Photos by Toyo Miyatake Studio

THANK YOU TO OUR 37th anniversary celebration sponsors!

For a full listing of last year's Anniversary Celebration sponsors, please click here.



Suntory Group is a global leader in consumer packaged goods, producing and distributing a uniquely diverse portfolio of brewed teas, bottled water, carbonated drinks, ready to drink coffee, energy drinks and wellness products as well as premium spirits, beer and wine. Founded as a family-owned business in 1899 in Osaka, Japan, we are driven by our founder’s “Yatte Minahare” spirit–the spirit of bold ambition. Our 38,000 employees worldwide draw upon our unique blend of Japanese artisanship and global tastes to explore new product categories and markets.

For more than 100 years, Suntory has maintained our legacy and promise of living in harmony with people and nature through our commitment to protecting water resources, nurturing our communities and fostering the arts. Our global tagline, Follow Your Nature®, invites our employees, partners and customers to be true to themselves, embrace the unknown, and give back more than they take. We believe that together, we can grow for good when we stay true to ourselves and pursue the paths that nature intended.

Suntory has had the honor to enjoy a long-time relationship with the JACCC, dating back to its founding. Collaboration is still active nowadays with examples such as the creation of the “Suntory Terrace” last year at the JACCC office.

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The Japanese Restaurant Association of America was established in California on August 24, 1999 as a non-profit organization under the name Japanese Restaurant Association of Southern California. Roots of the organization date back to 1997 when many establishments throughout Little Tokyo and the greater Los Angeles area faced questions and problems with fully understanding the various laws and regulations of regarding Immigration, Labor Board, Alcoholic Beverage Control, and Los Angeles County of Public Health. During this time, many members of the Little Tokyo community including Little Tokyo Business Association (LTBA), Japanese wholesale companies, Japanese hotels (such as Miyako Hotel and The New Otani Hotel), and Japan Food Manufacturers’ Association (Hichimikai), helped to provide a network of support to tackle the issues pertaining to the food and beverage industry. Mr. Teruo Imaizumi and Mr. David Kudo worked with these organizations to establish JRA, and became its first Chairman and Executive Director, respectively.

Since its inauguration, JRA has grown and added specialized committees to educate its members on advancement of culinary techniques, restaurant management, and food safety management, along with providing the resources of appointed lawyers, accountants, and healthcare providers to assist its members when questions or problems arise. Furthermore, the Japanese Restaurant Association has received the support of and nurtured strong relationships with the Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles and various non-profit organizations such as the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California, Japanese Prefectural Association of Southern California, Japan Business Association, Japanese Food Culture Association, Nisei Week Foundation, Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, and the LA Nebutabayashi Hozonkai.

In 2006, the late Mr. Isao Hatano, who held the position as an instructor for The Association for the Advancement of the Japanese Culinary Art, took on the role as JRA’s president and helped to broaden the knowledge of culinary techniques among the JRA members. Later in 2012, JRA held a traditional Japanese knife ceremony (Hochoshiki) for the first time in Southern California and successfully showcased Japanese traditions through the art of Japanese cuisine.

At the annual JRA Food Festival, nearly 1200 guests, most of whom are non-Japanese, witness the Bluefin tuna filleting demonstration as they enjoy the tastes of Japan through items like nigiri sushi, ramen, soba, tempura, Japanese sake, and Japanese beer, which is something unimaginable 18 years ago when JRA was first founded. Currently there are approximately 25,000 Japanese restaurants in the U.S. and growing. JRA hopes to continue to provide these restaurants with guidance that is relevant to the current regulations while also educating the American audience through Japanese cuisine.

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Beth Fujishige is a dynamic leader and passionate volunteer.  From her days as Undergraduate Administrative Vice President at UCLA to the present, she continues to promote Japanese culture through activities at Orange County Buddhist Church (Obon, Hanamatsuri, Girls’ Day, Project Kokoro) and serves on its Board of Directors.   Beth played an active role in planning the Nihon Waso Gakuen Japanese Kimono Festival and coordinated Rotarians to participate in Walk the Farm to assist Japan farmers devastated by the Tohoku tsunami.

For ten years, Beth chaired the Cherry Blossom Freedom Walk National Japanese American Memorial in DC. Beth was the founder of Nen Daiko, Ekoji Buddhist Temple’s Taiko Drum Ensemble and was editor of Ekoji’s 25th Anniversary Cookbook, introducing Japanese dishes to an ethnically mixed congregation.. She also served on the JACL DC Chapter board.  Most recently, Beth is the project manager for the Tomodachi Bento Project, an all-volunteer meals program serving Japanese and Japanese American homebound seniors in Orange County.

In her spare time, Beth is a Big with the OC Big Brothers Big Sisters program mentoring Jassmin, a 10 year old student that Beth hopes will someday be the first in her family to attend college.


Dr. Kanji Sahara was born in Hiroshima and came to Los Angeles when he was half year old. During WWII, his family was in Santa Anita, Jerome and Rohwer. In 1945, his family resettled in Chicago. He received a BS in Electrical Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology and PhD from Northwestern University. 

Dr. Sahara worked for General Dynamics in Pomona and was an Engineering Supervisor. He and  wife Jane (Sakata) raised Richard and Judy in Claremont. Kanji was President of the East San Gabriel Valley Japanese Community Center.   

Upon his retirement Kanji and Jane moved to Torrance. With his ukulele, he has been leading the Sing-A-Long at the Gardena Adult Day Care Center for 16 years. He received the Gardena Volunteer of the Year Award in 2013.

Kanji belongs to GLA JACL, NCRR, Manzanar Committee, Faith UMC and a JANM docent. He was Project Director of the Tuna Canyon Traveling Exhibit.

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Evelyn Yoshimura was born in Denver where her family moved after serving time in the Poston Arizona concentration camp. When she was 4, they returned to L.A. moving into an apartment in Jefferson Park. Thanks to racial covenants being struck down by the Fair Housing Act, they were able to buy a house in the Crenshaw District where she grew up.

She came of age in the 1960s, fighting for Ethic Studies on campus in the 1960s. She joined others protesting abuses of redevelopment in the 1970s. And in the 1980s, she joined the fight against U.S. support for South African apartheid and for redress for World War 2 imprisonment helping pass the 1987 redress bill.

Today, she still works at Little Tokyo Service Center bringing other stakeholders together to maintain community control over the rapidly-gentrifying Little Tokyo.

She lives in Mid City with her husband, and near her daughter, son-in-law and 3-year-old grandson.


Learn more about the Community Spirit Award, its recipients over the years, and more here.


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traci kato-kiriyama is an award-winning artist, community organizer, and cultural producer; educator and current Teaching Artist-in-Residence for Grand Park; Arts & Culture Consultant for NeighborWorks America; Director/Co-Founder of Tuesday Night Project (recognized by USA Today and LA Weekly for their 19 year-old Tuesday Night Cafe art+community series); and is a staunch supporter/member of groups & initiatives including Nikkei Progressives, Okaeri Nikkei LGBTQ Network, and the Budokan of Los Angeles (BoLA).  As a steering committee member for VigilantLOVE, she recently conceived and co-created (with Kathy Masaoka, Sahar Pirzada and traci ishigo) a complete re-write of the Civilian Exclusion Order of Instructions to All Persons of Japanese Ancestry (performed for the 75th anniversary of E.O. 9066 at this year's Manzanar Pilgrimage).  Alongside community partners NCRR (Nikkei for Civil Rights & Redress), she and PULLproject Ensemble partner, Kennedy Kabasares, are in the second stage of development for their play Tales of Clamor - which utilizes 1981 CWRIC Hearing film footage as a case study in their exploration of compounded silence & collective noise on the path to creating change and getting people to "show up."  As an author for Writ Large Press, traci continues to transform the manuscript for her next book project, which she looks forward to release at some point in 2018.


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Established in Los Angeles in 2001, the Grateful Crane Ensemble is a non-profit theater group that has been paying tribute to our Issei and Nisei pioneers by telling their stories and singing their songs. For 15 years, their mission has been to present educational and theatrical programs in appreciation for the unique hardships and inspiring contributions of Japanese Americans in our country’s history. Through popular shows such as “The Camp Dance: The Music & The Memories,” “Nihonmachi: The Place to Be,” “Natsukashi no Kouhaku Uta Gassen” and “Misora Hibari: A Tribute to a Legend,” Grateful Crane educates, enlightens and entertains the community about who we are and where we come from, and honors our elders for paving the way for all of us to follow.   


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Linda Igarashi, a California native and UCLA grad, has been in numerous shows with San Gabriel Valley Music Theatre, many productions with East West Players, Sacramento Music Circus,  the Broadway revival tour of The King and I, the original L.A. company of Beauty and The Beast, the original Canadian company of Miss Saigon, and James Clavell's Shogun, The Musical on Broadway.  She can also be seen in the Oscar winning short film Visas and Virtue.  Happy Anniversary JACCC!


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Musical Direction: Grateful Crane Ensemble, LosAKAtombros (jazz band), Japanese American National Museum, The Children's Museum of Los Angeles, East West Players, Keiro Nursing and Retirement Homes, numerous community organizations. Composer film: Enviromental Defenders, Visas & Virtue, Pawns of the King, Day of Independence.  Discography: Shaku Horaku-Diva Collaborations 2010-2013, I Saw Baachan Kissing Santa Claus, Nihonmachi, BookSongs, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Celebrating Children's Books, East West Players Sings Sondheim. Recently performed in Hiroshima, Japan with Keiko Kawashima - From Trinity to Hiroshima and Beyond, The Nuclear Age Through the Eyes of the Atomic Photographers Guild - featuring photographs by Patrick Nagatani.


Danny Yamamoto (Taiko, drums, percussion) is a drummer, percussionist, Taiko player and one of the founding members of the Asian American jazz group Hiroshima.  Hiroshima has recorded over 15 albums and continues to tour throughout the world.  Along with many others, Danny has also had the pleasure of working with East/West Players, Nobuko Miyamoto, Kinnara Taiko, composer Hans Zimmer, bassist Nedra Wheeler, and The Grateful Crane Ensemble.

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Taiji Miyagawa, bassist, studied classical and flamenco guitar as a child before discovering a connection between his experiences as a Japanese American and the music of African Americans, from the blues and eventually, jazz.  

During and after undergraduate work at the University of California at San Diego, he began playing the bass while collaborating extensively with the late composer and pianist, Glenn Horiuchi as they fused the artistic sensibilities of Thelonious Monk, Cecil Taylor and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians with Japanese taiko rhythms and traditional Japanese melodic structures. Miyagawa recorded three albums with Horiuchi: “Next Step,” “Issei Spirit,” and “Manzanar Voices.”

He has also performed music within the context of small theater productions and has engaged in works with performance artists and poets such as Philip Kan Gotanda, Amy UyematsuNobuko MiyamotoLawson Fusao InadaDenise UyeharaAkilah Nayo Oliver and others.



Keiko Kawashima is a singer, actress and dancer. She is a founding member of the Grateful Crane Ensemble. Stage credits include: A Seed: Ichi-Ryu Manbai; Misora Hibari - A Tribute to a Legend; Nihonmachi: The Place To Be; The J-Town Jazz Club; Sadako’s Paper Cranes and Lessons of Peace; Natsukashi No Kouhaku Uta Gassen; Project Momotaro; and The Camp Dance: The Music & The Memories. She has performed at local community events for numerous organizations including: Kei-Ai Los Angeles Healthcare Center; Sakura Gardens; Nikkei Senior Gardens; Consulate General of Japan in Los Angeles; Go For Broke; JACCC; JANM; Nisei Week; and, Nanka Mie Kenjinkai. She performs in Japan often, and enjoys serving as a “bridge” between Japanese Americans in the U.S. and the people of Japan; and furthermore, building that connection through music and art.

Click here for more information and a video about our 36th Anniversary Celebration that took place on June 11, 2016.