Pioneers, Partners Recognized at JACCC Gala


From left: Phil Celia (for Ambassador Award recipient Bose Professional), Steven Morikawa (for Chairman’s Award recipient American Honda Motor Co. Inc.), JACCC CEO Leslie Ito, Community Spirit Award recipients Yasuko Sakamoto, Gordon Tani and Carol Tanita, Doug Green (Bose Professional), Pacific Pioneer Award recipients Daniel Ho and Lydia Miyashiro-Ho.

From left: Phil Celia (for Ambassador Award recipient Bose Professional), Steven Morikawa (for Chairman’s Award recipient American Honda Motor Co. Inc.), JACCC CEO Leslie Ito, Community Spirit Award recipients Yasuko Sakamoto, Gordon Tani and Carol Tanita, Doug Green (Bose Professional), Pacific Pioneer Award recipients Daniel Ho and Lydia Miyashiro-Ho.


By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — The Japanese American Cultural and Community Center celebrated its 36th anniversary with an awards dinner — themed “Discover, Connect, Cultivate, Resonate” — on June 11 at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach with a larger-than-usual crowd of 575 in attendance.


In lieu of an acceptance speech, Daniel Ho performed a couple of songs.

In lieu of an acceptance speech, Daniel Ho performed a couple of songs.


The emcee, traci kato-kiriyama of Little Tokyo’s Tuesday Night Project, noted that the backdrop created by JACCC Master Artist-in-Residence Hirokazu Kosaka — the character for “dou” (道) or “the way” — represented art forms such as kado (flower arranging), sado (tea ceremony) and shodo (calligraphy), showing “the many ways that JACCC continues its mission to promote Japanese and Japanese American culture to a diverse audience.”

The recipients of the Pacific Pioneer Award, Chairman’s Award and Ambassador Award demonstrate that “when a partnership works so well and so deeply, partners seem to become a part of your family,” kato-kiriyama said, while the Community Spirit Award honorees were chosen for “well-deserved and long-overdue recognition for their tireless efforts and significant impact on our community in the arts, activism, social services and business.”

George Tanaka, chair of the JACCC Board of Directors, gave welcoming remarks and Leslie Ito, JACCC president and CEO, presented the Pacific Pioneer Award to Daniel Ho, a six-time Grammy winner for Hawaiian music, and his wife and creative partner, Lydia Miyashiro-Ho.


Keiko Kawashima, Kurt Kuniyoshi, Haruye Ioka and Darrell Kunitomi of the Grateful Crane Ensemble sang songs about the Community Spirit Award recipients.

Keiko Kawashima, Kurt Kuniyoshi, Haruye Ioka and Darrell Kunitomi of the Grateful Crane Ensemble sang songs about the Community Spirit Award recipients.


Ho’s association with JACCC began in 1992 when the late Duane Ebata, then managing director of the Aratani Theatre, presented a show by Ho and his band, Kilauea. The honorees married on an auspicious day, 8-8-08, at the JACCC’s James Irvine Japanese Garden and held the reception on the Aratani stage, so “JACCC holds a very special place in their hearts,” Ito said.

Over the years, “Daniel and Lydia and their team … created a vibrant community-building space around the popular four-stringed instrument,” Ito added. “We hosted two Guinness World Record attempts for largest ukulele ensemble, two holiday hula shows, and trained hundreds of ukulele students.”


Emcee traci kato-kiriyama and JACCC President and CEO Leslie Ito.

Emcee traci kato-kiriyama and JACCC President and CEO Leslie Ito.


Miyashiro-Ho said that she and her husband have been “communicating emotions through sound” by, for example, sharing “the joy of music with Japanese students who were affected by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.”

“How moved we are that the JACCC is alive and well and continues to be a cornerstone for our community,” she said, expressing hope that the music will continue to “bring people together” and leave “lasting impressions for a very long time.”

Ho, who came prepared with his ukulele, joked that he is “not comfortable being the center of attention” and proceeded to play “Danny Boy” and Elton John’s “Daniel.”

Jason Arimoto, co-owner of JACCC’s U-Space and co-founder with Ho, Miyashiro-Ho and Patrice Oyama of Ukulele Creations and the L.A. Ukulele Expo, performed an original piece dedicated to the honorees. The song, which was about picture brides, was inspired by plantation life in Hawaii as well as blues music.


Dinner chair David Yamahata led the toast.

Dinner chair David Yamahata led the toast.


Tanaka presented the Chairman’s Award, which is for individuals and corporations that serve as exemplary role models through philanthropic, social and cultural activities benefiting the community at large, to American Honda Motor Co. Inc., represented by Steven Morikawa.

Since opening its first U.S. plant in 1979, Honda has demonstrated “a corporate philosophy built on the basic principles of respect for individuals and sharing joy with its customers, it employees and the greater society,” Tanaka said. “Honda is one of JACCC’s longest-standing corporate sponsors, dating back to the founding of the organization and our first capital campaign that was conducted both in Japan and the U.S.”

Tanaka also thanked Morikawa for being “an incredible community champion not just for JACCC but also the greater Nikkei community and far beyond that.”

Morikawa remarked that it felt “a little strange” to receive the award because “we all in this room should be honoring the JACCC for all they do for the community.”


Jason Arimoto performed an original ukulele piece in honor of Daniel Ho.