U.S.-Japan Council Mourns the Loss of Nikkei Great George Aratani

Washington, D.C. - The U.S.-Japan Council was deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Mr. George Aratani on February 19, 2013.

Aratani was well known for successfully launching post-World War II international trade enterprises including Mikasa Inc., a tableware company which was doing $400 million in annual sales when it was sold in 2000 and later, Kenwood.

He is also known for his philanthropic contributions. The year Mikasa, Inc. went public on the New York Stock Exchange in 1994, Aratani and his wife Sakaye launched the Aratani Foundation. The foundation has supported dozens of Japanese American organizations and programs including the Japanese American National Museum, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center and recently, they made a generous contribution to the U.S.-Japan Council Earthquake Relief Fund.

Aratani was an early supporter of USJC and served on the U.S.-Japan Council Board of Councilors. He was of great inspiration to USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye.

“George was another legend in fostering U.S.-Japan relations and his loss is a difficult one for so many of us that knew him well,” Hirano Inouye said. “My knowledge about U.S.-Japan relations was greatly influenced by George who led the Museum’s successful Japan Campaign in the 1990s and taught me a great deal about Japan,” she continued.

U.S.-Japan Council Chairman Thomas Iino provided a reflection on Aratani's contributions to strengthening the U.S.-Japan relationship through people-to-people connections.

"George Aratani’s success as a business leader and his enormous philanthropic initiatives within our communities has been well documented. However, we must also remember his contributions, as a Japanese American, to bridging the relationship between the United States and Japan that has few equals," said Iino.

"Educated in both the United States and Japan, George was a pioneer in facilitating people-to-people connections, well before it became a popular cross-cultural behavior. For example, he was one of the earliest Nikkei to sit on a Japanese corporate board such as the Kajima Corporation. His wife, Sakaye, sat on the Sumitomo Bank board in California. As USJC President Irene Hirano Inouye has stated, George was a mentor to all with respect to enhancing U.S.-Japan relations," he continued.

Iino concluded, "George had a life-long passion for caring for the elderly and the aging that was reflected when he co-founded Keiro Senior HealthCare, which is today’s largest initiative of its kind serving Japanese Americans in the United States. It was there that he peacefully said goodbye to all of us who loved him."

Dr. Daniel Okimoto served with Aratani on the U.S.-Japan Council Board of Councilors.

“With the recent passing of George Aratani and Senator Daniel K. Inouye, the Nikkei community has suffered the loss of true pioneers and second-generation giants, who blazed new and challenging trails that opened the way up for younger generations of Japanese Americans to follow,” said Okimoto.

“We owe them a profound debt of gratitude, which can best be repaid by doing all that we can do to build upon the foundation that they have built both for the Nikkei community and for U.S.-Japan relations.”