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JACCC to Honor Community Spirit Award Recipients

The Japanese American Cultural & Community Center will hold its 39th Anniversary Celebration and Awards Dinner on Saturday, June 8, at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach, 200 S. Pine Ave. in Long Beach.

Silent auction starts at 5 p.m., followed by dinner and program at 6:30 p.m.

This year’s theme is “Kanpai! A Toast to Culinary Arts.” JACCC’s Toshizo Watanabe Culinary Cultural Center is scheduled to be completed in December.

For the eighth year, JACCC will present the Community Spirit Award. This year’s recipients, who were nominated by the public, are traci kato-kiriyama, Dorothy Matsuoka, and Ronald N. Ohata. The award shines a spotlight on the unsung heroes who are making a significant impact in the community through arts, activism, social services, or business.

As previously announced. the JACCC Chairman’s Award will be presented to the Toshizo Watanabe Foundation, the Terasaki Family Foundation, and MUFG Union Bank. The award recognizes individuals and organizations that serve as exemplary role models through their philanthropic, social, and cultural activities benefiting the community.

Grateful Crane Ensemble will return with its popular “Unsung Hero” songs for the recipients. Performers are Haruye Ioka, Keiko Kawashima, Darell Kunitomi, and Kurt Kuniyoshi.

The master of ceremonies will be Frank Buckley, KTLA 5 Morning News anchor.

Music will be provided by the 39th Anniversary Dinner Band — Scott Nagatani, Gordon Bash, David Cheung, and Kawashima.

There will be a Nihon buyo (Japanese classical dance) performance by Bando Hidesomi.

In addition to the silent auction, there will be a live auction of two items, a Viking cruise and “Cook Drink Eat” Spain culinary tour.

A few table sponsorships and tickets are available. Visit for more information or contact Helen Ota at (213) 628-2725.

Profiles of Honorees

Traci kato-kiriyama is an award-winning artist, community organizer, and cultural producer. An actor and principal writer for PULLproject Ensemble, she has received recognition from several institutions, including the Exchange and Continuation awards from the Network of Ensemble Theaters. Their most recent show, “Tales of Clamor,” is a theatrical call to action and a journey of when deafening silence evolves to collective noise. The play utilizes circus, movement and multimedia including archival video footage from the 1981 hearings of the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.

“Tales of Clamor” just had its world premiere, produced by the JACCC in the Aratani Theatre Black Box, playing to a wide spectrum, from a deeply diverse Nikkei audience and dedicated theater-goers to members of Muslim, Jewish and POC communities, to the literary, activist, and circus communities.

She is a steering committee member of Vigilant Love, member of Nikkei Progressives, former staff of the Japanese American National Museum and Little Tokyo Service Center, and current director and co-founder of Tuesday Night Project, presenter of the art+community series Tuesday Night Cafe, now in its 21st year and the longest-running Asian American mic series in the country.

Kato-kiriyama was the springtime teaching artist-in-residence for Grand Park, artist-in-residence for the Asian American Resource Center at Pomona College, and a guest lecturer at Pitzer College. Over the last two decades, she has toured to hundreds of venues throughout the country, including the Getty Foundation, Skirball Cultural Center, and Ford Amphitheater’s Inside The Ford, all in L.A.; the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.; LaMaMa Cabaret in New York City; Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco; Asian Arts Initiative in Philadelphia; and EnWave Theatre in Toronto.

Her writing and work have been featured by numerous media outlets and publishers, including NPR, PBS, C-SPAN,, The Hollywood Reporter, Entropy, Regent Press, Heyday Books, Tia Chucha Press, and Chapparal Canyon Press. Her forthcoming book of writing and poetry will be released by Writ Large Press.

Dorothy Matsuoka grew up in a small rural town in Central California named Reedley. It was a very community-spirited place. Her friends and activities were centered between church and community. She carried that with her when she moved to Southern California and went to CSU Long Beach, graduating with a BS in physical therapy. She married and has three sons.

Starting out at Orange County Buddhist Church, she wanted her boys to have a sense of community and culture. There were very many opportunities to join in activities there. She became a Sunday School teacher and has continued to work with Dharma School for over 25 years. She enjoyed working with the seniors and joined Project Kokoro. Later she developed a craft workshop, a place for seniors to gather, make projects, and to raise funds for OCBC.

While working with OCBC, Matsuoka was introduced to Keiro and its many programs. She worked to share educational opportunities that Keiro offered as a partnership with the Japanese American community. Later she trained to be a Memory Kai and Matter of Balance trainer. Currently she is working with the Nikkei Network group to expand Keiro’s role in the Orange County Japanese American community.

She loves keeping busy with travel, crafts, family and friends. Eating and cooking are favorite hobbies along with reading and watching TV.

She wants to thank her friends and peers for this humbling nomination.

Ronald Noboru Ohata was born in Nagoya and immigrated with his family to the Uptown area of Los Angeles at the age of three. While his mother was Yamaguchi-ken- born, his Nisei father and Issei grandfather had been deported to Japan in 1946. Upon their return to L.A., they reunited with the half of the family that remained. His parents owned Fumi and Fuji Cafés, which served as centers of the Nikkei community.

Ohata was student body president at Berendo Junior High School and Los Angeles High School. At UCLA and UC Hastings School of Law in San Francisco, he was involved in the activism of the era, including ensuring that affirmative action programs remained intact.

As a lawyer, Ohata practiced primarily in the public sector. He was a Los Angeles County deputy district attorney, then a trial attorney for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, a lawyer in private practice, and a federal immigration judge. In the latter capacity, he demonstrated public service with compassion and fairness. He participated in pro bono programs and mentored immigration lawyers.

He was active in the Japanese American Bar Association (1978-1995) serving on its board and as president; served with the American Bar Association’s National Institute of Minority Lawyers (1980-82); and served as the initial chair of the national Asian bar.

He was active in JACL Pacific Southwest District, serving as their legal counsel (1985-1994) and Pacific Citizen board chair. He provided pro bono services to the Nisei Week Committee and was an early supporter of the Japan-America Student Conference, UCLA Asian Support Group, JACCC, JANM, the U.S.-Japan Council, Women’s Eye, and Kizuna.

Ohata’s singular efforts from 1985 to 2007 to build the Teramachi Housing for seniors served as a catalyst for housing and economic development in Little Tokyo and bridged the surrounding Arts District and Downtown Historic Core.

His volunteer efforts with the Southern and Eastern District Buddhist Council, Buddhist Churches of America, and Ekoji and Senshin Buddhist temples contributed to the religious sustainability of the Japanese American Buddhist community.

Ohata’s compassionate and passionate commitment of service to the community, both to organizations and to individuals, and his quietly identifying a problem and working towards a solution helped sustain his community and created opportunities for others to succeed. With him in this effort are his wife, Fujie, and his daughter, Lauren.

The Toshizo Watanabe Foundation. President Toshizo (Tom) Watanabe was born in Zushi, Kanagawa Prefecture, in 1949. While studying at Keio University, he received scholarships to study at Brandeis University in Massachusetts from the founder of Panasonic, Konosuke Matsuhita, and the Wien International Scholarship Program. He graduated from Brandeis in 1973 with a degree in political science and subsequently moved back to Japan to become a successful independent businessman for many years, owning several international businesses.

In 1984, Watanabe joined Nikken Japan as the director of training. Five years into his position at Nikken, he directed the formation of the U.S. Nikken subsidiary. In 1988, he attended the Wein 30th anniversary celebration of its scholarship program, an event that shaped the rest of his career.

At the celebration, Watanabe heard the speech of the late Lawrence Wien, who established the scholarship program. “That is when a seed was planted for me,” Watanabe said. “Since then, I have always wanted to repay the Wien family’s generosity by helping other students.”

In 1992, he earned his MBA from Pepperdine University and also became the president of Nikken USA, which he was overseeing, and further saw the expansion of the firm into 30 other nations. Fifteen years into his career at Nikken, he became the president and CEO of Nikken International.

Watanabe was able to continue the spirit of paying it forward and contributed to researchers of the Magnetic Health Science Foundation in Japan, now the Watanabe Foundation. His educational opportunities abroad framed his philanthropic efforts and in 2008, he established the Toshizo Watanabe Foundation in the U.S. and the Watanabe Trust Fund at the National University of Iceland to support young students and scholars.

To further give to the education sector, in late 2015, Watanabe contributed $10 million of his personal funds to the U.S.-Japan Council to establish the Toshizo Watanabe Endowed Scholarship Program, providing financial assistance to undergraduate students for a term or year-long study abroad program in the U.S. or Japan.

Two years later, in December 2017, he established the Toshizo Watanabe Fellowship Program through another $10 million endowment gift to the Inter-University Center (IUC), which is located in Yokohama, for Japanese language studies at Stanford University, providing student scholarships for the world-renowned language institute.

In May 2018, through The Toshizo Watanabe Foundation, Watanabe gave a generous $2 million gift to the JACCC towards its culinary initiative in establishing the Toshizo Watanabe Culinary Cultural Center. The initiative supports JACCC’s mission in being an epicenter for Japanese and Japanese American arts and culture, connecting the traditional and the contemporary, and serving diverse communities in Southern California and beyond.

Last November, he also established the Toshizo Watanabe International Scholarship Program (TWISP) at Brandeis University, his alma mater, to provide students from Japan with the opportunity to study there. In March, Watanabe received the Alumni Achievement Award from Brandeis University at the Wien 60th Anniversary Celebration, marking all of his contributions towards education and providing the opportunity to strengthen U.S.-Japan relations.

Watanabe is currently busy running the Toshizo Watanabe Foundation, strengthening ties between Japan and the U.S. through education and arts.

Terasaki Family Foundation. Dr. Paul Terasaki was born in 1929 in Los Angeles, the oldest of three sons. His early years were at times difficult. As a result of Executive Order 9066, he and family were forced to move to the Gila River internment camp in Arizona, where they lived there for three years. When the war ended, they moved to Chicago rather than return to Los Angeles because of anti-Japanese sentiment on the West Coast.

Terasaki finished high school and then enrolled at the University of Illinois. In 1948, when the family felt it was safe to move back to Los Angeles, he transferred to UCLA to complete his degree in zoology. While working towards his doctorate, Terasaki met his wife, Hisako, was married, and had a child.

In 1956, Terasaki earned his Ph.D. His career in transplant began when he was hired by the UCLA Department of Surgery to study the success of skin graft transplants on newborn chicks. When Terasaki entered the field of organ transplant in 1956, it was in its infancy. Today, he is known as a pioneer in transplant, but in 1956, he, like everyone else, was trying to figure it all out.

In 1957-1958, Terasaki worked as a scholar in London in Professor Peter Medawar’s laboratory. These years were, in his words, “the most significant time of my entire life.” After his time in London, he returned to UCLA as a researcher and began his antibody research with chickens, then in mice and rabbits, and eventually, in 1963, in humans. Among his most notable contributions to the field of organ transplant, he developed the microcytotoxicity test in 1964; by 1970 it became the international standard.

Terasaki was later promoted to professor of surgery, a rare exception as he had a Ph.D., unlike the MDs that most other faculty members of the surgery department had. He held that position from 1969-1999. Terasaki valued his collaboration with other transplant centers and through his collaboration established the Kidney Transplant Registry, which would eventually become the United Network for Organ Sharing registry.

Terasaki established the Nibei Foundation, a California nonprofit organization, in 1998. His vision included providing various forms of support to medical researchers and physicians coming from Japan to engage in medical activities at U.S. institutions. The foundation has become a hub of cultural exchanges for people with deep, fond roots in America and Japan.

Although he retired from his position at UCLA in 1999, Terasaki continued his work in transplant research and specifically, the role of antibodies in transplant, with the establishment in April 2000 of the Terasaki Foundation Laboratory (TFL). He published more than 900 scientific articles and trained some 100 postdoctoral scholars at UCLA. He received many awards, including the prestigious Medawar Prize. The prize recognizes the outstanding investigators whose contributions have had a profound influence on the field of organ transplantation. It is universally considered to be commensurate with the most outstanding world prizes for scientific achievement. Terasaki was also awarded the UCLA Medal, the campus’s highest honor, in 2012.

His children have spent a total of 22 years at UCLA. His first son, Mark, earned a bachelor’s degree from UCLA and a doctorate from UC Berkeley; his second son, Keith, earned bachelor’s and medical degrees from UCLA; and his daughter Emiko earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UCLA (and a medical degree from Brown University). Terasaki’s third son, Taiji, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees at UC Irvine.

Forever grateful for the opportunities afforded him by UCLA, Dr. Terasaki wanted to be both institutionally and physically closer to his alma mater. He entered into an affiliation agreement with UCLA that resulted in the creation of the Terasaki Research Institute in Westwood.

In 2010, the Terasaki family gave $50 million to the Division of Life Sciences in the UCLA College of Letters and Science, the largest gift ever given to the UCLA college and among the largest received by the university in its 91-year history.

Terasaki’s generosity to UCLA goes back many years and covers many parts of the university. In 2001, he established an endowed chair in U.S.–Japan relations, and in 2006, he and his wife contributed $5 million to UCLA to promote better understanding between the U.S. and Japan at the renamed Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies at the UCLA International Institute.

Terasaki’s philanthropy extended to the Japanese American community. He was a major donor to organizations including the Japanese American National Museum and the JACCC.

Until his death in January 2016, Dr. Terasaki continued to impact the field of organ transplant through his dedication to research and desire to improve transplant outcomes. The Terasaki Research Institute will continue the work of Dr. Terasaki to address the barriers to long-term success in the field of organ transplantation.

Dr. Terasaki is survived by his wife Hisako; their four children, Mark, Keith, Taiji, and Emiko; six grandchildren, Mayumi, Paul, Kazuo, Susie, Kenta and Miya; and his brother, Richard.

MUFG Union Bank. The U.S. operations of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. (MUFG), one of the world’s leading financial groups, has total assets of $337.4 billion at Dec. 31, 2018. As part of that total, MUFG Americas Holdings Corporation (MUAH), a financial holding company, bank holding company and intermediate holding company, has total assets of $168.1 billion at Dec. 31, 2018. MUAH’s main subsidiaries are MUFG Union Bank, N.A. and MUFG Securities Americas Inc.

MUFG Union Bank, N.A. provides a wide range of financial services to consumers, small businesses, middle-market companies, and major corporations. As of Dec. 31, 2018, the bank operated 352 branches, consisting primarily of retail banking branches in the West Coast states, along with commercial branches in Texas, Illinois, New York and Georgia, as well as 22 PurePoint Financial Centers.

MUFG Securities Americas Inc. is a registered securities broker-dealer that engages in capital markets origination transactions, private placements, collateralized financings, securities borrowing and lending transactions, and domestic and foreign debt and equities securities transactions.

MUAH is owned by MUFG Bank, Ltd. and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. MUFG Bank, Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc., has offices in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, and Canada. Visit or for more information.

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