On Aug. 20 (Japan Standard Time), the Government of Japan announced the recipients of its 2021 Foreign Minister’s Commendations.

From the jurisdiction of the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles, Dr. Hitoshi Abe, director of the UCLA Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies; professor, UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design, School of Arts and Architecture, and Kimiko Fujita, president of Orange County Japanese American Association, were awarded.

The Foreign Minister’s Commendations are awarded to individuals and groups of outstanding achievements in international fields, to acknowledge their contribution to the promotion of friendship between Japan and other countries. The commendation also aims to promote the understanding and support of the Japanese public for their activities.

Award ceremony dates are still undetermined at this time. When scheduled, the ceremonies are slated to be held at the Consul General’s Official Residence with a small number of guests.

Following are profiles of this year’s honorees.

Dr. Hitoshi Abe

Born in Miyagi Prefecture, Abe is principal of Atelier Hitoshi Abe Architect Co. He was a professor in the Department of Architecture and Building Science, Graduate School of Engineering, at Tohoku University before joining the Department of Architecture and Urban Design at UCLA as a professor from 2007.

As director of the UCLA Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies since 2010, Abe has contributed to mutual understanding, friendship and goodwill between Japan and the U.S. through his support of Japanese studies and academic exchanges.

Serving as a member of the Japan America Society of Southern California’s Board of Governors (2012- ), chairman of the Steering Committee of Little Tokyo Design Week (2011, 2013) and Japan House Los Angeles adviser (2016-2018), Abe has greatly contributed to Japanese and Japanese American communities.

Abe has been awarded the Foreign Minister’s Commendation in recognition of his promotion of mutual understanding and academic exchange between Japan and the U.S. through architecture.

Kimiko Fujita

Born in the city of Osaka, Fujita launched Japanese-affiliated music classes after arriving in the U.S. and continues to promote music education activities as the owner of NYLA USA Corp., the music school business she established. Fujita became a board member of Orange County Japanese American Association (OCJAA) in 1999 and after taking the helm as president in 2013, she proposed cultural-themed classes such as Japanese flower arrangement. In addition, Fujita helped organize the Japan Cultural Fair in Irvine for many years, encouraging interaction with local residents.

Fujita has also focused on programs for senior citizens, providing lifestyle and health information through online classes and events during the COVID-19 pandemic and contributing to the well-being of Japanese and Japanese American communities in Southern California. Since 2016, Fujita has served as a director of Keiro, a nonprofit that supports Japanese-affiliated senior citizens, and continues to work as a bridge between Japanese and Japanese Americans.

Fujita has been awarded the Foreign Minister’s Commendation in recognition of her promotion of mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S. through cultural exchange and other activities.

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