RAFU STAFF REPORT
ALHAMBRA — The Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California, which is in the process of returning to in-person events, held its 2022 installation of officers and awards luncheon on March 27 at Alamansor Court in Alhambra.
With Senior Vice President Grace Shiba serving as emcee, past presidents in attendance were recognized and board members who passed away during the past year were remembered with a moment of silence.
The oath of office for board members was administered by Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi of the 66th Assembly District, assisted by JCCSC Administrative Secretary Marie Tanaka. The 2022 officers include:
Consul General Akira Muto, honorary president; Haruo Takehana, president; Ryu Kato, Trudy Nodohara and Grace Shiba, senior vice presidents; Paul Abe, Akiko Agishi, Junzo Arai, Thornton Dickerson, Akira Fujimoto, Tadashi Iida, Toby Mallen, Happy Mizutani, Kiyoshi Murakata and Masatoshi Ohata, vice presidents; Yuriko Shikai, secretary; Tomoko Omura, treasurer; Yoshi Amano, auditor; Carl Kawata, Kitty Sankey and Jeff Yamazaki, advisors.
The attendees were welcomed back after a long COVID-imposed absence by Muto, Takehana (who is serving as president for the second time), Kawata (as immediate past president), Southern California Gardeners’ Federation President Hisamori Iwashita, Japanese Women’s Society of Southern California President Joyce Chinn, Nanka Kenjinkai Kyogikai President Richard Watanabe, and Little Tokyo Business Association President David Ikegami.
After lunch, Takehana presented the Nikkei Spirit Award to Joanne and Alan Kumamoto, who were accompanied by their family, and the Community Organization Recognition Award to the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute, represented by Executive Director Alison Kochiyama, who was accompanied by her staff. Takehana is himself a 2007 recipient of the Nikkei Spirit Award and a 2021 recipient of the Consul General’s Commendation.
Joanne and Alan Kumamoto
The Kumamotos’ marketing, management and consulting firm, Kumamoto Associates, has operated successfully since 1989 and has received the Leadership Award from LEAP (Leadership Education for Asian Pacifics) and the National Public Relations Multi-Ethnic Award from the Asian American Donor Program.
The Kumamotos worked on the State Library’s Partnerships for Change, a program that brought local public libraries and ethnic minority populations together and spawned program innovations and improvements. Working in cooperation with the U.S. State Department, they have traveled extensively, conducting seminars in Ghana, Philippines, Turkey, and Japan. They collaborated on an in-depth assessment project for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and worked together on the multi-year Community Redevelopment Agency of L.A. (CRA) downtown parking study.
Joanne Kumamoto has a background in public administration and began her professional career administering federal grant programs for the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office during Tom Bradley’s administration. Her commitment to community involvement includes helping to design and implement marketing programs and surveys, develop public information programs on housing, transportation, and ethnic communities, and conduct key informant interviews and focus groups for government agencies and nonprofit entities. She has also developed and coordinated organizational, management and diversity training workshops for new and emerging API communities.
Other projects included the Music Center for the Performing Arts of L.A., Long Beach Corridor, Hyperion Bridge Retrofit, L.A. County High School for the Arts, Metro’s L.A.-to-Pasadena Gold Line, and West Santa Ana Branch alignment. Additionally, she played a key role in planning the Union Pacific Anniversary Celebration, Pasadena Recreation Department festivals, and numerous other cultural gatherings through Southern California.
Kumamoto is president of the Little Tokyo Legacy Foundation and advisor to the Coro Foundation. She is a board member of the Little Tokyo Business Association and L.A. County Library Foundation. A former chair of American Women for International Understanding (AIWU), she earned the organization’s Bernice Behren Award. She was vice chair and former treasurer of American Humanics, Inc., California State University at Los Angeles; a director of the L.A. Regional Food Bank; and a member of the L.A.-Pusan Sister City Committee.
She co-chaired the Ethnic Coalition of Southern California and was appointed to the city’s Telecommunications and Housing Authority Commissions.
Kumamoto attended Ventura College and has received additional certification in adult learning from the University of Southern California; fundraising, program planning and proposal writing from the Grantsmanship Center; and computer software proficiency from Apple Computers.
A third-generation Angeleno, Alan Kumamoto is an internationally recognized facilitator and organizational management coach who has held positions in the public, nonprofit, and international business sectors.
Prior to forming Kumamoto Associates, he served as president and executive director of the Southern California Center for Nonprofit Management, a senior associate trainer for the Grantsmanship Center, youth director for the National Japanese American Citizens League, and interim director of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. and has taught nonprofit management at UCLA.
As associate project director for a national minibike program, Kumamoto managed a public/private partnership between the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), American Honda, and the National Board of YMCAs. The delinquency prevention model was implemented in over 500 partnerships across the country. He also supervised a public awareness campaign in the Asian American communities for the Los Angeles Department of Airports’ “Ridelink” program.
He served on the California Arts Council Proposal Review Panel for Arts Services, City of L.A. Cultural Affairs Department, L.A. County Department of Children’s Services, and Lancaster Performing Arts Center. He was the community manager for the L.A. Neighborhood Initiative (LANI) Highland Park Project, a Federal Transit Administration effort to link transit corridors with local infrastructure and residents, merchants, and public agencies.
Kumamoto is a member of the Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation Advisory Committee and serves on the boards of the Asian Pacific Community Fund, Japanese American Community Services (JACS), Little Tokyo Community Council, and Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in Historic Preservation (APIAHIP). He is also past president of the City of L.A. Historic Cultural Neighborhood Council and a past advisor to the Japanese Community Pioneer Center.
He graduated from Loyola University with a BA degree in sociology and went on to become a master’s candidate in sociology at USC.
In his acceptance speech, Kumamoto remembered his Issei grandparents. One grandfather operated a boarding house for Japanese farmers as well as a pharmacy; the other grandfather was a doctor who helped establish the Japanese Hospital in Boyle Heights. Joanne’s family, the Oishis, had a fertilizer business and her grandfather was recognized by Nisei Week as a representative of Koyasan Buddhist Temple. Kumamoto was also pleased that his children and grandchildren are contributing to the community.
“We really appreciate this award and we feel like giving back to the Nikkei community is one of the greatest rewards we have in our life,” he said.
Gardena Valley JCI
The GVJCI, a nonprofit educational and charitable organization, was formally incorporated in 1967 but its roots go back to 1912 through its Japanese Language School’s legacy. The community built the GVJCI through years of fundraising and financing, and its work is to continue what previous generations worked so hard to build and to remain relevant to the community’s present and future needs.
Mission statement: A space to engage, share and embrace the Nikkei experience and culture.
Vision statement: The GVJCI envisions a vibrant network and a welcoming space for all persons interested in Japanese heritage and culture where history and tradition are honored, people are inspired to create action and change, and cultural pride and respect for all humanity are promoted.
“We are deeply honored to be receiving this Community Organization Recognition Award,” Kochiyama said. “It means so much to us, especially during the current times that we are all in. Like JCCSC and other organizations, GVJCI has faced many challenges and hardships during these last two years. Thinking out of the box became our staff’s daily exercise, making it possible for us to swiftly adapt to significant changes in how we operated and we continued supporting the community the best ways that we could.
“We were able to offer many of our programs online, like our Japanese language school, senior classes, public programs like the Day of Remembrance, and the community expressed their appreciation for these opportunities making it possible for them to connect again with GVJCI and many of their friends.
“Our monthly senior food distribution grew to provide 225 households with food items, food products and Japanese goods and fresh produce. However, closing our campus for in-person activities took a toll on many, especially our seniors and our 30 member organizations, which had to either transition their activities online or suspend them.
“We saw how many people really relied on GVJCI for their recreation, education, socialization and well-being. I’ve always understood the integral relationship that GVJCI had with Japanese American and Japanese community. However, I believe through these past two years I gained even more clarity and validation of how essential the symbiotic relationship really was. We sustain the community and the community sustains us. This reciprocity became crystal clear in how much the community needed us and how much we needed the community.
“Although GVJCI’s buildings were empty, our facility and operational expenses continued. This is where the community showed up each time, supporting our various fundraisers and the two years of our virtual GVJCI Matsuri. We could not have survived the way that we did without the community’s unwavering support, which our staff and board are extremely grateful for and humbled by.”