Jon Kaji (left) with USC former Athletic Director and Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett and Torrance City Councilmember George Chen at North Torrance High School.

TORRANCE — Prominent local businessman and philanthropist Jon Kaji is a candidate for the Torrance City Council seat for District 1 (North Torrance). 

Said Kaji, “I decided to run in order to ensure that North Torrance gets its fair share of funding from City Hall. For too long, North Torrance has been ignored, resulting in deteriorating streets and rising crime.”

Kaji added that, if elected, he will demand an audit of City Hall by the California state controller. Said Kaji, “The California state auditor has rated Torrance as ‘high-risk,’ and the fourth-worst city in California.” He believes only a full, independent financial audit of the city will enable residents to determine how municipal funds have been misspent.

Kaji launched his campaign on April 9 at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute.  Speaking in support of Kaji were El Camino College Trustee Trisha Murakawa, a long-time friend; Glenn Osaki, senior advisor to the president of the University of Southern California (speaking as an individual supporter); and Shawn Layden, former chairman and CEO of SONY Interactive Entertainment. 

Osaki recently worked with Kaji to obtain an official apology and posthumous honorary degrees for the Nisei USC students. President Carol Folt awarded posthumous degrees at a USC Asian Pacific Alumni Association Scholarship dinner held on April 1. Kaji led the fight that resulted in the special awards.

“Over the past year, I’ve worked closely with Jon to posthumously award honorary degrees to the Nisei students who were denied by USC. Through that process I’ve learned three very important things about Jon Kaji, that I believe are absolutely essential for elected officials: #1 – he keeps his promises; #2 – he is principled and ethical; #3 – he is tenacious.

“Jon has the honor and integrity required to fulfill obligations. He keeps his promises.” Jon stands for everyone. You know he has your back. He is principled. When everyone else gave up, Jon did not. We all want to know our elected officials will stick it out to the end, even when things are not easy.

“In a small corner of campus, we constructed and dedicated a Japanese rock garden as a lasting tribute to the Nisei. At the entrance is a large stone engraved with the Japanese proverb Ishi no ue ni mo sannen. Literally it means ‘On a stone for three years’ or sitting on a stone for three years will make it warm. Japanese know this proverb teaches that even when we experience hard times, through endurance and patience, we will overcome. Perseverance prevails.”

“We put this proverb in the garden because it beautifully captures the plight of the Nisei students – and the university – over the past 80 years. But we also put it there as a tribute to Jon – because it was Jon who quoted this proverb in our very first meeting with landscape architect Calvin Abe, who designed the garden. This comment stuck with me throughout this process, helped me internalize the importance of what we were doing – and I wanted to respect Jon – for the man he is, and all he has done for our university community. Perseverance wins in the end. And it is exactly why Jon will win in his race for Torrance City Council!” 

Kaji has operated his company, Kaji & Associates, in North Torrance for nearly 32 years. Over that time he has owned and renovated three commercial shopping centers, resulting in increased sales tax revenue, new jobs and better services for Torrance residents.

“I’ve always supported small businesses, including Shinsengumi Restaurant Group, Kansha Creamery, Kaizen Dojo and South Bay Skates. I’m glad that I could help them start up and become successful businesses,” said Kaji. 

Recently, Kaji & Associates created the Bill Peters Athletic Scholarship at North High School, named after a popular coach and mentor, and contributed $10,000 towards the renovation of the school’s weight room.

USC Heisman Trophy winner Mike Garrett appeared with Kaji for the presentation of the weight room check. Last week, Los Angeles Laker great Michael Cooper joined Kaji at the North High School Athletic Awards Ceremony.

Kaji is hopeful that North High School will produce the next generation of home-grown Torrance leaders. Speaking at the awards ceremony, Kaji noted, “Supporting our youth in North Torrance is a personal mission of mine. I hope that by bringing in successful mentors, we can inspire the students to pursue their own dreams.” 

Kaji is running as an independent candidate for the non-partisan council seat. When asked to describe his agenda, he said, “My only special interests are the residents of North Torrance. Let’s rebuild our roads and sidewalks the right way, establish a police substation in North Torrance, and make North Torrance the gateway into Torrance, the Palos Verdes Peninsula and the Beach Cities.” 

Some of his supporters include:

Former California State Treasurer John Chiang

Former L.A. County Supervisor Don Knabe

Former L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich

Torrance City Councilmember George Chen

Torrance City Councilmember Aurelio Mattucci

El Camino College Trustee Trisha Murakawa

Torrance Unified School District Board Member James Han

Gardena Mayor Tasha Cerda

Gardena City Councilmember Rodney Tanaka

Gardena City Clerk Mina Simenza

Former Los Angeles City Councilmember Jan Perry

Former Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu

Actor and community activist George Takei

Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Hershey Miyamura

Election Day is Tuesday, June 7, with mail-in ballots having been sent to voters in May.

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  1. This guy didn’t even live in Torrance before he decided to run. He’s just a developer trying to buy an election. It’s sad to see the Rafu Shimpo giving him any attention. George Nakano has publicly endorsed is urging voters to vote for another candidate running against him – David Kartsonis.