On Nov. 3 (Japan Standard Time), the Government of Japan announced the recipients of its Fall 2020 Decorations. From the jurisdiction of the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles, the following two distinguished persons will be awarded.

Dennis Yukio Otsuji — Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays

Otsuji has been involved in landscape architecture and urban planning for over 50 years and has also served as president of the American Society of Landscape Architect (ASLA), advancing landscape architecture through advocacy, communication, education and fellowship.

Dennis Otsuji and Glenn Tanaka

As president of the Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego, his enthusiasm and achievements promoting Japanese culture and tradition have served as a symbol of U.S.-Japan friendship.

He also has contributed to disseminating the history of the internment of Japanese Americans by the design and management plan for the Manzanar National Historic Site as well as facilitating the completion of the National Japanese American Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Otsuji was appointed as a board member of the Japanese Friendship Garden Society of San Diego in 1999 and has served as president since 2009. In the expansion completed in 2015, in addition to proposing innovative designs as a landscape architect and adding venues to further disseminate Japanese culture and tradition, the management skills and good relationships he built over many years as president greatly helped facilitate the project while working with the City of San Diego.

Also, he took a leadership role in the major capital campaign, raising $6.1 million, including international donations. This expansion recently led the garden in June 2020 to become the first Japanese garden in the U.S. to be certified as a museum by the American Alliance of Museums. Otsuji continues his passion to further disseminate Japanese culture and tradition through the garden.

Since 1979, Otsuji has been an active member of ASLA, and he was elected president in 1994. In 1998 for his unparalleled contribution to the profession, Otsuji received the President’s Medal from ASLA.

In 1992, while serving as vice president of policy at ASLA, he was asked to serve as chairman of the ASLA committee to work with the Manzanar Committee and Manzanar Advisory Commission in conjunction with the National Park Service to guide and assist them in the planning and preparation of the General Management Plan for the Manazanar National Historic Site to accurately interpret the history of the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Otsuji, former detainee at the Amache camp in Colorado, accomplished that task, leading the eight committee members, all of whom were imprisoned in one of the ten War Relocation Authority camps. His involvement with Manzanar was completed in 2012; however he continues to visit annually and stay in contact with the site’s progress.

From 1998 to 2000, while he was a board member for the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation, Otsuji facilitated and coordinated with the foundation’s Board of Directors, architect and construction company in the design and construction of the National Japanese American Memorial in Washington, D.C. The memorial “commemorates the experience of American citizens of Japanese ancestry and their parents who patriotically supported this country despite their unjust treatment during World War II.”

Glenn Takeo Tanaka — Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays

While Tanaka has been producing high-quality vegetables and fruits at his farm in Irvine for over 40 years, he has contributed to the community by organizing the nutritional education for children as well as harvest tours at his farm. Tanaka has also donated to the victims at the affected farms as well as the students who study agriculture in the areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Tanaka started “Walk the Farm,” a fundraising event for the Tohoku region, including Fukushima Prefecture, with the Orange Coast Optimist Club’s “Helping Farms Feed Families,” which was established in 2011 when Tanaka was president of OCO. At the event, the participants have an opportunity to enjoy seasonal harvests at the farm, and at the same time deepen their understanding of the areas affected by the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

Since its launching in 2011, the event has been supported by over 5,000 volunteers with more than 15,000 visitors participating. As a result, more than $800,000 has been donated to Japan. In 2020, the event was cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic; however, Tanaka raised $20,000 US to donate. So far, the funds have been distributed to 20 farmers in the affected areas as well as eight students who study agriculture at Iwate University and Fukushima University.

When Tanaka was president of OCO, he was actively involved in youth education. In 2012, he set up the Youth Advisory Committee within the organization, making it possible to provide coordinated support to youth activities and ensure the continuity of the activities. In 2012, Tanaka also launched an exchange program by inviting Japanese secondary and high school students. Every year, the club invites 30 to 120 students to the “Walk the Farm” event to interact with students in California.

“Walk the Farm” at Tanaka Farms in Irvine has raised funds for farmers in Japan’s Tohoku region. (Rafu file photo)

Tanaka has been also engaged in the operation of Tanaka Farm over 40 years, including joint operation with his farther. He is not only producing the agricultural products, but also providing opportunities to experience farming to a wide range of the community. In 1988, Tanaka launched a farm experience program for local children. In 1998, he opened his farm to the public, and launched educational tours and agritourism. Currently, he provides agricultural experiences to 150,000 people, including 35,000 children in urban areas, every year, and engages in agricultural education and training of successors.

Tanaka has contributed to the local community. He has been organizing the New Year’s mochi-pounding event at Tanaka Farms to preserve Japanese culture for the next generations. He also organizes many harvest events, such as strawberry and pumpkin, with the Japan Business Association of Southern California. The annual pumpkin harvest festival in October is the biggest event with more than 100,000 visitors.

Tanaka’s long-time contribution to the community was recognized by many organizations. For example, in 2017, he received the Green-White Achievement Award from the Agricultural Society of Japan.

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