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The 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, were presented.

• 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 acquaintances.
• 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. (www.jmaschicago.org)
• 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 historical narrative.
• 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
• Burial
• 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
• jmaskanemoto@gmail.com

• 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


The Japanese Mutual Aid Society's 2017 annual meeting



Newly created Mutual Aid's website


Gary Shimomura, President of the Society


Karen Kanemoto, Executive Director of the Society