SAN DIEGO CHAPTER
JAPANESE AMERICAN CITIZENS LEAGUE
Michael Kurima - President
Michael Kurima is an Associate Principal at ZS Associates, a global consulting firm specializing in Sales and Marketing. Michael focuses on commercial strategy and re-organizations with small and large biotech companies in the Bay Area, mostly focusing on the BioOncology and Specialty Pharmaceutical sector. He has been based in Chicago, Tokyo, Princeton, and now the US West Coast during his time with ZS. Before business school, Michael worked in management in the service industry in Western Japan.
Michael has been active in the JACL since moving to Carlsbad with his wife and 2 children in 2011 and is currently serving as President of the Board of Directors for the San Diego Chapter. He is a fourth-generation Japanese American who has lived 10 years in Japan and 6 years in Germany. He has a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Southern Methodist University in his hometown of Dallas, TX, and an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in Durham, North Carolina.
Carol Kawamoto - Vice President
From 2004 to 2008, Carol Kawamoto served two biennial terms as the National JACL Vice President for Planning & Development. In 2002, she received National JACL’s highest membership honor, JACLer of the Biennium. She is noted for her work with National JACL’s teacher training workshops. Carol has served seven terms as Chapter President and was also JACL’s PSW District Governor from 1991 to 1993. Carol is a recipient of the JACL's prestigious Ruby Pin, which is awarded for lifetime achievement in advancing the mission of the JACL.
Sidney Shiroma - Treasurer
Sidney Shiroma grew up in Waipahu, HI, which for much of its history was known as a sugar plantation town. Growing up, he went to the local Japanese language school run by the Hongwanji church. Walking to the Japanese school located in the old camp, he had to walk on dirt roads which were occasionally sprayed with tar to keep down the dust. He had to be wary of the haul cane trucks which when they passed by would shower him with a backdraft of dust and residual particles of burnt cane.
From those humble beginnings, he moved to San Diego, where he started a small college textbook publishing company. He became interested in the JACL while doing research on ideas for books to publish in Asian American Studies. Sidney is currently working on a book on the JACL which will include a chapter on the history of the San Diego chapter.
Joanne Hayakawa - Secretary
Joanne Hayakawa is a multi-media artist and professor of art emeritus from San Diego State University. She was born in Pasadena, California, and has resided in San Diego since 1982. She has taught, lectured and exhibited in galleries, universities, museum, art centers and diverse art venues throughout the country and internationally. After serving as a selection panelist and participating on the Commission for Art and Culture Public Art Master Plan Steering Committee, she was appointed by the mayor to the Commission for eight years where she also served on the City’s Public Art Committee, Education Committee and Executive Committee.
Joanne received her BA from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her MFA from the University of Washington.
Cory Mitsui - Communications Director
Cory Mitsui is the Substation Engineering & Design Manager at San Diego Gas and Electric, overseeing the design and construction of San Diego region’s electric Substation infrastructure. Cory obtained a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo and achieved a M.B.A. in Organizational Leadership from National University. While in his position, he has made contributions and helped organize events for several professional organizations including the Transmission Maintenance Management Association, Distributech, and the IEEE Power Engineering Society chapter in San Luis Obispo.
Originally from the Los Angeles region, Cory is a fourth generation Japanese American. He has actively participated in the "Annual Day of Remembrance" for Japanese Internment during WWII, held in Washington D.C. and the "Japanese Americans in Baseball" exhibit that traveled to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.
Mr. Kawamoto has been active at all levels of the JACL. He served as the National President of the JACL from 2010 to 2012. He previously served six terms as the San Diego Chapter President (1990-93, 2003-2005). Additionally, from 2000 to 2004, he served two terms as the National JACL Vice President of General Operations, and a two year term as the National JACL Vice President for Planning & Development (2008 to 2010). David has also served two terms as the JACL’s Pacific Southwest District Governor (1995-99). In 2006, he received National JACL’s highest membership honor, JACLer of the Biennium, for his work in revamping the National JACL Scholarship program.
Mits Tomita is a physician who retired from Kaiser Permanente. In addition to being a current Board member of the San Diego JACL, Mits was on the Board of Directors for the Union of Pan Asian Communities (UPAC). Most notably, he served as the Chair of the (City of San Diego) Mayor’s Asian Pacific Islander Advisory Board.
Alissa Todd works with clients on their financial goals through a comprehensive Wealth Planning process at The Wealth Consulting Group. Alissa specializes in helping professionals in their 20s and 30s to use money as a tool to pursue living a life they love. From guidance on cash flow and debt management to saving for a down payment or retirement, her team works with clients to achieve financial independence.
Originally from The Netherlands, Alissa attended Japanese school on Saturdays in Amsterdam for six years. After moving to California, she earned her B.S degree in Finance from San Diego State University.
Taiga Takahashi is an attorney at Latham & Watkins, a global law firm with offices in 14 countries around the world. Taiga primarily practices in administrative and public law, with a focus on compliance with and challenges to federal, state, and local environmental and land-use regulations, and represents clients in a range of business sectors, including renewable energy, conventional power, commercial products, real estate development, and agriculture. Before law school, Taiga served in the military as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy. During graduate school at U.C. San Diego, Taiga worked as a consultant for San Diego Coastkeeper and the American Civil Liberties Union of San Diego and Imperial Counties. During law school, Taiga clerked at the Environmental Enforcement Section of the U.S. Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division, and at the California Regional Office of Earthjustice. Taiga is a second-generation Japanese American who hails from the Midwest. He has a B.A. from Stanford University, an M.P.I.A., with a specialization in statistical analysis, from the University of California, San Diego’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (now the School of Global Policy and Strategy), and a J.D. from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, with a specialization in Environmental Law.
Jonathan Yokoyama came to San Diego when he attended San Diego State University and earned his degree in Business Finance. For the past 10 years he has worked in banking and the financial services industry.
Joining the JACL was influenced by his upbringing in Huntington Beach, CA while actively engaged with various Japanese American organizations. His involvement with the community included contributing to community events with Wintersburg Presbyterian Church, and Yonsei Basketball Association while playing on their basketball and baseball sports teams.
In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his longtime girlfriend, Jenna and their two rescue dogs, Toby, a miniature dachshund and Noodles, a chow-Weimaraner mix.
Lane Nishikawa is best known for his feature length motion picture, Only The Brave, now airing on Showtime, which was selected to over 18 film festivals, toured to 25 cities, and won awards and audiences across the country. Only The Brave is based on the 100th/442nd Regiment, the all Nisei unit, and their rescue of the “Lost Battalion”, the Texans of the 1412t Regiment, from the Nazis, in the Vosges Forest in France, during World War II.
He has been acting, directing, producing and doing voiceovers for over twenty-five years. His trilogy of one man shows, Mifune And Me, I'm On A Mission From Buddha, and Life In The Fast Lane, toured to over 75 cites across the U.S., Canada and Europe.
Critics have called his work humorous, educational, enlightening, and constantly break new ground in examining the human condition of the Asian American experience. I’m On A Mission From Buddha, was adapted for television and aired on National PBS, which won Mr. Nishikawa a Profiles In Excellence Award from ABC-TV. He was the Artistic Director of the Asian American Theater Company of San Francisco for ten seasons, Co-Artistic Director for the Eureka Theater company, and Associate Director at San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. Lane has also been a guest instructor at Stanford University, S.F. State University, C.S.U. Monterey Bay and Maui Community College.
Among his awards are the J.A.C.L. Ruby Yoshino Schaar Playwright Award, the J.A.C.L. Henry and Chiyo Kuwahara Award, the Japanese American Community Cultural Center Humanitarian Award, the George Nakashima Peace Award, and multiple grants from the Civil Liberties Public Education Fund and California Civil Liberties Public Education Program. He was among the fifty artists, one for each state, to receive a national grant in 1999, Artists & Communities: America Creates for the Millennium, from the N.E.A., the White House Millennium Council, and the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.
Robert P. Ito, CEO of Ito Girard & Associates, has over 40 years of experience in workforce and community development and real estate development in San Diego. A San Diego native raised in Encanto, received his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology from USIU and Masters in Social Work from San Diego State University. He is the former founding CEO of both Occupational Training Services (OTS) and the San Diego Community Housing Corporation. Career highlights includes: 30,000 jobs for low income San Diegans; administered $30 million in Federal, State, and Local funds; developed 1,200 affordable rental units providing housing for 3,650 people and developed and sold 160 homes to low and moderate income first time homebuyers.
Lauren Matsumoto was born and raised in San Diego and joined JACL in high school. She is currently an undergraduate at University of California, San Diego pursuing a B.A. in International Business and a minor in accounting. In 2014, Lauren participated in the Kakehashi Project with her high school and was given the opportunity to meet the Okinawa governor and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. In 2015, she was one of the JACL San Diego scholarship recipient. She is the 2016-2017 UCSD Nikkei Student Union Culture Chair, 2017 UCSD Matsuri Food Committee Leader and Operations/Internal Relations committee member of UCSD Women in Business.