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JCCCW Tomodachi Gala

Program hosts Yuna Nishimoto (Compass Group Microsoft) and Brady Wakayama (KING 5 News).

By David Yamaguchi The North American Post

On Thursday evening, June 9, the Japanese Cultural & Community Cen-ter of Washington (JCCCW) held its “Tomodachi Gala” online. Normally held as an annual in-person fundraising lunch in pre-COVID-19 times, it was the third “Friends” gala on YouTube. 

In addition to brief overviews of JCCCW programs, the highlight this year was new footage of international ukulele superstar Jake Shimabukuro, apparently tuning in from his home studio. The Hawaii-based Shimabukuro was featured as the JCCCW’s 2022 “Tomodachi Award” recipient. To see Shimabukuro’s present-day mastery of his craft — as represented by two pieces in the video, “Sakura Sakura” and “Ichigo Ichie” — is really worthwhile. 

Jake Shimabukuro All photos are screen captures

Even more remarkable is to hear the humility with which the ukulele guru speaks and the three life principles that guide him. That he agreed to participate in the fundraiser at all, that of a local nonprofit distant from his home, says much about him as a human being. He cares about Japanese culture, about promoting Japanese American cultural values, and about small nonprofit organizations which are trying to do the right thing.

While it would be tempting to just fast-forward through the video to find the Shimabukuro segment, this viewer would encourage readers to watch the entire show. Only such viewing places his performance and brief interview in context.

Benjamin Burton teacher Seattle Japanese Language School

Perhaps the only downside of the smoothly produced gala was its low “live” attendance. Near the program’s end, the viewer count showed only 88 persons watching. The attendance may reflect the video’s timing in our 30th month of COVID-19 in Greater Seattle. The event’s novelty as a YouTube video has apparently worn off. Moreover, with most in King County vaccinated and boosted, fewer remain stuck at home glued to their computer screens. 

Nonetheless, a poor “live” attendance probably matters less for YouTube videos, where viewers can tune in later anytime. For example, viewership for the year-old June 2021 event tallied 733 views, as this newspaper goes to press. The sum is the equivalent of a huge in-person banquet room of supporters.

Among the 2022 video’s closing points was a brief mention of the JCCCW’s upcoming 120th anniversary as the oldest still-running Japanese Language School in the United States. That event will be the topic of the Northwest Nikkei Museum’s July 15 lecture (by Zoom; see Calendar).

JCCCW YouTube Channel
“2022 Virtual Tomodachi Gala”  (48 min.)