Performances by Hikari Taiko (pictured) and Kamaki Keawe for the SEJSCC’s first in-person event since the outbreak of the pandemic.

On June 26 the Southeast Japanese School and Community Center celebrated the long-awaited Recognition Dinner, its first in-person event since the COVID epidemic closed the center in March 2020. 

Live music from Kamaki Keawe set the mood of the sold-out dinner from The Loft.

President Richard Shinomoto and the SEJSCC Board provided recognition to long-time contributors Linda Fu, Klete Ikemoto (posthumous), Kimi Masukawa, and Sumio Yasutake. 

Assemblymember Cristina Garcia of the 58th District and City Councilmember Margarita Rios presented respective certificates from the Assembly and City of Norwalk, respectively, to each of the center honorees.

The night’s honorees are celebrated — back, from left: 58th District Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, SEJSCC President Richard Shinomoto, Norwalk Councilmember Margarita Rios. Front: Cary Ikemoto, Linda Fu, Kimi Yasukawa, Sumio Yasutake.

Fu has been and continues to be a stalwart of the Norwalk Kendo Dojo since junior high school, contributing to the carnival architectural design; creating the signs; designing the dojo’s 50th commemorative booklet; and most recently stepping up as the executive officer.

Since childhood, Ikemoto had a long history at the center. He, like Fu, felt SEJSCC was  part of his family and left an indelible mark on the Japanese School and Norwalk Youth Sports (NYS) basketball as a coach and later as a leader on the Club Executive Committee. Ikemoto’s longest legacy to the center is his family. His daughter, Katie, continues to be involved, and even conceived and directed this year’s first virtual cultural festival. 

Masukawa, similarly, raised her children at the center – first volunteering as team mom and later joining the Club Executive Committee during a trying transitional period and even volunteering as a treasurer for four years after finishing CEC. She provided the procedural backbone that put the principles of developing character and sportsmanship first. 

Yasutake also raised his children at the center and provided key traditions that enabled the it to thrive. From his donation of desks to the school, to his donation of landscaping for the new center in 1994 and his commencement of the first plant sale in 1998 at the annual festival, Yasutake has been integral to SEJSCC’s growth.

Kotoist Kozue Matsumoto performed.

The evening continued with the Nerio family awarding the Nerio Scholarship winners, Daniel Cho, Katie Gomez, Katelyn Ikemoto, Kylee Ishibashi, Kole Kikuta, and Owen Tai, with checks from the Nerio Family Endowment. This perpetual endowment was created to ensure the long-term success of the SEJSCC.

Masa Lau, the SEJSCC’s newest board member, provided Norwalk Youth Scholarships to Paige Hachiya, Kristen Ho, Katelyn Ikemoto, Brandon Imai, Kylee Ishibashi, Kole Kikuta, Jason Kwan, Julianna Lee, Miles Harou Matsune, Owen Tai, Tyler Tanaka, and Makenna Yokoyama. 

In the last presentation of the night, Jim Uyekawa and his fellow judo senseis proudly gave awards to Katie Gomez and Kristian Espinoza. 

The night ended with a brilliant koto performance by Kozue Matsumoto (who provides lessons on Saturdays) and Hikari Taiko (which has classes on Sunday). 

As the president stated, “It was so nice to have the center family back – strong as ever.”    

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