Home Community Dennis Yamashita Honored with Emperor’s Award

Dennis Yamashita Honored with Emperor’s Award

Dennis Yamashita Honored with Emperor’s Award

By Barbara Mizoguchi
NAP Editor

(This is a follow-up to NAP’s November 14, 2023 article about Dennis Yamashita.)

Dennis with the award

On April 16, 2024, Dennis Yamashita was honored with the Emperor of Japan’s Order of the Rising Sun with Rosette from the Japanese government. The ceremony was located at the official residence of the Consul General of Japan in Seattle. As guests arrived, they were warmly greeted by Con. Gen. and Mrs. Makoto Iyori and served refreshments while socializing with others. Guests included Dennis’ family coming from as far away as Japan, friends who flew in/out by plane the same day, colleagues throughout his life, and community leaders from the Seattle area.

As the program began, Con. Gen. Iyori commented on the “momentous occasion.” On November 3, 2023, it was announced that Yamashita received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette. It recognized his contributions to the regional exchange and mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S.

Yamashita’s work was honored as the former Board of Directors Chair of Japan-America Society of the State of Washington (JASSW), former Board of Directors President of Nikkei Concerns (currently Keiro Northwest), and former Board of Directors President of the Japanese Community Service (JCS) of Seattle. While Yamashita was serving at JASSW, he developed a partnership with a signed Memorandum of Cooperation between Japan Business Association of Seattle and JASSW. The two organizations established a business roundtable and social events that strengthen Japanese and American businesses. When Yamashita was in college, he served as an intern for Nikkei Concerns (a nonprofit organization dedicated to the welfare of the elderly Japanese American community) in Seattle. He was later on its Board of Directors and became president serving for 17 years.

As Yamashita was the Board of Directors President of the JCS, he modernized the organization and expanded education offerings at its Japanese language school. printed in Japanese with the Emperor’s seal, and a bouquet of flowers. Yamashita was humbled receiving them. He acknowledged the community for making him who he is today. In particular, he recognized his doctor who is treating him with amyloidosis – a rare and incurable disease—and who was present at the award ceremony. Yamashita even acknowledged his hobbies such as Gagaku (Japanese Imperial court music), Evergreen Glee Club, a book club, his church, and yoga. “Most of all, I stand [on the] shoulders of all Nikkei [Japanese Americans] who paved the way, through hard work and labor to land in this country with nothing but their willingness to work hard and a hope to create a better life, for the succeeding generations of Japanese Americans.” Yamashita’s grandfather immigrated to the U.S. in 1902. His father was a scholar but “unceremoniously received his UW diploma, mailed to him in a plain manila envelope at Tule Lake Internment camp.”
His mother came from a long line of Buddhist temple priests in Japan and “lead a pan-university student delegation to the Philippines in 1949 promoting friendship and understanding.” Yamashita ended his speech affirming that promoting friendship [and] understanding is in my blood.” “I share this award with each of you.”

His friend, Harold Taniguchi (and local community leader), gave a moving tribute about Yamashita’s humbleness and what their deep friendship meant to him. Washington State Legislative Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos gave a touching ceremonial toast to and about Yamashita. Guests personally congratulated Yamashita, took photographs, and joined in on the Con. Gen. chef’s food delicacies. What a treat to meet Yamashita’s family and friends. They are a direct reflection of Yamashita’s values that will always be remembered.

The Japanese Order of the Rising Sun was founded in 1875 by Emperor Meiji of Japan. It is an award for exceptional civil or military merit. The modern version of this honor has been given to non-Japanese recipients beginning in 1981. The awarding of the Order is administered by the Decoration Bureau Office of the Prime Minister in the name of the emperor. The pin features rays of sunlight from the rising sun.