Keiro Kai and centenarian honorees (from left) Sandra Setoguchi, Marie Picciotto, Frank K. Koyama, Priscilla Ishibashi, Masaye Miura and Masashi Tambara. They are joined by Councilmember Traci Park (left) and Assemblymember Tina McKinnor.

By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor

Chilly temperatures didn’t dampen the spirits at the Venice Japanese Community Center’s Shinnenkai and Keiro Kai, held on Jan. 15. It was the first time the popular event was held since the pandemic.

Jeff Shimoyama served as emcee and quoted Dr. Martin Luther King as saying that “we must never lose sight of infinite hope.”

“I see good reason to have hope for this coming year. The leadership, the participants, people from the community. Government officials who are here really foster a sense of hope for the VJCC for the coming year,” Shimoyama said.

Robert Onishi, VJCC president, welcomed the gathering.

Special honors were given to (from left) Jennifer Yamamoto, Fusako Ogasawara and Eric Inouye.

“We’re very happy to have you all here. The Shinnenkai is our celebration of the year with only the most optimistic hopes for the new year. No negativity exists at this facility,” Onishi said.

Dignitaries in attendance at the event included Assemblymember Tina McKinnor, Councilmember Traci Park, Consul General Kenko Sone and former Assemblymember George Nakano.

Sone noted that it was his first visit to the community center since he arrived four months ago.

“I’m very much encouraged by the important role played by your community center in the Venice area and beyond for keeping the Japanese American community very active and vibrant for more than a century. It is wonderful,” Sone said.

Former Assemblymember George Nakano administers the oath of office to board members.

Nakano installed 2023 board members Sharon Aratani, Jolyn Brooks, David Hirota, Eric Inouye, Kazie Kame, Kevin Kunisaki, Jack Kurihara, Ken Nagao, Fusako Ogasawara, Robert Onishi, Keiichi Ono, Wes Shimoda, Kelvin Uyeda and Rich Yang. Komon (advisors) are Eric Inouye, Kuni Nishiya and Tad Suzuki.

VJCC honored three outstanding individuals for their work.

Hideo Shimoda yelled “Banzai!” after winning a Keurig coffeemaker in the raffle drawing.

Fusako Ogasawara was recognized as the Person of the Year for her work as chair of the Membership Committee and also rebuilding the adult Japanese language class.

Jennifer Yamamoto was honored with the Distinguished Service Award for her work on the VJCC newsletter and also redesigning their website.

Eric Inouye was given the Lifetime Achievement Award for his many years of dedication to VJCC, including serving as senior advisor.

In accepting the award, Inouye dedicated the honor to the Venice Pioneer Project.

“This organization has been serving the seniors for over 50 years. They provide free lunches, all kinds of excursions to museums, parks and we’ve also gone to Lake Tahoe, Grand Canyon and their favorite trip is, of course, the Indian casinos and Las Vegas!” he said.

The audience enjoyed a bento lunch and were served by the scouts from Troop 764. Entertainment was provided by Koshin Taiko, Fujima Seiyumi Kai, Azuma Kotobuki Kai and Halau Keali’o o Nalani Kumi Keali’i Ceballos.

Dancers from Halau Keali’i o Nalani Kumu Keali’i Ceballos perform.

A highlight of the event is the recognition of seniors, including those who have turned 80 and 100. Keiro honorees for the year are Eleanor Fry, Priscilla Ishibashi, Frank K. Koyama, Hajime Kuwabara, Galen Murakawa, Kenji Ogawa, Marie Picciotto, Sandra Setoguchi, Steven Shimasaki and Arthur Yoshida. Five centenarians were also honored: Anne Kiyo Hojo, Masaye Miura, Ruth Okazaki, Michi Tamaki and Masashi Tambara.

Miura wore a stylish red suit for the occasion. She was born near Mt. Fuji in Shiozuka Prefecture on Jan. 28, 1923 and the family has been blessed with longevity. Her sister Tokuye Namiki is 101 years old.

Miura said the secret to her longevity is enjoying ice cream, especially her favorite flavor, pistachio.

For information on VJCC activities, visit

Guests share a toast to the new year.

Photos by MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo

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