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A Get Together at a Picnic: Estranged Communities Have a Go

• Let’s get closer! The Japanese American and Japanese communities held their first joint picnic at Bunker Hill Forest Preserve in Niles, Illinois on August 2. All participants enjoyed a potluck luncheon, sizzling yakisoba, roasted pig, hot dogs, and shaved ice as well as games and music.

• Michael Takada, CEO of Japanese American Service Committee, made comments on the picnic saying, “It is a new beginning, a new cycle of getting the Japanese community, the JA community, and the American community all together. Food is such a wonderful way to bring people together. You don’t have to speak the same language, and you don’t have to have the same background. We all have to eat.”
• Regarding the benefits of the picnic, he said, “This is the first step for individuals to get to know each other. So we become friends, and we continue to have this program, we get to know the people even better, and hopefully lasting friendships would develop, such as business opportunities and entertainment opportunities.”

• Toshio Ogino, President of Chicago Japanese Club (CJC), said that he had proposed a get together when he met JA leaders, because everyone thought that it would be nice to know each other, but there was no opportunity.
• “About 300 people came today including 100 from CJC. Bob Kumaki chaired today’s event and called JAs together. Today is the first step, and I hope that Japanese in Chicago area would be more active with JA friends. Today, we miss JA leader Mr. Calvin Manshio, and his memorial service will be held this afternoon. I believe that he brought such nice weather for us.”

• Takashi O’Haru, a board member of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industries (JCCC), cooked and served sizzling yakisoba with calamari. He said, “We have to expand our circle, and we Japanese have to unite with JAs.”

• There is no border on food preference between JAs and Japanese. Felix (Saburo) Lanier said, “I’m waiting for more yakisoba.” He is Sansei from his father’s side and Nisei from his mother’s side. He identified himself as an official photographer of Tokon Judo. According to Lanier, Tokon Judo started the picnic in the middle of 1990s and has been doing it for about 20 years.
• He started judo after graduating from college, due to weight gain caused by desk work. He looked for an exercise and found judo. He said, “Judo is more than just exercise. I love it,” and added, “This is wonderful. Do I benefit? Yes, most definitely.”

• Darlene Cuker has an American father and a Japanese mother, who is a member of Japanese American Historical Society. She said, “It is a very positive thing, good food and good entertainment.”

• A Japanese family enjoyed the picnic, too. Nobuyuki Omura said that he didn’t have JA friend outside of his work circle. “There are many people here, and we can talk, so our lives would become more interesting,” he said.

• Great entertainers at the picnic were Bob Fortich and Dean Sakurai. They met each other through karaoke and formed “Star Tracks Karaoke” 25 years ago. They have provided sweet music and karaoke at the picnic for many years.
• They regularly perform at Shoeless Joes in Rosemont, IL every Friday night and Richies Restaurant in Schiller Park, IL every other Friday.

• The full story is available in the Chicago Shimpo’s 2014, September 12th issue.


Michael Takada (R) and others enjoy variety of food at the picnic.


Takashi O’Haru of JCCC serves sizzling yakisoba with calamari from Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture in Japan.


Toshio Ogino, President of CJC


The members of Chicago Japanese Club serve shaved ice.

Tokon Judo’s official photographer Felix (Saburo) Lanier takes picnic photos.


The Omura family


Bob Fortich (L) and Dean Sakurai of the Star Tracks Karaoke

Children enjoy horse riding at the picnic.