Members of L.A. Kayo Club with Seinan Senior Citizens Club President Yoshio Suzuki (left), Consul General Harry Horinouchi (center) and emcee Mika Matsui (right).
Members of L.A. Kayo Club with Seinan Senior Citizens Club President Yoshio Suzuki (left), Consul General Harry Horinouchi (center) and emcee Mika Matsui (right).

By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

The Seinan Senior Citizens Club, now in its 45th year, celebrated the new year last Saturday at the Seinan Senior Citizens Center in L.A.’s Crenshaw district.

President Emeritus Sam Kawata.
President Emeritus Sam Kawata.

Emceed by Mika Matsui, the program opened with Sam Kawata, president emeritus, calling for a moment of silence in memory of departed members and friends.

President Yoshio Suzuki thanked the many volunteers who support the club’s programs, which include sewing, minyo, calligraphy, karaoke, computer, ikebana and line dance classes, and asked everyone who has participated for 25 years or more to stand up and be recognized. Among them was 96-year-old Kiyoshi Shiozaki.

Jeff Yamazaki of JCCSC.
Jeff Yamazaki of JCCSC.

Consul General Harry Horinouchi, making his second appearance at the event, noted that with the addition of two strokes, the character for Year of the Monkey can be changed to nobiru, meaning to grow. While the seniors in attendance are unlikely to grow taller, he said, they can grow by developing their talents in such areas as singing and dancing.

Albert Lord, deputy for City Council President Herb Wesson, had been scheduled to speak but was unable to attend.

Jeff Yamazaki, senior vice president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California, delivered greetings on behalf of the group’s new president, Kitty Sankey. Quoting from an article titled “Good fortune and happiness will come to those who smile,” he told the seniors that research indicates smiling more can reduce stress and is good for one’s health.

Attendees drink a toast to the Year of the Monkey with sparkling cider.
Attendees drink a toast to the Year of the Monkey with sparkling cider.

Dean Nakanishi, administrative director of the Asian American Drug Abuse Program, was the guest speaker. Born in the Year of the Monkey, he has worked at AADAP for 23 years.

He noted that AADAP was established around the same time as Seinan and has moved its corporate office to Crenshaw and 29th Street, near the center. “We have become much closer, I think, in the last six or seven years. We do mochitsuki together. (Seniors) come and help us make ozoni and pound the mochi and try to make sushi … Over the years, our partnership has grown.”

Judd Matsunaga
Judd Matsunaga

AADAP was founded “by progressive Japanese Americans from this community, the Crenshaw community” in 1972 and was able to get federal funding with help from leaders like Mas Fukai, Ford Kuramoto and Patrick Okura, Nakanishi said. “Now AADAP has over 10 facilities and an array of social services. We provide primarily drug abuse treatment for high school and adults, outpatient and residential services.

“But over the years we have grown to many different services. We are also providing a jobs program right here at this corporate office, helping over a thousand people find jobs this year … We also do many educational programs for the community — parenting, domestic violence, HIV-AIDS, and we also develop high school kids to be leaders in the community.”

Dean Nakanishi of AADAP.
Dean Nakanishi of AADAP.

AADAP has provided a “safety net” for those who are dealing with substance abuse and find it difficult to ask for help because of their upbringing in the Asian American community and culture, Nakanishi added.

“I welcome all of you to come by,” he told the seniors. “Just ask for me. I’ll give you a tour of the facility … I believe Seinan and AADAP will partner more in the future and we can help each other out in many different ways.”

Judd Matsunaga of Elder Law Services of California, a Rafu columnist, led the “banzai” toast, wishing everyone a new year “with good health and strong minds.”

Following lunch, door prizes were given out and musical entertainment was provided by the L.A. Kayo Club. The audience was surprised and delighted when the consul general took to the stage to perform one of the songs.

2015-2016 Cabinet

President: Yoshio Suzuki

First vice president: Edward Inouye

Bazaar oordinator: Lynn Onishi

Event coordinator: Rachel Koza

Membership: Naomi Takata

Secretary: Hiroko Sakamoto

Treasurers: Yukie Ushirogata, Teruko Watanabe

Auditors: John Matsubara, Barbara Sakata

Members-at-large: Fujino Ikemura, Kikuko Miyahara

Sunshine: Mae Kobayashi

Building manager: Mamoru Kanda

Nutrition site manager: Kurtis Kobayashi

President emeritus: Paul Shiba, Sam Kawata

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