SAN FRANCISCO —  On Sept. 17, the Japanese Cultural and Community Center (the Center/JCCCNC) hosted its 10th-anniversary celebration of “Tabemasho” in person after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

The Center gymnasium was transformed into a matsuri (festival) hall, with yatai-style booths lining the walls of the gym. 250 guests were in attendance, and nearly 400 people in all, with volunteers, restaurants and guests of honor from Japan. New to the event as emcee was Bay Area native Ryan Yamamoto, CBS KPIX Channel 5’s Evening News anchor, who led the audience through the program.

This year’s earlier start time in the afternoon at 2 p.m. was a strategic change that allowed for the Center’s Nisei and older Sansei supporters to attend this special occasion.

“This annual event is not just about raising funds for the Center, it’s about bringing friends, supporters and the entire community together,” said Paul Osaki, executive director of the Center. “It’s about all of us making the dreams of the Nisei come true. I wish they were around to see how the community is still gathering after all these years, as it would make them proud that generations of Japanese Americans today still care so much about the Center.”

Ten Bay Area restaurants and community partners served their specialty dishes and small bites: B. Patisserie, Delica, Hikari Farms, La Mar Cebicheria Peruana, Menya Kanemaru, Paina, Trifecta Cooks, Sokoji Temple, Suruki Market and Takahashi Market. Community chefs Mark Gyotoku, Alan Hirahara, Andrew Sumi, Jeff “Stony” Wun and Jeff Yoshioka served yakitori and a trio of onigiri.

Upon arrival, guests were treated to sake from Oshu, Japan and were free to peruse the auction room or begin mingling with friends in the gym. To open the event, dancers from Kiyonomoto Ryu USA performed “Hakata Yamagasa Onna Bushi,” then led the crowd in a festival and Obon favorite, “Tanko Bushi.”

Four representatives from Oshu arrived earlier in the week to share the pride of their region and craft goods, including Mizusawa Beika/Senya (senbei); Oshu no Ryu (Dragon of Oshu) and Meijo Co. (sake); Ogata Ranch Maesawa Beef; and Mizusawa Cast Iron Foundry Cooperative, which featured a collection of uniquely designed cast iron.

Honored with this year’s Takeo and Kay Okamoto Community Award was Marjorie Fletcher, the Center’s executive assistant for over 30 years, who returned from Salt Lake City to participate in the festivities. Recipients of the Okamoto Award are given $1,000, with $500 going to the organization of their choice.

Osaki and Matt Okada, director of special events and communications, hosted the live auction segment, which featured a trip for two to any of the Center’s upcoming Cultural Tours to Japan in 2022 or 2023 with Premium Economy seats on Japan Airlines. The Center also hosted its first entirely online auction at “Tabemasho,” which included a trip for two on Alaska Airlines, a three-night stay at the Waikiki Malia by Outrigger, wine packages donated by the Center Board, tickets to several Bay Area excursions, and many Japanese accessories and home goods.

The Center would like to thank this year’s generous sponsors for making this milestone “Tabemasho” a success, including Presenting Sponsors: The Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation, Japan Airlines and Union Bank; Benefactor Sponsor: Japan Center Garage Corporation; Patron Sponsors: Comcast, Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California, Minami Tamaki LLP; Mutual Express and Leigh Sata/Susan Kobayashi; Friend of the Center Sponsors: Joyce Ashizawa-Yee, Ken and Yoshiko Ho, Myron Okada/Donna Kotake and Misako Sack; and Community Sponsors: Always Dream Foundation, Marjorie Fletcher, Hawaii Chamber of Commerce of Northern California, Japanese Benevolent Society, Japanese Community Youth Council, Japantown Task Force, Konko Church of San Francisco, Allen M. Okamoto, Robert Sakai, San Francisco Associates, San Francisco Drakes and Teresa Serata.

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