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JABA Presents Awards for Diversity, Leadership, Inspiration

From left: Kimo Cornwell, Danny Yamamoto and June Kuramoto of Hiroshima; JABA President Mike Madokoro; Dan Kuramoto of Hiroshima; Irene Hirano Inouye of the U.S.-Japan Council; Brian Kito of Fugetsu-do; Stephen Faulk of Honda North America; and Catherine Endo-Chuck, JABA president-elect. (Photos by MARIO G. REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

The Japanese American Bar Association held its 43rd annual installation and awards gala on April 5 at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel & Suites.

The program opened with a performance by Kinnara Taiko from Senshin Buddhist Temple. ABC7 news anchor David Ono served as emcee.

Opening remarks were made by the incoming president, Mike H. Madokoro, managing partner of the Los Angeles and San Diego offices of Bowman & Brooke, and the president-elect, Catherine Endo chuck, president of McBirney & Chuck, PC.

JABA is expanding beyond the Los Angeles area, and speakers included Chiharu Sekino of the San Diego branch and Takayuki Ono of the Chicago branch.

With “Sharing Our Community” as the evening’s theme, the following awards were presented:

Irene Hirano Inouye of the U.S.-Japan Council was the keynote speaker.

• Diversity Leadership Award — Honda North America Inc. for promoting diversity within its workforce, providing opportunities throughout its team of associates, and supporting programs and initiatives that foster and maintain diverse traditions, heritages, and experience in the workplace and throughout society. Accepting on behalf of the company was Stephen J. Faulk, counsel, who said that Honda recognizes the importance of embracing diversity, increasing inclusion, and giving everyone the power to make a difference.

• Inspiration Award — Hiroshima, an L.A.-based band that was formed in 1974 and released its debut album in 1979. Blending jazz, pop and rock with traditional Japanese instruments, the group continues to perform across the country and around the world. Accepting the award was Hiroshima’s leader, Dan Kuramoto (saxophone, flute, keyboards, shakuhachi). He was accompanied by June Kuramoto (koto), Danny Yamamoto (drums) and Kimo Cornwell (keyboards). Bassist Dean Cortez was unable to attend.

Recalling the band’s start as recording artists, Kuramoto said they had significant support from the African American community, particularly Larkin Arnold, the new vice president at Arista, who signed them despite a prevailing stereotype that Asians don’t sing or dance well. He also noted that Hiroshima’s first concert east of the Rockies was at Howard University in Washington, D.C., a historically black college.

• Community Service Award — Brian Kito, the third-generation owner of Fugetsu-do Confectionery, which has been serving the Little Tokyo community since 1903. Kito, who followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Seiichi, and father, Roy, is now training his son, Korey, to take over the shop. Kito has also been a leader of the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association, Little Tokyo Community Council and Tanabata Festival. Every attendee received a specially designed manju from Fugetsu-do.

Kito discussed his efforts, which continue to this day, to clean up Little Tokyo and address safety issues in order to make it a more desirable place to live, work and visit. He also expressed pride that his son and other young people are now taking leadership roles.

• Unity Leadership Award — Irene Hirano Inouye, president of the U.S.-Japan Council, whose programs include the Tomodachi Initiative and the Japanese American Leadership Delegation, which each year sends Japanese American leaders in various fields to visit Japan and meet with government and business leaders there. Prior to that, she was president and founding CEO of the Japanese American National Museum for 20 years.

Kinnara Taiko opened the program. At right is Johnny Mori, former member of Hiroshima.

In her keynote address, Hirano Inouye discussed her efforts to increase Japanese American involvement in U.S.-Japan relations and to develop new leaders in the community. She noted that the community is becoming increasingly diverse, with children of postwar immigrants and multiracial/multiethnic families having no connection to the traditional Japanese American narrative, including the wartime incarceration. But ultimately, she said, that diversity can be a source of strength.

The JABA Educational Foundation Scholarships were presented by Karyn Ihara, Allyson Sakai and Kent Wakuta. The recipients are:

• Justice John F. Aiso Scholarship — Brendan A. Le, a third-year law student at Loyola Law School;

• LimNexus Foundation Scholarship — Jason H. Ogawa, a 2018 graudate of Thomas Jefferson School of Law;

• Justice Stephen K. Tamura Scholarship — Elyse S. Okada, a second-year law student at Southwestern Law School;

• M. Dick Osumi Civil Rights and Public Interest Scholarship — Jonathan Jung, a second-year law student at Southwestern Law School;

• Judge Edward Y. Kakita Scholarship — Sakura Kato, a third-year law student at Stanford Law School (she was unable to attend).

From left: Karyn Ihara of JABA; scholarship recipients Jason Ogawa, Jonathan Jung, Elyse Okada and Brendan Le; Allyson Sakai and Kent Wakuta of JABA.

After remarks by outgoing president Ryan M.T. Iwasaka, a partner at Greenberg Glusker LLP, the 2019-2020 board was sworn in by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Tim Saito. In addition to Madokoro and Chuck, the incoming officers are:

Vice president — Harumi Hata, of counsel with Buchalter; Emiliy Kuwahara, litigation partner with Crowell & Moring LLP;

Secretary — Staci M. Tomita, partner at Shumener, Odson & Oh LLP;

Treasurer — Kira N. Teshima, a counsel in Shepard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP’s Real Estate, Land Use and Environmental Practice;

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Tim Saito swore in the 2019-2020 board.

Also on the Board of Governors are:

Tan-Ho “Marty” Chao, legal counsel, Zenlayer Inc.;

Alex H. Fukui, staff attorney. California Bank & Trust;

Mark J. Furuya, assistant general counsel, Clark Construction Group LLC;

Diana Iketani Lorlano, founder and managing attorney, Iketani Law Corporation;

Colin M. Kawaguchi, corporate and business attorney, Nevers, Palazzo, Packard, Wildermuth & Wynner PC;

Melissa Kurata, associate, The Nourmand Law Firm APC;

Susan Roe, Los Angeles County deputy public defender;

Candice Shikai, associate, Bowman & Brooke LLP;

Douglas Sugimoto, associate general counsel, The Wonderful Company;

Mike Suzuki, division chief, Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office;

Diane Tan, retired administrative law judge;

Kenneth Tanaka, assistant general counsel, MUFG Union Bank;

Gary Tokumori, shareholder, Parker Milliken Clark O’Hara & Samuelian;

Ayano Wolff, staff attorney, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles;

Steven K. Yoda, partner, Walzer Melcher LLP;

Dennis T. Yokoyama, professor of law, Southwestern Law School;

Stephanie Yonekura, partner, Hogan Lovells US LLP;

David Yoshida, civil litigator.

Serving on the 2019 Advisory Council are:

Fred J. Fujioka, Los Angeles Superior Court judge;

Alison Matsumoto Estrada, Los Angeles Superior Court judge;

Janice Y. Fukai, Los Angeles County alternate public defender;

Ernest M. Hiroshige, Los Angeles Superior Court judge;

Paricia Kinaga, partner, Frandzel Robins bloom & Csato LC;

Gilbert M. Nishimura, Seki, Nishimura & Watase LLP;

Rose Matsui Ochi, former U.S. assistant attorney general;

Vincent H. Okamoto, Los Angeles Superior Court judge;

Fumiko Wasserman, Los Angeles Superior Court judge.

The JABA Educational Foundation opportunity raffle was conducted by Raymond Sakai, president.


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