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Japanese Community Service Honored

By Lori Matsukawa & Koichi Kitazumi
North American Post Contributors

In 1901, Seattle Issei people (first-generation Japanese Americans) established the Nipponjin Kai which greeted government officials, scholars, students, business people, artists and families from Japan.

The tradition continued as the Japanese Community Service (JCS) from 1947 to 2020, supporting the Japanese Language School (JLS) and uniting various groups in the Japanese American community. JCS also organized the Musical Bridge concerts and published the Oshogatsu booklet in 1989 (by Mas Tahara, former JCS Board of Directors President). In addition, it supported the Seattle Cherry Blossom and Japanese Cultural Festival, Eastside Aki Matsuri (now called Japan Fair), former Japanese Queen Scholarship program and Seattle Keiro Northwest.

After 73 years, JCS decided to “retire” in 2020. However, this was during the COVID pandemic and the in-person celebration could not take place until March 2, 2024, at the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington (JCCCW). Past officers and members were honored for their decades of work as ambassadors of the Japanese community.

“The community is grateful for all that JCS has done to make Japanese officials and others feel welcomed all these years,” said Lori Matsukawa, a member of the Nikkei Heritage Association of Washington/JCCCW board of directors.

Joe Watanabe, 91, said, “I thought about retiring and living in Japan but there are too many memories here.”

“I wonder who is going to take over running the Nikkei Bunko (Japanese library)?” mused Narachiyo Sekine, 95 and past JCS secretary.

Although JCS is no longer active, some former JCS members continue to volunteer with JCCCW. Examples are Ms. Sekine, who continues to serve the library as the chief receiver/authorizer of all books donated, making them available to the community, and Mr. Koichi Kitazumi, JLS president, and Ms. Tazue Sasaki, who continue to serve as stewards on behalf of the community to ensure the school is available to the community for the next 100 decades!