Japanese Mutual Aid Society of Chicago Introduces New Programs
• The Japanese Mutual Aid Society of Chicago held its
2017 annual meeting on March 27 at the Japanese American Service Committee.
Annual reports on finances and activities, as well as their plan for 2017,
• About 300 Japanese were living in Chicago in the 1930s
and faced problems when it came to burying the deceased. Many of the individuals,
such as those working in restaurants, died single, with no money and no
relatives. As of 1934, about 50 people had died over the past 15 years,
40 of whom had no relatives and were buried through donations made by
• Facing the situation, the need emerged for an official organization
for mutual assistance, thus community volunteers held discussions and
founded the Japanese Mutual Aid Society of Chicago in January, 1935.
• Back then, it was difficult for Japanese to receive burials in Chicago
due to racism, the only available place being Montrose Cemetery on the
north side of the city.
• The Mutual aid Society purchased plots within Montrose and built a mausoleum
in 1936. The mausoleum could be used to house the remains of the deceased
without relatives or unable to meet burial costs.
• Since its founding, the Society has continued to secure graves for burial
at Montrose. Currently more than 200 plots are available to purchase at
the price of the 1980s or 1990s.
• The Society has also provided Memorial-Day Service, scholarships, community
services and more.
• Gary Shimomura, President of the Society, said that
it has been very active and holding monthly meetings with new and old
board members. He also introduced the Society’s new logo and website.
• Ken Yoshitani, Treasurer, spoke about overview of actions in 2016 and
budget and plans for 2017. Last year, the Society held two seminars, estate
planning and veteran’s benefits, and is going to hold more seminars this
year. One is “Medicare 2017” that will be held on April 26. (The details
are available in page 11.) Another seminar on Social Security will be
held in May or June.
• Ron Yoshino introduced Society’s website on a big screen.
The site provides necessary information about burial plots, final arrangement
assistance, membership, programs, history of the Society, and more. (www.jmaschicago.org)
• Bryan Funai spoke about a new community-outreach program.
He said that the Society not only was dedicated to JA community but also
contributed to the Chicago community as a whole, so the Society participated
in the Project 120.
• Partnering with the Chicago Park District and the community, the Project
120 has revitalized Chicago’s south parks including Jackson Park’s Japanese
garden and the site of Ho-o-den (Phoenix Pavilion), which was built in
1893 Columbian Exposition and lost in a fire in 1946.
• Coincidentally, Shoji Osato, who took care of Ho-o-den and the Japanese
garden from 1936 to 1941, was a founding member of the Japanese Mutual
Aid Society. This fact brought the Society and Project 120 together. Funai
said that the Society would contribute to the Project up to $100,000,
and plan to include JA experiences from the early 1900s in the Project’s
• Osato’s daughter Sono, a talented dancer, became a Broadway star during
WWII, amid the severe racism against JAs. Sono’s story was described in
the dance form and performed by the Thodos Dance Chicago in 2016.
• Karen Kanemoto, Executive Director of the Society,
explained estimated burial costs as of March 1, 2017.
• Marker 1,651.88
• Urns (weekdays) $1,200
• (Saturday) $1,600
• Cremation vault $400
• Setting Charge $100
• Additional fees may apply.
• To consult the Mutual Aid Society to purchase a plot or join, contact
Karen Kanemoto at
• Approved the Board of Directors:
• Bryan Funai, Neil Kanemoto, Gary Shimomura, Tad Tanaka, Linda Murakishi
Whitted, Ron Yoshino, and Ken Yoshitani.
• Executive Director, Karen Kanemot