Laurie Van Pelt Appointed Oakland County's First Woman Deputy County Executive

Congratulations to Laurie Van Pelt for being appointed as Oakland County, Michigan's first woman Deputy County Executive! Ms. Van Pelt, who was a delegate of the 2018 Japanese American Leadership Delegation, is also the first Japanese American to serve in this position. Ms. Van Pelt has worked for the county for over 40 years, serving in roles that include the Director of Management and Budget. She is a Certified Public Finance Officer, conferred by the Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada (GFOA). She is an active member of national and state associations, often serving as an expert to assist governments with common financial challenges. Click here for more details. 


Alan Nishio Receives Nisei Week Inspiration Award

Congratulations to Council Leader Alan Nishio, who received the 2019 Nisei Week Inspiration Award! Mr. Nishio, Chair of the Board of Governors of the Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC), was a delegate of the inaugural Japanese American Leadership Delegation in 2000, and has participated in USJC delegations advancing the work of nonprofit organizations in Japan following the Great East Japan Earthquake. Aside from serving on the board of LTSC for 35 years, he is also a board member for the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center and an advisory council member for Kizuna. In 2016, he was awarded “The Order of the Rising Sun with Gold Rays and Rosette” by the Government of Japan. For more information about the Nisei Week award, please click here.


Mike Bosack Named Deputy Secretary of UNCMAC

Congratulations to Mike Bosack (ELP '15) on his new role as Deputy Secretary of the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC)! Mike was previously the Deputy Chief of Government Relations at Headquarters, U.S. Forces Japan, where his team drafted and implemented the 2015 Guidelines for U.S.-Japan Defense Cooperation. He also worked as a Mansfield Fellow in the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defense, and National Diet. Prior to his tours in Japan, Mike served as a Maintenance Officer in support of Search and Rescue and, later, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Operations. Click here to read about his family's history of service (his father, Mike Bosack, is a Council Leader), and how he looks forward to contributing to lasting peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.


Kaz Maniwa to Receive Foreign Minister’s Commendation

Congratulations to USJC Senior Vice President Kaz Maniwa, who the Consulate-General of Japan in San Francisco recently named as a recipient of this year's Foreign Minister’s Commendation! Mr. Maniwa has a long history of involvement in the Japanese American community, including as a founding member of the JCYC, former Board member and president of Kimochi INC and a member of the Board of Directors of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California for 45 years. Mr. Maniwa participated in the first class of the Japanese American Leadership Delegation (JALD) Program, which is sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. Through his work at USJC, he enhances exchanges between Japan and the United States, and has led over 10 delegations to Japan, including the 2019 JALD class and the TOMODACHI-Mitsui & Co. Leadership Program (please see above).


Tomoko Kizawa Selected for Leadership Greater Chicago Fellows Program

Congratulations to Vice-Chair of the USJC Board of Directors Tomoko Kizawa on being selected for the 2020 Leadership Greater Chicago Fellows Program! This program brings together leaders from the business, nonprofit, government and education sectors to learn about civic leadership and discuss socioeconomic issues facing Chicago and the region. Alumni of this program include former first lady Michelle Obama, former senior advisor to President Barack Obama Valerie Jarrett, and former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Click here for more details. 


Hiroyuki Fujita and Quality Electrodynamics Receive the Presidential Award for Export Achievements

(L-R) U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross; QED VP of Customer Programs and Logistics John Schellenberg; QED President, CEO, and Founder Dr. Hiroyuki Fujita; and Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Gilbert Kaplan

Congratulations to Member of the USJC Board of Councilors Hiroyuki Fujita and his team for receiving the President's 2019 "E" Star Award for Exports! Dr. Fujita is the President, CEO and Founder of Quality Electrodynamics LLC (QED), which was recognized for making significant contributions to the expansion of U.S. exports. Click here for more details. 


Nobuko Saito Cleary Celebrates 150th Anniversary of First Japanese Immigrants 

Many thanks to Council Leader Nobuko Saito Cleary for providing this article! 

I was honored to be a part of a sesquicentennial celebration in June that was a major example of strong U.S.-Japan relations. The American River Conservancy honored the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants on U.S. soil.

On June 8, 1869, a group of Japanese colonists from Aizu-Wakamatsu, Japan, arrived in Gold Hill, California to start a tea and silk farm. They were samurai, farmers, craftsmen and their families, including a 17-year-old girl named Okei Ito. They brought from home thousands of mulberry trees (used for the cultivation of silk worms), tea plant seeds, fruit tree saplings, paper and oil plants, rice, bamboo and other crops to establish the Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony. 

Unfortunately, the enterprise was short-lived, as there was a serious drought, and the water became contaminated with iron sulfate. The fate of only a few Wakamatsu colonists is currently known. Some may have returned to Japan and others have descendants here. Okei-san rests in peace today at Wakamatsu Farm, and is recognized as the first Japanese woman and immigrant buried on American soil.

It was my honor to serve as the Director of the Wakamatsu Japanese Committee, working on many activities and events held over the course of three days. I was grateful for the help of Japanese Government officials, including Consul General Tomochika Uyama. This celebration welcomed many dignitaries and guests from Japan, including the Honorable Matsudaira Chikamori, the 15th Aizu Matsudaira; Mr. Tokugawa Iehiro, the heir to the 19th Tokugawa Shogun Family; the Honorable Oguma Shinji, a member of the House of Representatives in Japan; and the Honorable Kevin Kiley, California State Assemblyman.

Nobuko Saito Cleary (right) at Wakamatsu Fest 150 with (from left) Mr. Tokugawa, Mr. Matsudaira, Ms. Lobach and Dr. Cleary

I appreciated the many Japanese Americans who participated or volunteered to make this ambitious project successful. Additionally, there were many supporters and sponsors, including the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California, the Japan Society of Northern California, Hitachi and Dr. Gary Cleary.

We had a full program that included speeches and performances, a presentation of memorial plaques, as well as introductions of a few descendants. We printed the program so that the large contingent from Aizu would have a commemorative remembrance. Special services at the grave of Okei-san involved ministers from the Northern California Koyasan Temple, Daikokuji and the Sacramento Buddhist Church Hongwanji Betsuin.

Today, this significant site is a Registered Historic Landmark (#815) and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It was an exciting undertaking to commemorate the first Japanese immigrants who bravely traveled to a foreign country. Their actions left a legacy that was acknowledged by all in attendance, recognizing that this was a significant start to what we now celebrate as a successful relationship between the United States and Japan.


Ron Ohata Receives Community Spirit Award; JACCC Dinner Features Many More Members and Sponsors

Ron Ohata with his family: Associate and ELP '14 Lauren Ohata and Council Leader Fujie Ohata (Photo by Joel Chang)

Congratulations to Council Leader Ron Ohata for receiving the 2019 Community Spirit Award from the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC)! He was recognized for his work in the Japanese American community, including serving as the President of the Japanese American Bar Association and Legal Counsel of the JACL Pacific Southwest District, and helping build the Teramachi Housing for seniors. Aside from Ron's wife Fujie and daughter Lauren, who are both USJC members, many familiar faces were at JACCC’s 39th Anniversary Celebration & Awards Dinner, which took place on June 8. USJC sponsors The Toshizo Watanabe Foundation, The Terasaki Family Foundation, and MUFG Union Bank were all recipients of the 2019 Chairman Award. Many more members were among the dinner organizers and guests. (Associate and ELP '13 Craig Ishii was a recipient of last year's Community Spirit Award, for his work with Kizuna and other organizations.) Congratulations to everyone!


Congratulations to Lori Matsukawa on Her Retirement


Congratulations to Council Leader and KING 5 anchor Lori Matsukawa, who retired earlier this month. Click here or on the image above to see some of her favorite moments from her 36 years at the station. These highlights include "Prisoners in Their Own Land," a special report produced by Ms. Matsukawa, which commemorated 75 years since the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII, and a report on the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake (a piece about her trip to Fukushima that was facilitated by World in Tohoku, a nonprofit organization founded by USJC Associate (and ELP '14) Mio Yamamoto).


Wendy Shiba Receives 2019 Warren Christopher Values Award

Congratulations to Council Leader Wendy Shiba for receiving the 2019 Warren Christopher Values Award from her former employer, the law firm O'Melveny & Myers! This award is a celebration of O'Melveny's core values of uncompromising excellence, distinctive leadership, and superior citizenship, and recognizes the contribution the firm's alumni make to the legal, business and public service communities they serve. 


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