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'Continuing Family Stories: The Expanding Nikkei Community' Theme for Fundraising Event

Los Angeles

The Japanese American National Museum announced that its 2011 Annual Gala Dinner and Silent Auction set for Saturday, April 16, 2011, at the J.W. Marriott Hotel at L.A. LIVE, will have the theme, "Continuing Family Stories: The Expanding Nikkei Community."

The gala dinner, the largest fundraising event for the National Museum, will highlight some of the contributions and stories of Nikkei in the post-World War II era, including those that arrived in America in the 1960s and 1970s and beyond. Like the original Issei immigrants at the beginning of the 20th Century, these families established their businesses in the United States and became part of the local communities. Two families will be recognized as part of the dinner program: the Noritoshi Kanai family and the Jane Aiko Yamano family. Sansei illustrator/writer Stan Sakai, who was born in Japan, will also be honored for his cultural contributions.

"Since its incorporation in 1985, the Japanese American National Museum has become the repository for the stories of people of Japanese ancestry in the United States," explained National Museum President & CEO Akemi Kikumura Yano. "In our first 25 years, our efforts were directed to ensuring that the history of the Issei generation and their Nisei children was preserved and shared. But our community’s history did not end with World War II--it expanded and became more diverse. This dinner reflects the Museum’s desire to preserve and share the stories of the post-war era."

The Kanai family moved to the United States in the 1960s so Mr. Kanai could run the U.S. subsidiary of Mutual Trading Company (MTC), which specialized in food products from Japan. Seeking to grow the business beyond the Japanese community, Mr. Kanai took the advice of an American business consultant and encouraged the establishment of the first sushi bar in America at the Kawafuku restaurant in Little Tokyo. Other Japanese restaurants soon followed and American eating habits were changed forever. Mutual Trading imported other Japanese foods, supplied burgeoning chains like Benihana, and enhanced the quality and variety of Japanese cuisine.

Noritoshi married Fusako in 1952. Besides helping to raise their children, she became involved with community social groups, including the Southern California Japanese Women’s Society. Mrs. Kanai helped to raise funds for community organizations, including the National Museum, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C., and the Kyodo System Japanese Language School. The Kanais have two children: Scott, a dentist with the Little Tokyo Dental Group; and Atsuko, a vice president with Mutual Trading.

Jane Yamano was born in the United States, but because of her family, she has become the leading authority on both traditional and contemporary kimono fashion. Her father Mike was helping to run the Yamano Beauty College in Los Angeles, part of the family business started by Jane’s grandmother, Aiko Yamano, in Japan. When Jane was 12, her family was summoned to Japan and she, despite speaking virtually no Japanese, was expected to begin training to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps. Aiko Yamano began her career in a beauty salon, sweeping floors, but she eventually opened her own business, utilizing permanent wave machines. With her six sons, she established after the war the Yamano Beauty College as well as a language school and a college for aesthetics and cosmetology.

Jane succeeded her grandmother in 1984 and has become one of the cultural trendsetters in the area of kimono fashion. In 2009, she presented the "Aiko Yamano Centennial Kimono Show" in Anaheim, mixing traditional Japanese with modern American styling. Jane learned the traditional culture of kimono from her grandmother, but understood that it was vital to update the tradition to keep the kimono culture alive. But the Yamano schools also focus on aesthetics, beauty and health, because "when people look better, they feel better," Jane explained.

Stan Sakai was born in Kyoto, Japan, to a Japanese American father and Japanese mother. He and his family moved to Hawai`i when he was two. Growing up, he displayed a talent for drawing and while in junior high, he made friends with other young artists who drew their own comic strips. After graduating from the University of Hawaii with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, he moved to the mainland to work for a sportswear company while picking up freelance work doing lettering for comic books.

When Stan heard of a publisher looking for new material, he combined his childhood interests of Japanese samurai movies and American comic books to create his iconic character, "Usagi Yojimbo", in 1984. The character, a samurai rabbit living in the late 16th and early 17th Century in Japan, was unique at the time. Sakai does research on samurai folklore and Japanese culture to provide an authenticity to his stories. "Usagi Yojimbo" has been translated into 12 other languages.

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, former Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta, and Mr. Masaaki Tanaka, CEO for the Americas, The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd., are the Honorary Dinner Co-Chairs for the 2011 Annual Gala Dinner. Dr. Paul I. and Hisako Terasaki and George and Sakaye Aratani are the Dinner’s Signature Sponsors. The Dinner Committee Co-Chairs are Gene Kanamori, National Museum Governor; Dana Heatherton, The Capital Group; Linda Fitz-Horioka, Ernst & Young; and, Yuko Kaifu, Union Bank.

Sponsorships are available at these levels: Signature ($100,000), Presenting ($50,000), Diamond ($25,000), Emerald ($15,000), 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 15, at the National Museum, as the Host ($15,000); and Gala Dinner Reception Host ($15,000) and Gala Dinner Reception Sponsor ($10,000) for the reception prior to the dinner on Saturday, April 16, at the J.W. Marriott Hotel.

For more information, call the Japanese American National Museum at (213) 625-0414 or go to



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