Seven SoCal Kunsho Recipients Recognized


At the head table: (seated, from left) Honorees Shinkichi Koyama, Hiroo Kanamori, Minoru Tonai, Toshio Handa, Peter O’Malley, Jan Perry, Yukio Tatsumi; (standing, from left) Fumiko Koyama, Keiko Kanamori, Mary Tonai, Mel Tatsumi, Toshiko Handa, Consul General Harry Horinouchi, Sabine Horinouchi, JCCF President Yoshio Lee Aoki.

At the head table: (seated, from left) Honorees Shinkichi Koyama, Hiroo Kanamori, Minoru Tonai, Toshio Handa, Peter O’Malley, Jan Perry, Yukio Tatsumi; (standing, from left) Fumiko Koyama, Keiko Kanamori, Mary Tonai, Mel Tatsumi, Toshiko Handa, Consul General Harry Horinouchi, Sabine Horinouchi, JCCF President Yoshio Lee Aoki.


By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer

More than 300 people turned out for the 2015 Jokun Recognition Community Luncheon, held by the Japanese Chamber of Commerce Foundation on June 14 at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello.

The honorees were seven Southern Californians who received the Kunsho from the Japanese government during the past year.

“In the fall of 2014, only 57 were awarded, and in the spring of 2015, 85 recipients were acknowledged, and they represented 30 countries and territories, so we’re very honored and very fortunate to have these leaders with us,” said JCCF Vice President Grace Shiba. “… Decorations are conferred upon foreigners twice a year on April 29 and Nov. 3, concurrently with the conferment of decorations and medals to Japanese nationals.”

The recipients are individuals who have made outstanding contributions, including “promotion of exchanges between Japan and other countries in fields such as research, education, medicine and social welfare, economy and industry, and culture and sports,” Shiba explained.

The event began with the singing of the U.S. and Japanese national anthems by Keiko Takeshita. A moment of silence was observed for recipients who have passed away, and 14 past recipients in the audience were recognized.

The honorees were introduced by JCCF Auditor Howard Miyoshi and Vice President Kitty Sankey, and each received a commemorative plaque from President Yoshio Lee Aoki.


kanamori headshot

Kanamori’s research has led to the development of systems to help reduce seismic disaster and also contributed to the spread of earthquake early warning and alarm systems. He served as president of the Seismological Society of America in 1985 and is currently emeritus professor at Cal Tech, continuing his research and its application to hazard mitigation.

Recalling his years at University of Tokyo and Cal Tech, Kanamori said, “Working in a very different culture and very different environment … has been really wonderful. At the same time … seismology made a very good advance, so regardless of my contribution, seismology has really become a very useful discipline.”

He thanked everyone “who helped me enjoy doing research” for the past five decades.


handa headshot

During his tenure as president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California, he raised $560,000 for victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake, and he has continued to visit the disaster area each year. As president of the Japanese Community Pioneer Center since last year, he has provided services for the elderly, including the Nikkei Helpline.

Handa has also contributed to Chado Urasenke Tankokai Orange County Association, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, Little Tokyo Community Council, Japanese Prefectural Association of Southern California, Beikoku Shodo Kenkyukai, L.A. Tokyo-kai, Taisho Club, and Japan America Society of Southern California.

“Receiving a Kunsho is a great honor and I am humbled,” Handa said. “However, I am most honored and rewarded by many, many kind words of friendship and encouragement by so many of wonderful friends like you … I want to continue my modest efforts in the community and I would appreciate your continued presence and friendship with me …

“I want to thank my parents — my father in heaven, my mother in Tokyo, 97 years old now but still healthy, fortunately — for giving me this one life and raising me to be healthy and to work in the community.

“I also want to thank my one and only wife, Toshiko. This year for us is the 50th year since we met for the first time back in 1965 in Tokyo … quite a long time. So I’m thankful that she has been with me all that time without ever kicking me out.”


Jan Perry receives her award from JCCF President Yoshio Lee Aoki.

Jan Perry receives her award from JCCF President Yoshio Lee Aoki.


• Jan Perry received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays. A graduate of USC, she worked as a legislative aide to three Los Angeles City Council members before being elected to the council herself in 2001, representing the 9th Council District, which included Little Tokyo. She advocated for services benefiting constituents and fought to preserve and promote Japanese culture and Japanese American history.

Under her leadership, public safety, infrastructure and the landscape in Little Tokyo were significantly improved. She brought the Regional Connector project to Little Tokyo, supported development plans for the Budokan, supported construction and maintenance of the Go For Broke Monument, was instrumental in gaining the city’s backing for development of the Japanese American National Museum, and has been actively involved in Nisei Week.

Perry organized a fundraising event for victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan and has actively promoted Los Angeles’ sister-city relations with Nagoya, which she visited in 2009 to discuss economic and urban development policies.

“I reflect back on the afternoon that I spent at the [consul general’s]official residence receiving this medal, and I still get very emotional when I talk about it because it was such a special moment for me to be recognized by the community in front of my family and my friends,” Perry said.

Representing Little Tokyo has been one of the high points “in my life as a councilwoman but even more so as a friend and advocate,” she continued. “My friendship and relationship with the community does and will continue for as long as you will let me. I currently serve as a board member at the JACCC and I still each year practice my ondo steps, which I hope to get better every year.”

During the photo montage preceding the presentation, Perry said, she was “very touched” to see a picture of herself with her late friend Frances Hashimoto at Nisei Week “because she was always my guide each year.”


tatsumi headshot

The couple operated the Oriental Food Market in Long Beach from 1956 to 1982