2016 Community Service Awards

The Nisei Week Foundation is pleased to recognize Bunkado, Little Tokyo Public Safety Association, and the Manzanar Committee with the Frances K. Hashimoto Community Service Award. This award recognizes these organizations for their outstanding contributions to the Southern California Japanese American community. The annual Awards Dinner will be held on Monday, August 15 at the Double Tree by Hilton (120 S. Los Angeles Street, Los Angeles). Starting at 6 p.m., individual tickets are $85 and tables of 10 are $850. Also recognized at the Awards Dinner will be this year’s Grand Marshal, Kaori Nara Turner, Emmy-Award Winning Make-up Artist and community leader; Parade Marshal, Brittany Ishibashi, actress most recently featured in the hit movie “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows” playing the role of Karai. Inspiration Award recipients Rodney Kageyama, Leslie Kawai, and John Tamaki, posthumously, will also be recognized for going above and beyond to volunteer their time and/or service to the Nisei Week Japanese Festival. For tickets or information, call the Nisei Week Foundation at 213.687.7193 or email office@niseiweek.org.

In addition, this year the Nisei Week Foundation is pleased to honor the Rafu Shimpo newspaper with the President’s Award for its outstanding service to the Japanese American community. As most know, the Rafu Shimpo was founded 113 years ago to chronical the story of the Japanese American community in Southern California. It is in a fight for its existence and needs to increase its subscribers by year’s end. To show our appreciation for all that the Rafu does for the Nisei Week Japanese Festival and the community, the Nisei Week Foundation Board felt it was the right time to recognize the Rafu Shimpo.

The following organizations will receive the Nisei Week Community Service Awards:


Bunkado is proud to be celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Located in Los Angeles’ historic Little Tokyo at 340 E. 1st Street, the Bunkado was founded soon after the end of WWII by Suye and her husband Tokio Ueyama, an accomplished painter. Bunkado has always been considered a “gift store” but also serves the community’s needs for everyday dishware and cooking supplies, dolls, Buddhist items, stationery, art supplies, books, toys, origami, and specialized items for ikebana, tea ceremony, and Japanese dance. Items range from expensive decorative items to small daily necessities. In the 1960s to 1980s, Bunkado processed subscriptions nationally for imported Japanese magazines, and was at one time the largest retailer of recorded Japanese music outside of Japan.

Bunkado has always been owned by the Tsukada family. After her passing, Ueyama left the management of the store to her youngest brother Masao Tsukada and his wife Kayoko, who together operated Tsukada Shokai on 1st Street in the 1950s. Tsukada was a World War II veteran who served as a translator in the U.S. Army’s Military Intelligence Service. Over the years, members of the extended Tsukada family ran a total of nine Little Tokyo storefronts: Tsukada Shokai, two Bunkado locations, two LA Goods locations, LA Mercantile, Beverly’s Bonbonnerie/Postal Annex, Little Tokyo Gifts, and later Hagi Gift Store.

Today, Bunkado is still open seven days a week at its original location on the former site of Kame Restaurant, Los Angeles’ first Japanese owned business started in the late 1800s. Shoppers are happy to find many of the same type of items as in the old days, and take delight in seeing low-tech toys such as paper balloons, wooden pull toys from Japan, and a large selection of books on Japan and its culture.   It joined the modern age with its website, BunkadoOnline.com, and though on a small scale, the website fills orders from all over the world.

Irene Tsukada Simonian is the current owner, daughter of Masao and Kayoko. Her husband Steve Simonian was Chief of Police of Montebello, and later Chief of the LA County District Attorney’s Bureau of Investigations. He loves Little Tokyo and since his retirement, is often seen helping at the store. Children of the family, five grandchildren and a nephew, are a regular presence, helping during Nisei Week, Tanabata Festival, and other events.

Tsukada Simonian has served on the board of the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association/Koban for more than 20 years and is a committee co-chair and board member of the Little Tokyo Community Council. Little Tokyo has faced many challenges over the years, and she is proud to see the area continue to flourish thanks to the work of the many community organizations serving the Japanese and Japanese American community. She also served on the executive board of the California Oak Foundation and is a life-time member. Tsukada Simonian’s passion is her family and promoting a healthy, sustainable environment and protection of natural habitats while promoting urban renewal.

Little-Tokyo-Public-Safety-(LTPS)-kobanLogoLittle Tokyo Public Safety Association

The Little Tokyo Public Safety Association (LTPSA) was founded in 1986 as a response to crimes that were affecting business in the Little Tokyo area. In the early 1990s local businessmen began patrolling the area to address car burglaries and aggressive panhandling that intimidated customers, tourists, and residents. What started as a patrol of three men, peaked to more than 50 volunteers working in cooperation with the Los Angeles Police Department, from 1st to 5th streets. Wearing bright green uniformed shirts, bike certified and trained by the LAPD, they served as the eyes and ears of law enforcement and addressed quality of life issues in Little Tokyo. The ‘Men and Women in Green’ have become easily recognizable over the years, especially at special events.

In 1996, 20 years ago, the LTPSA opened the Koban, located at 307 E. 1st Street in the heart of historic Little Tokyo. The Koban is an information center and an LAPD Drop-in Center for officers to interview victims and prepare reports, and serves as the headquarters for the volunteer patrol members. This facility is manned by a paid, bilingual staff member as well as volunteers who provide tourist and visitors safety information, and serves as an important link to Little Tokyo throughout Southern California. Because of its long history with public safety concerns, the LTPSA has become the ‘go to’ group for inquiries from the media and law enforcement on Little Tokyo area incidents.

Over the years, the LTPSA has expanded its programs to include safety and first aid seminars, school and seniors’ programs, and we are very proud of our certification as a Red Cross training facility. The LTPSA recently coordinated the installation of eight security cameras around Little Tokyo. It sponsors cleanup programs with community organizations and foreign students. Visitors can find a safe and clean restroom at the Koban, and community organizations are welcome to use the meeting room. Most importantly, the Koban is Little Tokyo’s emergency preparedness center. Equipped with portable generators, portable lighting, and light rescue equipment.

In 2009, the Koban was proud to facilitate the start-up of the LA Tanabata festival. In addition, it has hosted the year-around photo gallery of the Nisei Week Japanese Festival and Tanabata Festivals since 2009. This year, it will start its new annual Volunteer Day by rededicating the mural on Central Avenue and 1st Street, in memory of the late Nancy Kikuchi, Koban’s most valued community volunteer and board member.

The LTPSA is able to conduct these services and programs and to keep the Koban open, thanks in part to voluntary membership dues and donations. Visitors and volunteers are always welcome to the Koban.

manzanar_committeeManzanar Committee

In December 1969, approximately 200 people drove by car and bus on a pilgrimage to a dusty patch of desert in the Owens Valley. Their destination was Manzanar. The participants, mostly students who had never been there before, were organized by Warren Furutani and Victor Shibata who were inspired by the civil rights and identity movements of the 1960s.

A handful of those first pilgrims, including Sue Kunitomi Embrey, Karl Yoneda, Elaine Black, Amy Ishii, Henry Matsumura, Rex Takahashi, and Jim Matsuoka had been incarcerated in Manzanar. The Pilgrimage became a turning point. Embrey said “I knew what had happened to us was wrong, but didn’t feel anything could be done about it until then.”

The work of the group began in earnest in 1970, when the Manzanar Committee was formed with a two-fold focus on education and to establish Manzanar as a California State Historical Landmark.

After numerous trips to Sacramento by Embrey, Furutani, and Ishii, the site achieved Historic Landmark designation in January 1972. Immediately following its dedication, the Manzanar Committee began working on designation of the site as a National Historic Landmark.

Due to the Committee’s efforts, Congress authorized the Department of the Interior to survey Manzanar as a potential landmark. The Committee collaborated again in providing photographs, maps, and interviews. Finally, in 1984, Manzanar was nominated. Manzanar received National Historic Landmark status a year later. In 2002 ground breaking began and in 2004 the Manzanar National Historic Site held its grand opening.

For more than 47 years, the Manzanar Committee has organized the annual Pilgrimage. Every year more than 1,000 people attend to pay their respects and honor those who endured life behind barbed wire. The Committee believes we must remember Executive Order 9066 and its aftermath and must defend the constitutional rights of all to ensure what happened to our families will never happen again to anyone, anywhere.


For a full press release, click HERE.