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 JACCC.org/kanpai for more information or contact Helen Ota at (213) 628-2725.

Profiles of Honorees


“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, Elle.com, 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.


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.


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.


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