Chicago Shimpo
Bill Yoshino Honored by
The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette
Award Recognizes JAs’ Value and Roles

• William Yoshino was honored by the Emperor’s award, the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, and an award ceremony was held on October 18 at the official residence of Consul General of Japan in Chicago.
• Consul General Naoki Ito commended Yoshino for his long time devotions to protect human rights. He was Director of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) Midwest for almost 40 years and retired from his position last year.
• Consul General Ito said that Yoshino, as a leader of the Japanese American (JA) community, has dedicated himself to educating the public about the JA history and succeeded in facilitating trainings, conferences, and workshops to equip educators to teach especially young generations about JA incarceration during WWII.

• In the recent years, Yoshino has also taken important rules in connecting Japanese nationals and the JA communities in local areas through his participation in the Chicago JA Council, Japan Festival, JA Picnic and Day of Remembrance. Especially, at the Day of Remembrance, he has created solidarity by involving people from the wider Chicago community through telling the story of JA incarceration and collaborating on protecting civil rights of all.

• Yoshino has worked to improve situations for those who experienced discrimination, and that made things better for Japanese nationals who came to the Chicago area. His efforts have fostered more opportunities for friendship at a grass root level and brought Japan and the U.S. closer together.

• Consul General Ito said, “I hope that this (Emperor’s Award) shows the importance of not only Mr. Yoshino’s achievements but also on the works so many of you do to encourage and protect the place of JAs in the U.S. and to make Japan-US friendship even stronger,”

• Yoshino said that he was really fortunate to spend his career telling JA stories and spreading them as far as he could and proud of being connected with the JACL.
• He also said that he had learned the importance of support from his friends and family when he had tried to accomplish his work. He expressed his gratitude to his family and friends who attended the ceremony.

• Yoshino’s relationship with Japan goes back to late 1980s. Regarding JA incarceration, the U.S. Government acknowledged its misconduct and apologized to JAs. President Ronald Regan signed the Civil Liberties Act in 1988, and Yoshino attended the signing ceremony.
• After the bill was signed, the JA community worked hard to make sure that a registration was created, so that redress was appropriated in the Congress. For this reason, Yoshino often traveled to the West Coast and became a close friend of Cressey Nakagawa, President of National JACL from 1988 to 1992.
• Nakagawa introduced him to then Consul General Shunji Yanai in San Francisco, who became Japanese Ambassador to the U.S. later years. From there, Yoshino was involved in the matter of the Japan-U.S. relationship.

• Yoshino’s father, Maurice Takeo Yoshino left Chigasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture when he was a teenager and boarded a ship to Seattle on June 23, 1924. Curiously, it was a week before the Immigration Act of 1924 went into effect, which banned Japanese immigration. The ship Maurice boarded was the last ship, which carried Japanese immigrants.
• His father experienced the Great Depression and then incurred JA incarceration. He became a U.S. citizen later, but Yoshino said that he never lost his Japanese sensibility. He had deep knowledge of the Japanese history and loved the culture and arts of Japan. He also kept human dignity. Yoshino thinks that his father probably acquired such personality from his grandfather, who was an official guard for the Meiji Emperor.
• Yoshino said, “With this background, I dedicate this conferment in memory of my father.”

• Cressey Nakagawa, who flew from the West Coast to attend the ceremony, spoke about Yoshino and his experiences with the Japan-U.S. relationship. Although JAs are of Japanese ancestry, they are Americans, not extensions of Japan. This fact is often misunderstood by Japanese nationals.

• After President Regan signed the Civil Liberty Act in 1988, the JA community, especially on the West Coast, was actively lobbying to pass a registration to secure redress appropriation and needed fundraising.
• On the other hand, a trade conflict between Japan and the U.S. was getting worse and worse, and Japan bashing was happening. Nakagawa’s concern was growing in his mind that an aggravated US-Japan relationship would bring negative effects in various way to the JA community.
• Nakagawa said, “We never had a good relationship with those people who represented Japanese corporations or Japanese political world. We did it because our parents wanted to be away from them, after all. They had caused creation of camps that we went to.”

• Nakagawa said to the attendees, “Think about that for a moment,” and continued to speak.
• He said that without funding redress, the purpose of the Civil Liberty Act would be lost. To do so, the community solidarity and fundraising was critical.
• Then Consul General Yanai in San Francisco talked to Nakagawa about JAs’ involvement in the Japan-U.S. relationship during such an important time. Nakagawa and Yoshino discussed it numerous times during the period from 1988 to 1990 to avoid problems. There were many negative things that occurred in private conversations in bars and hotels across the country, and the two acted to let Japanese people know that there were problems.

• Through Yanai, Nakagawa was invited to Atlanta to speak about the U.S.-Japan relations and what JAs had to do with it. There were questions such as why JAs were more involved in that. Nakagawa said that the answers were written later years in the Pacific Citizens, the National Newspaper of the JACL.

• Nakagawa said, “Tonight, let me say to Consul General Ito,” and talked about his thoughts.
• He said that while Yoshiko deserved to receive the Emperor’s award, he wanted others to know that none of works could have come about unless the issue was put to political bodies, and there was an issue that needed to be seriously addressed. “You had to recognize that Americans of Japanese ancestry couldn’t come forward at times, and wouldn’t at times. Tell the Japanese Government and its representatives what problems they might be causing,” Nakagawa said.
• “This document and the medal shows us that we’ve come a long, long way to a point where you recognized and Japan has recognized the value of JAs and the role we played to create a better America. And in the process, you also created a better Japan,” he continued.
• Lastly he said that he wanted people in his community to keep watching where Japan was going amid a movement to a situation that was ever closer to the late 1930s. “Let me tell you that we are there because of Bill (Yoshino’s conferment).”

From left: Rich Morimoto, Cressey Nakagawa, Bill Yoshino, and Consul General Naoki Ito

Medal of the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette

Japanese Americans and other related community members congratulate Bill Yoshino.