Serving Her Health

After boycotting a press conference and being threatened with disqualification, Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open, citing a need to focus on her mental health.

“The truth is that I have suffered long bouts of depression since the U.S. Open in 2018, and I have had a really hard time coping with that,” Osaka said in a statement posted on Twitter.

Always Be Proud of Your Heritage

The long-awaited Go For Broke postage stamp honoring the Japanese American soldiers of World War II was formally dedicated on June 4 in Los Angeles, the first city of issuance.

The little stamp with a big story could not come soon enough for its supporters, especially in light of the rise in anti-Asian American violence and hate crimes.

Fusa Takahashi (center), Stamp Our Story campaign founder/co-leader, was joined by (from left) Wayne Osako, Stamp Our Story co-chair, and Daniel Hirai, U.S. Postal Service executive plant manager. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

An MVP Season for the Ages

Shohei Ohtani’s two-way season was so incredible that MVP voters filled out the top of their ballots only one way.

Ohtani was a unanimous winner of the 2021 American League MVP award, for a hitting and pitching display not seen since Babe Ruth, nearly a century ago.

“What an unbelievable season he had,” said Ohtani’s Angels teammate Mike Trout, who has won the honor three times. “It was like watching Little League all over again, pitching, hitting, moving to the outfield late in games. What an incredible season to watch.”

Ohtani batted .257 with 46 homers and 100 RBIs as the Angels’ full-time designated hitter, and went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA in 23 pitching starts with 156 strikeouts and 44 walks in 130-1/3 innings.

Olympic Dream Realized

Karate made its debut in the Summer Olympics, and a well-known local athlete was among those taking part in history at the Tokyo Games.

Southern California’s Sakura Kokumai represented the U.S. in the Women’s Kata event, vying with the world’s top competitors for the first-ever Olympic medals in the sport.

Kokumai’s performance in the early rounds propelled her into the medal rounds, where she qualified to compete for one of two bronze medals to be awarded.

“Growing up, my first introduction to karate was at a local recreation center, so I know the value of having somewhere to go in the community to be active, especially for youth,” Kokumai said in a press release ahead of the competition. “I am honored to collaborate with Panasonic to give back to Terasaki Budokan, a cultural symbol for the Japanese American community that will give kids a place to exercise their bodies and minds, bring together families and inspire future generations.”

Extraordinary Artistry

In a most remarkable, difficult year, a remarkable classical Japanese dance instructor, Madame Fujima Kansuma, awarded natori status to her 49th and 50th students, Kristin Megumi Toyota and Christine Shimahara. Kansuma, known fondly as Osho-san by her many students, awarded the status in a small ceremony on May 8 in Santa Monica. The ceremony coincided with Kansuma’s 103rd birthday.

Madame Kansuma choreographed the Nisei Week Grand Parade in 2018 when she was 100 years old, but her persistence during COVID-19 may be the one of most impressive achievements in a storied career that extends to before World War II. (Photo courtesy Toyo Miyatake Studio)

Live Long and Vaccinate

In January, actor and activist George Takei was among the many who lined up to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccines  at a drive-through site at The Forum in Inglewood. As the Omicron variant fuels a surge in cases, vaccines remain the best public health measure to protect people from COVID-19, slow transmission, and reduce the likelihood of new variants emerging.

Rise Up Against Hatred

On May 4 — the 49th day since a gunman killed eight in Atlanta, including six Asian women — Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple in Little Tokyo played host to a stirring memorial for the dead and those suffering from anti-Asian hate.

“We the Sangha of the United States,” intoned Rev. Duncan Ryuken Williams of Zenshuji Soto Mission, “have gathered to recall our interconnectedness, feel the presence of those who have gone before and to get back up.” (MIKEY HIRANO CULROSS/Rafu Shimpo)

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