by Stephanie Ikeda,
The Japanese Cultural & Community Center of Washington (JCCCW) celebrated its 15th anniversary at the Tomodachi Gala on March 31st, the first formal dinner event held instead of the annual Tomodachi Luncheon. Over 350 guests and 50 volunteers attended the event at the Hyatt Regency Lake Washington in Renton. Former Ambassador Ichiro Fujisaki and JPMorgan & Chase executive Phyllis J. Campbell received the annual Tomodachi Award for their work in building bridges between Japan and the United States.
All proceeds went towards JCCCW’s programs including Seattle Japanese Language School, cultural events such as Kodomo no Hi and Bunka no Hi, Omoide writing workshops, and Japanese American history exhibits. The Tomodachi Gala offered an extended program compared to previous years. The silent auction sold community donated goods including Seattle sports merchandise and tickets, Japanese art, and meals at local restaurants. Northwest Taiko put on a performance on the main stage to welcome guests entering the Grand Ballroom.
The main dinner program featured the Tomodachi Award presentation as well as testimonials from Japanese Language School students, who gave speeches in both English and Japanese about the positive impact that Japanese language classes have had on their lives. One part of the event not included in the printed program was the surprise presentation of a signed Tsutakawa print for the night’s Master of Ceremonies and JCCCW Founding Member Lori Matsukawa. Matsukawa is known to most as a KING5 news anchor but is also heavily involved as a board member and Committee Chair for the organization of the event. As Matsukawa accepted the gift, she referred back to the children and students in attendance by saying that the guests’ donations would support the “future generations” of children who benefit from JCCCW’s programs.