Clockwise from top left: Ronald Ikejiri, Warren Furutani, Don Bannai, Grant Nakaoka.

GARDENA — Sansei Legacy and Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute “Gardena Then and Now” on Saturday, Jan. 19, from 1:30 to 4 p.m. at GVJCI, 1964 W. 162nd St., Gardena.

The program will feature a panel of Gardena notables, plus episodes of Max Votolato’s documentary “Freeway City.”

• Warren Furutani is former state assemblymember of the 55th District. Born in San Pedro and raised in Gardena, he authored Assembly Bill 37, which granted honorary college degrees to Japanese Americans whose education was disrupted due to their unjust incarceration during World War II.

• Grant Nakaoka is the son of former Gardena Mayor Ken Nakaoka, the second Japanese American mayor in the United States. He is a real state agent with Ken Nakaoka Company and has been in the real estate business for over 30 years. He is a GVJCI board member.

• Don Bannai is the son of former Gardena City Councilmember Paul Bannai, the first Japanese American to serve in the California State Legislature, where he represented the 67th and 53rd Assembly Districts from 1973 to 1980. Don Bannai is a martial arts instructor at University of Nevada Las Vegas and holds a nidan (second degree) black belt in aikido.

• Ronald Ikejiri (moderator) is a former Gardena city councilmember. A graduate of Gardena High School, he earned his BA in public service from UCLA, his MPA from UCLA, and his Juris Doctor from Northrop University School of Law. His jobs have included Washington representative of the Japanese American Citizens League.

They will address such questions as: Why did Japanese Americans move to Gardena? Who were the families and businesses in the early days? How did Japanese American realtors and poker clubs play a role in its growth? Where do we go from here? What is the future of Gardena?

Free admission but donations are appreciated. For more information, contact Nicole Sato at (310) 324-6611 or

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