for Peace, for the Sake of the Children, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki Experience” through forums, artwork, and dance has been presented at colleges throughout the Southland. In March 2015, it was hosted by the Japanese American National Museum and presented by Orange County Optimists to recognize the 70th anniversary of the atomic bomb.
Fukuhara enjoys learning, creating, and educating. His greatest joy is hearing the laughter of happy children, “our most important treasurers.”
He is the proud father of Julia, 33, a children’s oncology nurse at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego, and Derek, 32, a professional skateboarder and photographer.
• Toshio “Terry” Handa was born in Tokyo in 1942. After graduating from Keio University’s School of Business in 1965, he began his career at ITOCHU Corporation, eventually moving to Pasadena to manage the Aircraft Department for ITOCHU Corporation Los Angeles. Returning once to Japan, he came back to the U.S. in 1981 with his family and began his private trading company until his retirement in 2011.
Once his company became successful, Handa started participating in various Japanese American organizations and actively contributed to the community. Since most Japanese American organization events were held in the South Bay area, he organized the first Pasadena Seminar in 2003, which continued for more than 10 years, providing the Japanese community in the northeastern region of L.A. with valuable opportunities to attend lectures on current affairs and social exchange.
With his Japanese pride and love for Japan, Handa has spent many years enlightening the community and spreading Japanese culture in the greater Los Angeles area.
After serving in many key posts in the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California, Handa served as president for three years, hosting various events to develop Japanese American community and promote friendly relations with the general public in the U.S. During his third year as president, the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. Handa, taking leadership, gathered the Japanese American community and through his efforts raised a total of $560,000 in donations, all sent to the disaster area through UNICEF. He continues his annual visitation of the disaster area, nurturing his relations with local people.
Handa became president of the Japanese Community Pioneer Center in 2014. His efforts include the offering of welfare services to elderly Japanese Americans, including taxi coupons and cultural classes. In addition, he has helped provide operational support for the Nikkei Helpline, which provides support for Japanese speakers in North America. He has donated all profits from his Pasadena Seminars and has hosted events, including benefit concerts, to raise funds for the Nikkei Helpline.
Handa has contributed to a wide variety of organizations, such as the Chado Urasenke Tankokai Orange County Association, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Little Tokyo Community Council, Japanese Prefectural Association of Southern California, Beikoku Shodo Kenkyukai, L.A. Tokyo-kai, Taisho Club, and Japan America Society of Southern California, making his activities an integral part of the community.
As a reflection of his tremendous contribution to the community, Handa received the Commendation of the Consul General of Japan in Los Angeles in spring 2014. In fall 2014, he was awarded with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver rays, from the government of Japan for his contributions to the promotion of Japan-U.S. relations and revitalization of the Japanese American community in Southern California.
Handa and his wife, Toshiko, have two children and two grandchildren in California.
• Kay Kayoko Inose, a third-generation Japanese American, has served the Japanese American community for nearly 30 years. Born in Long Beach, she is the eldest of three children born to Takeo and Shizuye Sakai. During World War II, the Sakai family evacuated inland to Utah, where she spent four years.
Inose worked with her husband, Ken, in their family wholesale nursery plant business in Gardena until their retirement in 1986. Just before they closed the doors of their business, Col. Young Oak Kim and Bruce Kaji recruited Inose to serve on the board of the Japanese American National Museum. This was the start of her volunteering.
From 1987 Inose served as vice president of the JANM Board of Trustees, where she served on various committees, including the selection committee that hired Executive Director Irene Hirano and approved the museum logo. She was involved with refurbishing the former Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, which became JANM. As administration chair, Inose created the first Policy and Procedures Manual for the museum. She also served on the first Presidents Council, attended the first annual dinner, and helped with fundraising and many other capacities until 1997.
While volunteering with JANM, she became involved with the Asia America Symphony Guild, a nonprofit organization bridging the West and East through music while focusing on giving musical opportunities to youth. She has served as president of the guild, golf fundraising chair for many years, and Bravo dinner co-chair. She participated in the chorus of the Disney Concert Hall performance with the Asia America Symphony Orchestra.
Learning Japanese customs and culture was influenced by her mother-in-law. Inose appreciated her heritage and was encouraged to earn her teaching credentials in ikebana and tea ceremony. She continues to teach tea ceremony twice a week, and participates in community demonstrations and events. She served as executive director of the Omotesenke Domonkai Southern California branch with more than 200 members from across the U.S. and Canada. Inose escorted 32 chanoyu members to Kyoto for participation at Daitokuji Temple for Omotesenke’s special anniversary event.
While serving as president of the Japanese Women’s Society of Southern California (JWSSC), she was instrumental in securing nonprofit status for the 111-year-old organization. Inose chaired the first scholarship distribution and continues to support its annual volunteering in Little Tokyo community events. She was able to greet Crown Prince Naruhito when he visited Los Angeles.
Inose is also a Nichi Bei Fujinkai board member, Beikoku Shodo Kenkyukai advisor, and past president of Rolling Hills Country Club Women’s Golf Club. She still enjoys traveling around the world. Recognition for her services include: Women of the Year, JWSSC Award, and Bravo Award. Most recently she was selected a community representative to meet Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Inose enjoys volunteering and also feels the importance of giving and sharing Japanese heritage in the U.S.
She and her husband of 54 years, Ken, have a son, a daughter, and two grandchildren.
• Madame Katsukiyo Matsumae III was born in August 1938 in Oita Prefecture. In 1964 she married Kiyoshi Monji and moved to the U.S. She became a member of the Japanese minyo (folk song) group Matsumae-kai and studied under Madame Matsumae Katsukiyo II. In 1983, after only five years of intense training, Monji earned the credential of natori (stage name earner).
From 1988-1996 she started teaching Minyo in San Diego and established classes in Orange County, Covina, and Mira Mesa. In 1989, Monji debuted as a natori teacher at the Japan America Theater in Little Tokyo. In 1995, she celebrated the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the San Diego class at San Diego Western University. Sasaki Kazuneka, head of the Kasune School, and dancer Fujimura Tsurutoyo of the Fuji School came from Japan to attend the events for the occasion.
Additionally, in 1995, following the sudden passing of Madame Matsumae Katsukiyo II, Monji succeeded her as Madame Matsumae Katsukiyo III. She was officially introduced to the community as Madame Matsumae Katsukiyo III at a special event held at the New Otani Hotel in 1996.
In 2002, Matsumae-kai held a special the 40th anniversary celebration and Kazune-kai and Fuji-no-kai from Japan attended. Matsumae Katsukiyo III received a special award from the San Diego Women’s Forum for her cultural contributions in 2003. That same year, she participated in a special performance with Matsumae-kai students at the 20th anniversary celebration of the Kazune-kai held in Yamato City, Kanagawa Prefecture. In 2012, Matsumae-kai held its 50th anniversary celebration and once again Kazune-kai and Fuji-no-kai both attended.
In 2013, with 12 Matsumae-kai students, Madame Matsumae Katsukiyo III traveled to Japan to participate in a special charity performance sponsored by Kazune-kai in Matsushima City, Miyagi Prefecture to help the victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Madame Matsumae Katsukiyo III has been the chief secretary of the Matsumae-kai, headquartered in Tokyo, since 1996. She has made tireless efforts not only in teaching and spreading of minyo in the U.S., but has always participated and helped with various Japanese community events. Currently, Matsumae-kai has three shihan (teachers), one junshihan (associate teachers), and 10 natori. She continues to teach two Los Angeles classes, and three San Diego classes.
• George Takamasa Nagata was born in Gardena in 1924 to Matasaburo and Yatsu Nagata from Kumamoto. During his youth, he assisted his father farming strawberries, blackberries, and assorted vegetables. In 1942, Nagata and his family were evacuated and interned in Poston, Arizona. Leaving camp, he relocated to Chicago in 1943. The family subsequently moved to Oceanside once Japanese Americans were allowed to move back to California, where he continues to reside today.
Nagata’s most influential contributions have been to the agriculture industry, as he was critical to the innovation and development of novel techniques in strawberry and tomato production. One of the key periods in his career was in 1951 when he went to UC Davis to create a Southern California field station to assist in strawberry growing. Meetings with Nagata, other farmers, and elected officials were held to petition the California Legislature for a field station. This led to the creation of the Torrey Pines Strawberry Research Center, which was later moved to Irvine. Many California strawberry varieties were developed at these centers and helped to make the California strawberry industry one of the primary producers worldwide.
Many of the growing practices that Nagata experimented with and adapted are now standard practices. First, he worked with researchers to become one of the earliest adapters of the drip irrigation system. This system is still in use today as it saves water and increases production. In addition, the use of methyl bromide in strawberry fumigation for mites and soil diseases was another technique that he experimented with very early on, and is still used by farmers today. Through his innovative and experimenting spirit, he planted earlier to accelerate strawberry production in Southern California, thus prolonging the strawberry season.
Nagata was also a pioneer in growing fruits and vegetables, specifically strawberries, in Baja California. Growing in this region was unheard of at the time and very much discouraged, but he believed that the region was the wave of the future. He was correct, and today, there are numerous farms and companies growing in Baja.
Leadership in organizations and associations was also very important to Nagata. He served as a board member of the San Diego Farm Bureau and the San Diego County Farmers’ Bracero program. Nagata became a founding board member of the San Diego County Honorary Deputy Sheriff’s Association (HDSA), and was active as an honorary board member in the San Diego HDSA until the 2000s. He also served as a board member and became vice chairman of the California Tomato Advisory Board and was a board member of the California Strawberry Advisory Board.
In addition to his contributions to agriculture, Nagata was active in the North County San Diego Japanese American community. He organized picnics, dances, parties, and community events for the Issei and Nisei. His fundraising and leadership skills were also used to assist in the building of the North San Diego County Japanese Community Center and Vista Buddhist Temple.
Nagata has been happily married to Alethea (Yasukochi) for more than 60 years. They have five children: Elaine, Shereen, Lindy, Owen, and Neil.
• David Hiroshi Yanai was born in 1943 at the Manzanar War Relocation Center in Inyo County. He was one of seven children born to Hisataro and Satsuyo Yanai. Following the conclusion of World War II, his family relocated to Gardena. He attended Gardena High School and after graduating in 1961, he matriculated to California State Long Beach.
Upon completion of his studies from CSULB in 1966, Yanai started his teaching and coaching career at Fremont High School in Los Angeles. He coached varsity baseball for two years and varsity basketball for seven years. In the nine years as coach he led Fremont to four league titles, three city finals, and one L.A. City Championship.
In 1976, Yanai returned to his alma mater, Gardena High School, and led them to the semi-finals of the L.A. City Championship. In all, Yanai amassed a 120-31 record in his eight-year career as a prep basketball coach.
The steady results at the high school level earned Yanai the head basketball coaching position in 1977 at California State Dominguez Hills, where he became the first Japanese American collegiate men’s head basketball coach. Success continued for Yanai at the collegiate level. In just his second year, he led Dominguez Hills to a 21-9 record and a berth in the NAIA National Championship Tournament.
The following season, CSUDH made the jump to NCAA Division II by entering the prestigious California Collegiate Athletic Association. During Yanai’s 19 years at CSUDH, his teams won two CCAA league championships, finished in second place five times, and made three NCAA tournament appearances.
In 1996, Yanai was named men’s head basketball coach at California State L.A. He led the team to the 1998 and 2000 NCAA Tournaments. His teams recorded 84 wins from 1996 through 2001 (the most wins in a five-year span in CSULA’s men’s basketball history). In March 2005, Yanai became just the second men’s head basketball coach in the history of the CCAA (dating back to 1940) to reach 400 wins. He retired one season after this historic milestone.
Yanai’s coaching honors include: 1975 Los Angeles City High School Coach of the Year; 1979 NAIA District III Coach of the Year; 1987 and 1988 CCAA Coach of the Year; 1987 NCAA West Region Coach of the Year; 1990 Assistant Coach West Team, U.S. Olympic Festival; 1999-2003 chairman, West Region NCAA Basketball Committee; 1987-2007 coach, Pete Newell Big Man’s Camp; 1985-present advisor/consultant, Japan National Teams; 2000 Outstanding Coach, John R. Wooden Award; 2009 Aki Komai Memorial Award recipient; CSUDH named its basketball court the Dave Yanai Court in 2010.
Yanai’s community service includes: founding member of the FOR Club; advisor for the L.A. Watts Summer Games; clinician for numerous camps and clinics locally as well as in Japan and Taiwan; and initiating the County of Los Angeles summer sports program with emphasis on drug prevention.
Yanai attributes his success to a handful of role models and authority figures. Among them are his parents, his older brother Frank, close friend Sho Nojima, his youth coach Mas Fukai, and basketball mentors Pete Newell and John Wooden.
The 2015 Nisei Week Japanese Festival is a nine-day event first held in 1934, and is recognized today as one of the nation’s longest-running ethnic festivals. Celebrating its 75th anniversary, the festival will take place in Little Tokyo from Aug. 15-23. For a calendar of events, log on to www.NiseiWeek.org, call the Nisei Week Foundation office at (213) 687-7193 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Nisei Week office is located at 244 S. San Pedro St., Suite 303, Los Angeles, CA 90012.