Chicago Shimpo
2019 Annual Meeting of the Japanese Mutual Aid Society of Chicago

• The Japanese Mutual Aid Society of Chicago (JMAS) held its 2019 annual meeting on March 25 at the Japanese American Service Committee. Annual reports on finances, activities, developments and new regulations on plots and mausoleum in the Montrose Cemetery, community outreach, and future plans were presented.

Brief History

• 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. JMAS purchased plots within Montrose and built a mausoleum in 1937.
• Since then JMAS has purchased plots and sold them to the community members and friends at affordable prices. JMAS has also provided necessary aids for the Japanese American (JA) community.


• With its slogan “Embracing our Legacy and Building our Future”, JMAS has actively served the community. JMAS President Gary Shimomura reported its activities in 2018. It hosted a memorial service at the Montrose Cemetery on Memorial Day, offered scholarships for young students, grant money for JA organizations, participated in the JA/Japanese picnic, Japan Festival, Day of Remembrance, Asian American Coalition of Chicago’s Lunar New Year Celebration, and helped Japan Bowl, an educational program for American Students. JMAS also held four seminars and served obento boxes for seniors who live on his/her own.


• All services JMAS offers are posted in its website,, from its comprehensive history, Montrose Cemetery, Mausoleum, and all the services.
• The four seminars about “Social Security,” “Medicare,” “Veterans’ benefits,” and “Estates planning” are videotaped and posted in the website. The length of time is about 45 minutes per video.
• JMAS also has set a webpage that enables payment electronically.


• Urns that have been storage in the mausoleum will become permanent storage as of June 1, 2019 due to changes in the Illinois law. If a family of urns plan to remove them and bury them elsewhere, the family have to remove them before June 1; otherwise, the family has to submit official papers. There are 253 urns in the mausoleum, and JMAS recognized 29 families of urn owners and sent out a notice.
• JMAS and Montrose Cemetery have been working on a process that would allow temporary storage of urns to the community.

Prices of plot

• When 2018 fiscal year started, JMAS possessed 190 plots in Oakhill Annex, and 112 plots were sold by the end of December, 2018 at the price of $350 per plot. The price was increased to $1,000 on January 1, 2019 due to a significant gap to the market price. For example, Montrose Cemetery sells a plot at $1,800.
• JMAS newly purchased 259 plots in Cherry Triangle Annex. The new plots will be available to purchase at $1,500 each.
• Ron Yoshino of Cemetery Committee said that JMAS had about 340 plots in total, so the number of plots would meet the community needs for 20 to 30 years because 10 to 15 plots were usually sold in a year.

Community-outreach Program

• Bryan Funai spoke about a community-outreach program participating in the Project 120. It was designed to dedicate not only inside of JA community but also the Chicago community as a whole.
• 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 JMAS. Funai said that the Society would contribute to the Project up to $100,000 and plan to include JA contributions to Chicago from the late 1800s in the Project’s historical narrative. He also said that JMAS had a naming right to the moon bridge in the Japanese garden; now it’s called Osaka Garden.
• Unfortunately, the progress of the Project 120 has been delayed due to lawsuits that were brought by the Friends of Park against Obama Presidential Center, which is planned to be built adjacent to Phoenix Garden, but Funai foresaw that the lawsuits would be resolved shortly.

Upcoming Seminar

• JMAS will host seminars on “Hospice and Palliative Care”. Susan Uehara Rakstang explained that it would be very educational to understand what hospice and palliative care including financial aspects of the service.
• Its dates, times, and places will be announced shortly.

• 2019 Board Members of Japanese Mutual Aid Society of Chicago

• President, Gary Shimomura; Treasurer, Ruth Adaniya Kane; Secretary, Ron Yoshino; Executive Director,
• Karen Kanemoto
• Directors: Bryan Funai, Neil Kanemoto, Tad Tanaka, Ken Yoshitani, Susan Uehara Rakstang

2019 annual meeting of the Japanese Mutual Aid of Society Chicago

The Montrose Cemetery

The mausoleum built in 1937 and has now more than 250 storages of urns.

2019 Board Members of the Japanese Mutual Aid Society of Chicago