Women Of The Year



Four prominent women in the Japanese American community have been selected as the 2006 Women of the Year by the Downtown Los Angeles Chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) and the Southern California Japanese Women’s Society

Bando Mitsuhiro, Takako Osumi, Rev. KarenFay Ramos-Young and Helene Mieko (Kamiya) Shimane, will be honored at a luncheon on Sunday, May 6th, beginning at 12:30 pm at the New Otani Hotel & Garden in the Downtown Los Angeles Little Tokyo area.

The dedication and vision of these women have enriched our community. We are so very proud of each of our 2006 Women of the Year,” stated Kitty Sankey, the president of the Downtown Los Angeles JACL. “Our community has been enhanced by the effort and willingness of these women to share their talents and time,” stated Mrs. Kay Inose, the president of the Southern California Japanese Women’s Society.

Tickets are $30 per person. The deadline date to purchase the tickets is Friday, April 28th. For information, please contact the Women of the Year Chairperson, Amy Tambara (English/evenings) at (323) 722-3897, or Rodney Nakada (English or Japanese/days) at (213) 628-1800.

Bando Mitsuhiro, 78, has dedicated her life to keeping alive the traditional art of classical Japanese dance (Nihon buyo) for 37 years through teaching and performing. Recognized for her efforts in enhancing the East-West cultural exchange by both the state and local government, she and her students have performed in many cities throughout the United States and as far north as British Columbia.

One of her greatest challenges has been in teaching Nihon buyo to her students who speak and understand only English. Through dance movements and facial gestures, she has been able to impart the nuances of her art and it has been one of her greatest joy to see her students master these dance skills

She began her study in Nihon buyo at the age of 4. Grand Master Bando Mitsugoro VII granted her the Shihan rank (teaching credential) when she was 26. In 1969, she came to the U.S. and established the Bando Mitsuhiro Kai in Los Angeles with 14 students. She later established studios in San Diego, Oceanside and Monterey as well as in Tacoma, Washington. In 2003, she was awarded the prestigious Kanbu Shihan rank by the Grand Master Bando Mitsuhiro X in Japan for her achievements.

She has taught over 600 American students during her career. Today, she has more than 80 students under her tutelage in 6 studios. 35 of her students have attained the “Natori” rank (receiving professional stage names), while 10 have achieved the “Shihan” rank (teaching credential). Her boundless energy and dedication to Japanese classical dance and her vision to share this art throughout the Western world keeps her continuing to teach and perform.

She and her students have performed annually at the Torrance Sister City Association’s Bunka Sai Festival and the Nisei Week Festivals annual parade over 30 years; and the City of Lomita Fair for the past 2 years. They have also performed for seniors (Gardena Pioneer Project New Year Party, Keiro Retirement Home); at festivals (Pasadena Cherry Blossom Festival, Aquarium of the Pacific’s Autumn Festival in Long Beach); at temples (Zenshuji Temple’s Bon Odori, Vista Buddhist Church, Oxnard Buddhist Church); universities (Cal State University Long Beach, Whittier College, College of the Canyons, University of California at Irvine); at museums (Los Angeles County Natural History Museum); and public attractions (Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland parade, Anaheim Parks and Recreation).

Takako Osumi, 68, a retired teacher, has taken an active leading role in several of our community organizations. She is also a distinguished performer and promoter of traditional Japanese cultural arts of nagauta (a long epic song accompanied by the shamisen (a 3 string Japanese guitar) that is usually sung in kabuki dramas), koto (Japanese plucked musical instrument), chado (tea ceremony), and Shofuryu style of flower arrangement.

For 39 years she taught at the Garvey School District before retiring in 2003. She has continued to volunteer in the community and promote the traditional Japanese cultural arts. Currently on the Board of Directors of the Nihongo Gakuen Kyodo System (Japanese Language School Unified System), she has served as the treasurer, chairman and Mother’s Club chair in the past. She is on the public relations committee for the Urasenke Tea Society of Southern California and served as its’ treasurer. For the Koyasan Boy Scouts Troop 379, she has served as the Troop Parents’ Chairwoman, Mothers’ Auxiliary Chair and the den mother for the Cub Scouts. She is an active volunteer at the Nichiren Buddhist Temple.

Born in Los Angeles, she went to Japan with her parents in 1940. At the age of 10, she began her studies in the Yamada style of koto and the Kineya School of nagauta in Japan. She returned to Los Angeles with her mother in 1950, but continued her studies in the arts. She received the professional name, Yasoyo Kineya II from Headmaster Yajuro Kineya. Together with 3 other members, Kichikazu Kineya Katsuminori Kineya and Rokkensho Kineya, they founded the Nagauta Shikinokai in 2004 to promote this art in Los Angeles where she is currently serves as a mentor and an administrative officer

She also continued her study of the koto at the Baido Kai, Ikutaryu, Seiha School in Los Angeles and earned her professional designation from Headmaster Nakashima, Seiha School. She has been performing and promoting this art with Mme. Kayoko Wakita, Head of the Baido Kai. She was also granted a professional name, Reisui, from Headmaster Josui Oshikawa, of the Shofuryu School of flower arrangement. She also was granted a chamei or tea name, Soko, from the XV Headmaster Shoshitsu Sen of the Urasenke School.

Married to the late Takeshi Osumi, she has 2 sons.

Rev. KarenFay Ramos-Young, 46, the Associate Pastor of Centenary United Methodist Church in the Little Tokyo area of Los Angeles, has “Live each moment as an opportunity to worship God” as her motto. In special programs, and worship services that she plans, she uses her talents on the accordion, piano and ukulele to enrich these experiences.

She has coordinated mission trips for youth from Centenary UMC and Simpson UMC to: Whiteriver, Fort Apache American Indian Reservation in Arizona in 2001 to paint 2 homes that were badly damaged; California-Mexico Border Communities in San Diego to San Ysidro in 2002 to assist low-income seniors in trailer parks with property upkeep and as volunteers at food pantries and food service agencies; Tenderloin, Haight-Ashbury Districts in San Francisco in 2003 to volunteer at various agencies and shelters in assisting the homeless and needy; Los Angeles in 2004 as volunteers at various shelters, missions, agencies and community centers; and Oahu, Hawaii in 2005 to volunteer at nature centers for environmental work (restoring a taro lo’i field used as an education site for youth and restoring a nesting island for endangered birds) and 2 sister churches (cleaning, painting, assisting in children’s ministry and leading worship).

In addition to working on various committees for her denomination, she has assisted Centenary’s efforts to support the Little Tokyo Service Center projects, outreach to 9th Street Elementary School, ministries to the surrounding community (homeless lunches, Ford Hotel projects, etc.), worked with the Centenary’s Youth to reach out to the older church members and to raise funds to assist ministries to address hunger in our community. She has also helped as a parent volunteer for both the Garvanza Elementary School and Burbank Middle School. She also volunteered at Audubon at Debbs Park at special events or assisted staff until Spring of 2005.

Born in Southern California, with a strong family heritage stemming from the sugar and pineapple plantations of Hawaii’s yesteryears, Rev. KarenFay has served as a cross-cultural pastor at multiracial and ethnic minority churches in California, Kauai and Oahu. Ordained as a United Church of Christ minister, she has served at the Lihue Christian Church UCC, Wesley UMC in San Jose, Nu’uanu Congregation Church UCC and Central Union Church UCC in Honolulu, Hawaii. She has been at Centenary since 1999. Married to Darryl J.S. Ramos-Young, an Education Program Manager for Save-the-Redwood League, they have 3 children.

Helene Mieko (Kamiya) Shimane, 70, is a dedicated volunteer at the Okinawa Association of America, Inc. (OAA) and a proud promoter of Okinawan heritage and culture. She accepted the nomination on behalf of the many valued volunteers at the OAA who, she stated, “work just as hard and are more worthy than I am”. She loves working with children and watching them as they grow into individuals.

Her parents’ active involvement and past presidency in the OAA were influential in her life. Helene has served on the OAA’s the Board of Directors, Secretary, past vice-president, Goodwill Uchinanchu (Okinawan) Ambassador, Advisor to the Young Okinawans Group, Secretary of the History Committee, Scholarship Committee, Fujinbu and Newsletter editor.

In 2001, she and her brother, Ken, were chosen as the Man and Woman of the Year for the Okinawa Association of America, Inc. Ken also serves on the Board and as the Chairman of the Buildings and Fundraising Committees.

She continues her family’s tradition volunteering her skills in teaching, organizing and coordinating many of the events of the OAA in Gardena. She helps whenever there is a need whether it is in cleaning the facility, taking pictures or creating pictorial displays for the members. Non-profit organizations like the OAA depend on the hard work and unity of their many volunteers to achieve their goals.

Born in Honolulu and growing up in Los Angeles, she taught for 30 years in the LAUSD Purche Avenue School, Taper Avenue School and Bonita Street School. She received her Master’s degree in Special Education in 1981 and worked as a traveling teacher in the PHRC program, teacher of a special education class of primary children and later as a Resource Specialist until her retirement.

Since 1956, she has been a Sunday School teacher at the Gardena Valley Baptist Church (all grades), Sunday School Superintendent for several years and served on the Children’s Ministry Committee for 25 years. She is a member of the Japanese Cultural Institute (JCI), Japanese American National Museum (JANM), Japanese American Cultural Community Center (JACCC) and the Go For Broke Foundation.

Proud of her Okinawan heritage, she has studied Okinawan dance with Majikina Honryu Majikina Aiko Ryubu Dojo for over 20 years. Since 2001, she started studying the Okinawan koto (Japanese plucked musical instrument) with Teruya Katsuko Soukyoku Kenkyukai in order to carry forward her mother’s koto playing legacy. In 2002, she began studying the Uchinaguchi (Okinawan) Language with Chogi Higa Shinshii (teacher). She has learned to appreciate the language of her ancestors as well as proverbs, songs and Okinawan history.

Married to Sam Isamu Shimane, a retired grocery market owner, they have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. Her mother, Yoshiko Kamiya, who passed on the importance of service to the community to her children, was honored as the Woman of Year in 2004.