By NAP Staff
Tom Ikeda, the founder of Densho, was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays by the Japanese government earlier this month.
Ikeda founded Densho in 1996 to preserve the stories of first- and second-generation Japanese and Japanese Americans who lived in the US before and during World War II. He stepped down as the organization’s executive director in September 2022.
“Serving as executive director for 27 years after its founding, Mr. Ikeda played a central role in the organization’s activities, contributing significantly to the preservation and understanding of the history of Japanese American immigrants in the United States,” the government announcement said. “Mr. Ikeda has made an invaluable and lasting impact on Japan-U.S. relations.”
The Order of the Rising Sun awards date back to 1875, when Emperor Meiji first issued them to recognize civil or military merit. They were the first awards of their kind in Japanese history. The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays is the fifth of eight different categories of the award.
Ikeda founded Densho: The Japanese American Legacy Project in 1996 after a seven-year stint at Microsoft. His combination of technological savvy and passion for preserving the stories of his Japanese American elders helped mold Densho into a vital educational and research tool for understanding Nikkei history.
Ikeda said when he started Densho that he expected it to be a three- to five-year project. Today it is still going strong under his successor, Naomi Ostwald Kawamura.