Women Of The Year



Shigeko Kajiya | Yoshiko Kamiya | Yoshiko Soyu Koizumi | Emiko Y. Sasaki

Four prominent Japanese American community leaders have been selected as the 2004 Women of the Year by the Downtown Los Angeles Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League and the Japanese Women’s Society of Southern California.

Shigeko Kajiya, Yoshiko Kamiya, Yoshiko Soyu Koizumi and Emiko Y. Sasaki will be honored at a luncheon on Sunday, May 2nd, beginning 12:30 p.m. at the New Otani Hotel in the Downtown Los Angeles Little Tokyo area.

“We are so very proud of the accomplishments of each of our 2004 Women of the Year,” stated Mrs. Hiroko Ikuta, president of the Japanese Women’s Society of Southern California.

Shigeko Kajiya
Shigeko Kajiya, 69, is well known in the Japanese American community in the Little Tokyo area. She has worked at the Union Bank of California for 30 years as the Assistant Vice President and Community Relations Officer until her retirement. In her retirement years, she has stayed active as she devotes her time towards helping the Little Tokyo Improvement District obtain approval from the City of Los Angeles as a 10 year member of the Little Tokyo Business Association.

As the chairperson of the Nisei Week Fashion show for 9 years, she has helped it grow into one of the more successful fundraising events for the Nisei Week Foundation. She was the Ground Parade Announcer for the Nisei Week Festivities and served on their annual goodwill mission trip to Japan for 10 years. She has also helped the Los Angeles Little Tokyo Lions Club raise funds for their junior high school student contest, Eye Mobile Free Check and White Cane Fund. She has also helped in various events for the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California, the Japanese Prefectural Association of Southern California, the Japanese Restaurant Association of Southern California, the Southern California Gardener’s Federation, Inc., Rafu Shimpo, the Little Tokyo Service Center, the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center and the Keiro Senior Health Care.

Born in Kobe, Japan, she was one of the first graduates of the Television Talent Center of Dentsu Corporation in Tokyo, Japan, with a successful career in TV shows and commercial TV advertisements. She appeared in shows such as, “Hatamoto Taikutsu Otoko”, “Himanashi Tobidasu”, “Otona no Manga” and the Toshiba Sunday Theater. She continued her career in the U.S., joining the East West Players and appeared in the TV series, “Laredo” and in the Cary Grant film, “Walk, Don’t Run”. She began her banking career in 1972 at the Bank of Tokyo, now known as Union Bank of California. In 1973, she married Kazunori Kajiya, a real estate broker. They have 1 daughter, Jena M. Nakamichi, a cosmetologist.

Yoshiko Kamiya
Yoshiko Kamiya, 88, an active volunteer and supporter of our community, has also passed on the importance of community service to her children.

She became actively involved with the Okinawa Association of America, Inc. (OAA), when her husband, Charles M. Kamiya, served as its president in 1963 and 1967. She served as president of the Fujinkai (women’s auxiliary) from 1966-1967,and continues to serve in an advisory capacity. The Fujinkai play a vital role for the OAA by their hostess service, visiting the elderly at the Keiro (senior citizen) homes, organizing the women for cooking, holding craft classes, fashion shows, kimono dressing demonstrations, etc. She also volunteered her services at various club events, bazaars and meeting with dignitaries.

In 1970, she received a Certificate of Appreciation for her many years of service to the Okinawa Club. She and her husband were chosen as Man and Woman of the Year in 2001 by the OAA for spearheading the Building Fundraiser Campaign. Their legacy of volunteerism has continued in all of their children who are actively involved in the OAA, 2 of whom are currently on the Board of Directors.

She also studied the koto, a Japanese stringed instrument, earning her Kiyoshi Menkyo degree in 1975 in Okinawa under Haruko Shikiya. After she stopped playing the koto, she gave her 2 instruments to her daughter, and to one of her great grandchildren who have continued in this cultural musical legacy.

Born in Maui, Hawaii, Yoshiko Kamiya quit school in the 9th grade to help with the family finances by working in the pineapple fields and cannery. In 1935, she married Charles Masuei Kamiya. She and her husband were active in the Tamagusuku Club while they both worked and raised their 5 children, she, as a waitress on the night shift and he, as the owner of a mobile grocery business. In 1952, they moved to California and settled in the Gardena area. She worked in a neighbor’s nursery while he worked as a gardener and studied for his real estate/insurance license. She later worked at the Brassiere Factory and later at the Honeywell Co. until her retirement. After her retirement, she became an active member and participant at the Japanese Cultural Institute’s senior citizen program in Gardena, Tomonokai, Gardena Pioneer Project and the OAA Kajimaya Club for seniors.

She and her late husband, Charles Kamiya, have 5 children, 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Their children are: Helene M. Shimane, retired from LAUSD; Kenneth M. Kamiya, insurance broker & owner of Kenneth M. Kamiya Insurance Co.; Jean K. Enomoto, accountant; Ronald K. Kamiya, insurance broker; Edward K. Kamiya, insurance broker.

Yoshiko Soyu Koizumi
Yoshiko Koizumi, 72, has helped in perpetuating our cultural heritage in the language and the arts as a teacher of the Japanese Language, Tea Ceremony and Calligraphy. She first started teaching Japanese in 1958 at the Seinan Japanese School in Los Angeles. From 1965 to 1975, she taught and later became the principal of the Garden Grove Japanese School. She also began to teach Urasenke (tea ceremony) in her home. In 1972, she received her tea ceremony name, “Soyu” from the Grand Tea Master Hounsai. In 1975, she received the Silver Award from the Bunka Shodo Gakkai ‘s New Year Calligraphy Contest. She co-founded and served as the head teacher of the Kyodo System Japanese Language School, Orange Coast Gakuen. In 1976, she received the title of Assistant Tea Professor and in 1986, the title of Tea Professor from Grand Tea Master Hounsai. She briefly taught calligraphy at the University of Fullerton. She has served as president of Bunka Shodo Orange County Association (calligraphy group).

She has been active in the Los Angeles Chapter of the Chado Urasenke, a tea ceremony association, serving in various capacities as the treasurer, secretary and vice president. She helped to reform it as it grew into the largest tea ceremony organization in the U.S. She also established the Chado Urasenke Tankokai Orange County Association and was later appointed its Head Director by the Grand Tea Master in 1989. In 2001, she received the title of Full Professor from the Grand Tea Master Hounsai. She became a U.S. citizen that year. She was also the director of the Japanese American Cultural Association of Orange County and presently serves as its secretary. Every year, she gives a tea ceremony demonstration at UC Irvine and periodic demonstrations at the University of Fullerton and San Antonio College.

Born in Kyoto, Japan, she came to the U.S. in 1953 as a student. In 1955, she graduated from Los Angeles City College and married Iwao Koizumi. He is the president of E.K. International Design & Development Corp. They have 2 sons, David H. Koizumi, a senior computer software engineer and Richard H. Koizumi, manager at EK International Design & Development Corp.

Emiko Y. Sasaki, 84, has been an active member of the Los Angeles Hompa Hongwanji Buddhist Temple in the Little Tokyo area of Los Angeles. She has been a Betsuin Board member for 25 years. She volunteered for the Betsuin’s JIHO mailings and Otoki, cooking, shopping and menu.

A past member of the Nishi Hongwanji Matrons for 6 years, she also served as their president for several years. In 1976, she was the president of the Southern District Buddhist Women’s Association. Since 1989, she has served as the treasurer for the Nishi Hongwanji Shofuryu (flower arrangement) and the Bunka Kyoshitso. She was also a parent volunteer to the Nishi Hongwanji Boy Scout Troop 738 for 20 years.

In addition to church related activities, for 17 years, she has volunteered at the Keiro Nursing Home, teaching needlepoint to the seniors and as a general volunteer. She was the president of the Hiroshima Kenjinkai (prefectural association) for 6 years and served as the treasurer for their Tanomoshi group. Since 1990, she has been the treasurer of the Shodo-kai Shigin – Monterey Park Shibu (calligraphy association).

Emiko Sasaki was born in Parlier, Fresno County, California. In 1929, the family moved to Japan because of her mother’s glaucoma so that they could consult with an eye specialist. She graduated from high school in Japan and attended nursing school in Kyoto. In 1937, she and her siblings returned to the U.S. When World War II started, she married her finance, Tadashi “Tad” Sasaki. They were sent to the relocation centers in Jerome, Arkansas and later to Rohwer, Arkansas. After the war, they moved to New Orleans and then to Los Angeles. She worked for Sears Roebuck and Company in their Catalog division for 25 years.

She is proud of her four surviving sons who graduated from college and have families of their own. She and her late husband, Tadashi Sasaki, an auto mechanic, have 5 children and 12 grandchildren. The children are: Clifford M. Sasaki, CPA/Real Estate Broker/Electrical Technician; Gary Sasaki, a pharmacist; the late Elaine Katayama, a home maker; Edward K. Sasaki, a program manager for the California State Employment Development Dept.; and Lester M. Sasaki, a Pharmacist. Despite the major losses she has had with the passing away of her parents, husband, daughter, granddaughter and daughter-in-law, she feels fortunate to be able to continue her hobbies and volunteer work and to trust in the Nembutsu for guidance.

Tickets are $30 per person. The deadline date to purchase the tickets will be Sunday, April 25th. For further information, please call the Women of the Year Chairperson, Amy Tambara (English/evenings), at (323)722-3897 or Rodney Nakada (Japanese/days) at (213) 628-1800