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Shinnen Kai and Keiro Kai at VJCC

Jesus David Orozco, aide to Councilmember Mike Bonin, presents city proclamations to the Keiro honorees.

The Venice Japanese Community Center celebrated the Year of the Dog at its 2018 Shinnen Kai and Keiro Kai on Jan. 21.

With Jeff Shimoyama serving as emcee, the program opened with a performance by Koshin Taiko, presentation of colors by Boy Scout Troop 764, shukugin by Kosui Yamamura of Kinyu Kai, and invocation by Rev. Kory Quon of Venice Hongwanji Buddhist Temple.

From left: VJCC President Wesley Shimoda (Person of the Year honoree), Jesus David Orozco (representing Councilmember Mike Bonin), Lifetime Achievement Award recipient John Ikegami, emcee Jeff Shimoyama, State Sen. Ben Allen.

Greetings were delivered by VJCC President Wesley Shimoda, Deputy Consul General Hiroki Matsuo, State Sen. Ben Allen of the 26th District, Jesus “Chuy” David Orozco on behalf of City Councilmember Mike Bonin of the 11th District, and Daniel Tamm, West L.A. area director, on behalf of Mayor Eric Garcetti.

This year’s centenarian honorees were Yoneko Itow, Chiyoko Nakamura, Douglas Nakamura and Kiyoko Shimomura.

Members of Halau Keali’i o Nalani.

Keiro honorees, who were presented with gifts as well as city and state proclamations, were Amy Cheng, Koichi Endo, Setsuko Hara, Marlene Haraga, Jean Isomoto, Hank Iwamoto, Edna Kaneshiro, Allen Klinger, Elma Lee, Betsy Marumoto, Jane Matsuoka, Alan Matsuzaki, Grace Miyoshi, Ichiro Miyoshi, Mike Murakami, Shim Nakamura, Taiji Naruo, John Nawa, Mitsuko Ota, Robert Sasamoto, Joan Silberman, Norman Tachiki, Keiko Watanabe, Mary Yamabe, Madelon Yamamoto and Yukiko Yamamoto.

VJCC’s Person of the Year award was presented by VJCC Executive Vice President Dave Hirota to Shimoda, who is in his third year as president, for his leadership, commitment and personal effort, and for facilitating improvements to the center.

VJCC officers and board members are sworn in by former Assemblymember George Nakano.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented by Shimoda to board member John Ikegami, who has been with VJCC for over 25 years, serving as president and chairman, has been instrumental in developing the center’s master building plan, and has supported all of VJCC’s major fundraisers.

Miss Western Los Angeles Jordyn Terukina helps with the door prize drawing.

Former Assemblymember George Nakano conducted the swearing-in ceremony for VJCC officers and board members, including Kevin Kunisaki, facility manager; Kelly Kato, assistant facility manager; Kelvin Uyeda, corporate secretary; Sharon Aratani, treasurer; Hitoshi Shimizu, auditor; Fusako Ogasawara, membership; Jolyn Brookes, recording and corresponding secretary; Kuni Nishiya, rental; Tom Yamaguchi, historian; Kazie Kame and Debbe Watanabe, festival co-chairs; Norm Matsubara, assistant treasurer; and Melvin Shimizu, assistant auditor.

Students from Venice Gakuen introduced themselves in Japanese.

Also serving on the board are Eric Inouye, Jack Kurihara, Ken Nagao and Rich Yang. Komon (advisors) are Nishiya, Hitoshi Shimizu, Jim Akioka and Tad Suzuki. The office manager is Joy Hong.

Hirota, who chaired the event committee, led the kampai (toast), which was followed by a taiko performance.

With Ogasawara and Donna Burns serving as emcees in Japanese and English, respectively, the entertainment program featured Halau Keali’i o Nalani, led by Kumu Keali’i Ceballos; the students of Venice Gakuen; Japanese dance by Fujima Ransei (Michiko Yamamoto) and members of Fujima Seiyumi Kai; and ukulele music by Venice Hui Akane, led by Bob Matsunaga.

Left: Fujima Ransei performs “Hokkai no Abarenbo.” Right: Kristin Akioka and Lisa Sugimoto of Fujima Seiyumi Kai perform “Hana Tegami.”

The door prize drawings were conducted by Hirota and 2017 Miss Western Los Angeles Jordyn Terukina.

Displays of calligraphy by Bunka Shodo Kai and Venice Gakuen, bonsai by Marina Bonsai Club, and shochikubai (New Year’s arrangements with pine bamboo and plum blossoms) by Satsuki Palter were on display in the hall.

Established almost 100 years ago, VJCC is located at 12448 Braddock Dr. in Los Angeles. Member organizations and their presidents are: Aikido (Tom Scheir), Boy Scout Troop 764 (Scoutmaster Mark Morimoto), Judo (Trace Nishiiyama), Karate (Ron Sugano), Kendo (Jamie Inouye), Line Dance (Noel Castle, Chris De Toskey), Pioneer Project (Eric Inouye), RAP (Sharon Aratani), Venice Gakuen (Toyoko Fujimoto), and Venice Youth Council (Kazie Kame). For more information, visit

Koshin Taiko performs “Mai Mai.”

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo

Members of Boy Scout Troop 764 conducted the flag ceremony.

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