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Aratani CARE Award Boosts JA Documentary

Zentoku Foundation Board (from left) Helen Ota, Mark Nakakihara, Michelle Hanabusa and Curtis Nishihara. (Photo by Joey Ikemoto Photography)

From early immigration at the dawn of the Meiji era to the present-day efforts to protect the historic Japantowns, the saga of the Nikkei community will be chronicled in a documentary film funded in part by the George and Sakaye Aratani Community Advancement Research Endowment (CARE) program and UCLA Asian American Studies.

The film, entitled “Curating the Japanese American Experience,” will be produced by the Zentoku Foundation and coincides with the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Wakamatsu tea and silk colonists to the mainland United States and the first immigrants to Hawaii in 1868.

Zentoku is a relatively new nonprofit founded in 2017 to: (1) collect, preserve and share the little-known true stories within the Japanese American community; (2) encourage today’s journalism professionals and prepare the next generation of storytellers, authors, and journalists; and (3) celebrate and hand down Japanese and Japanese American culture, values, and achievements.

The Aratani CARE award was established to promote projects that benefit and advance Japanese American communities.

“The documentary is one of several projects we are undertaking in the months to come,” noted Zentoku President Mark Nakakihara. “Our goal is to create something that guides us through our community’s cultural, political, and social history, capturing key moments large and small, from festivals to sports to history-making moments.”

Serving alongside Nakaihara are board directors Michelle Hanabusa, Curtis Nishihara and Helen Ota.

Nakakihara is president of NDS, an Orange County-based delivery company. He has worked extensively with nonprofits, serving as past president of the Yonsei Basketball Association and the South East Youth Organization (SEYO), and has been involved with many other nonprofit organizations raising funds for their respective programs.

Nishihara serves as Zentoku vice president and treasurer. He has a 32-year career as senior finance manager in business/finance operations for Raytheon Company. He also served as membership chairman for Boy Scout Troop 378 on the Troop Executive Committee (TEC), which was responsible for ensuring adequate funds for the troop’s operation each year.

Ota is the director of donor engagement and special events for the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center. She is active in the community, serving on the board of the Nisei Week Foundation (of which she is a past president), Advisory Council of Kizuna, and Artistic Advisory Board of the Asian Pacific American Friends of Theatre.

Hanabusa is the creative director/founder of Uprising, a minimally designed brand that is formulated with technologically inspired fabric.

“We are grateful to the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and the Aratani CARE program for the opportunity to present our community’s development for new generations,” Nakakihara added.

For more information on the foundation, visit

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