SAN FRANCISCO — With the Tokyo Olympics 100 days away, NBC Bay Area and the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California marked the occasion on April 14 with a celebratory event in San Francisco Japantown’s Peace Plaza.
NBC Bay Area’s Raj Mathai, who will be covering the Olympics for the seventh time this year, served as host. Representatives of the Japanese American Religious Federation began the program with a prayer.
Participating Olympians were figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi, who won the gold medal in 1992; foil fencer Alexander Massialas, silver medalist in the 2016 Olympics, accompanied by his father and coach, Greg; and breaststroke swimmer Anne Warner Cribbs, gold medalist at the 1959 Pan American Games, who placed in the event at the 1960 Olympics.
The athletes presented medallions for courage and dedication in community service to: Capt. Paul Yep, Northern Station, SFPD; Matthew Dea, San Francisco Fire Department; Dr. Mary Mercer, COVID Command Center; Shauna Bogetz, San Francisco Department of Recreation and Parks; and San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston, whose district includes Japantown.
Business honorees were Philip Ashizawa, Soko Hardware; Yasuaki Miura, Super Mira; Richard Hashimoto, Japantown Merchants Association.
Community heroes were Steve Ishii, Kimochi Inc.; Dean Ito Taylor, API Legal Outreach; Al Rhone and Shanice Crenshaw, Japantown Community Benefit District; Paul Osaki, JCCCNC; Arlene Kimata, Buddhist Church of San Francisco; Masako Takahashi, Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation; Hillary Nakano, Japantown for Justice.
Speakers included San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Supervisor Preston, and Osaki, who recalled how angry he was earlier this year when the cherry blossom trees outside JCCCNC were vandalized, and how uplifted he felt when the community responded with donations and assistance.
Ito Yosakoi Dance Group provided entertainment.
“Let’s go Team USA!” said Yamaguchi after the event. “So happy to kick off 100 days out ’til Tokyo Olympics at the Peace Plaza Japantown S.F. It was an honor to help recognize many community leaders today who sacrificed and worked tirelessly to help others during the pandemic. Can’t wait to cheer on all the athletes from around the world as they demonstrate discipline, focus, dedication and determination and inspire us in spite of what we’ve endured the last year. The world in celebration together of something magical.”
To see a video of the event, go to: https://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/sports/tokyo-olympics/100-days-to-tokyo-olympic-games-celebration-in-san-franciscos-japantown/2518835/