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National Museum Celebrates 25th Anniversary Since Official Incorporation in 1985

Los Angeles

As part of its year-long celebration of its 25th Anniversary since its incorporation, the Japanese American National Museum will recognize some of its founders at its 2010 Annual Gala Dinner, "25 Years & Beyond: Celebrating the Spirit of Our Community", set for Saturday, April 10, at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel.

The National Museum was organized when two community groups merged their efforts to build a museum and incorporated in 1985. Little Tokyo businessman Bruce Kaji originally proposed a new Little Tokyo development that would include a Japanese American museum, while several organizations of World War II veterans had created an exhibition dedicated to the Japanese American soldier. The two groups combined their efforts, but faced the daunting challenge of creating an institution that at its inception had no funding, no permanent site and only one full-time staff member.

"Bruce was instrumental in the early development of the Japanese American National Museum," explained Nancy Araki, the Museum’s first employee. "He raised funds, recruited volunteers, and persuaded public officials to support the cause. He knew how to bring people together. The veterans, like Col. Young Oak Kim and Buddy Mamiya, knew they had an important story to share about the contributions of the Japanese American World War II soldiers. The groups saw that working together would allow them to reach their goals. So, collaboration has been the model for the Museum ever since."

Kaji, who was born and raised in Boyle Heights, was forced to live with his family in Manzanar during the war. He eventually joined the Military Intelligence Service and worked as an interrogator. After the war, Kaji became an accountant and then worked in real estate development. He eventually became President of Merit Savings and it was in the bank’s Little Tokyo office that Araki was given a desk for the newly incorporated Japanese American National Museum.

Araki coordinated the efforts of 13 different volunteer committees, each which developed the framework for some integral component of the future Museum. The nascent organization also benefited from the support from the State of California and the City of Los Angeles. Then-State Senator Art Torres attended a special event put on by the Museum and was so enthused, he pledged to introduce a bill in the state legislature for $1 million. That was eventually reduced to $750,000, but for a fledgling institution, it was a major step. Los Angeles’ Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) was the second government supporter. Thanks to the efforts of staffers Cooke Sunoo and Gloria Uchida, the CRA proposed that the Japanese American National Museum lease (for one dollar a year) the former Nishi Hongwanji Buddhist Temple building as its headquarters and offered $1 million in support to renovate the historic structure.

"The Japanese American National Museum was very fortunate to have so many dedicated individuals working to organize and open the institution in the 1980s," explained Akemi Kikumura Yano, National Museum President and CEO. Kikumura Yano was hired as the Museum’s first curator in 1987. "People like Bruce, Col. Kim and Buddy Mamiya set the example for everyone to follow. We also were fortunate to get the support of certain government bodies. In marking the 25th Anniversary, we are acknowledging our history while looking forward and continuing to fulfill our mission."

This event is the largest fundraiser for the National Museum. Support for the 2010 Annual Gala Dinner, "25 Years & Beyond: Celebrating the Spirit of Our Community", is led by the two Signature Sponsors: Dr. Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki, and Union Bank/Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ. Diamond Sponsors include The Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Dr. William G. and Carol Ouchi, and Prudential.

United States Senator Daniel K. Inouye and former United States Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta are the Honorary Dinner Co-Chairs. The Dinner Committee Co-Chairs are Tracey Doi, Chief Financial Officer, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc., and George Tanaka, Senior Vice President and Division Head, Union Bank. Master of the ceremonies for the evening will be Frank Buckley, co-anchor of KTLA's Emmy Award-winning signature broadcast, the KTLA Morning News.

Sponsorships for the 2010 Annual Gala Dinner are available at these levels: Signature ($100,000), Presenting ($50,000), Diamond ($25,000), Platinum ($10,000), Gold ($5,000), Silver ($3,500), Bronze ($2,500) and Community ($1,750, for non-profit organizations and must be for full table). There are also Sponsorships available for the VIP Reception set for Friday, April 9, at the National Museum, at the Host ($15,000) and Sponsor ($5,000) level; and Gala Dinner Reception Host ($15,000) and Gala Dinner Reception Sponsor ($5,000).



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