All articles written by Carolyn Sugiyama Classen, Editor

To search for any articles/subject matter, press “Ctrlf” (Control f) to get a search box on the top right of the screen, and then type in the information you need (i.e. 2016 or someone’s name).  Recent articles now on top.


Tokyo to Tucson” article in AZ Daily Star newspaper on July 22,2021 featuring Japanese culture in Tucson. Just in time for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.  Otaku Nation (store), Takoyaki Balls food truck, Tucson Origami Club, and Yume Japanese Gardens are mentioned in the article.


SAJCC Council votes to sign letter sent by Japanese American Citizens League of Arizona to Governor Doug Ducey, about anti-Asian hate in April, 2021

On April 9, the SAJCC Council of 13 members voted to be one of the undersigned organizations in the attached letter to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, expressing sentiment against anti-Asian violence in Arizona and the nation. The vote was 12-0-1.

Copy of the letter from Japanese American Citizens League of Arizona (Glendale, AZ) below.


Peaceful video of Enchanted Evenings at Yume Japanese Gardens taken during pandemic of Fall, 2020

Music by Paul Amiel. Vimeo video is 8 minutes, 30 seconds in duration

Yume Japanese Gardens is at 2130 N. Alvernon Way, Tucson. It opened in January 2013.


Japanese culture re-framed at annual Tucson Meet Yourself Folklife Festial in October, 2020

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the popular Tucson Meet Yourself folklife festival had to go virtual for performances.  Mari Kaneta’s Suzuyuki-Kai traditional dancers performed online on Oct. 8:
Founder Mari Kaneta was also interviewed for Traditional Thursdays: Dances for Gesture in Japanese and Indian Traditions:
Odaiko Sonora taiko drummers performed virtually on October 15:
Founder Karen Falkenstrom (half Korean American) was interviewed for Traditional Thursdays: The Living Traditions of Taiko & Capoeira:
Moreover, on Fridays Oct. 2, 9, 16, 23  various Japanese artisans and Mari Kaneta‘s Japanese dancers  were shown on public walls via taped video performances, without sound.  The venues were the Aloft Hotel, Tucson City Hall, Winterhaven Square, PICOR, Kent’s Tools, and Mercado San Agustin. Origami folder Chi Nakano and shodo calligraphy artist Akiko Victorson (Soulful Sumi Calligraphy) were also featured. 

Akiko with her calligraphy, on the west wall of the Aloft Hotel, (Speedway/Campbell), taken Oct. 2, courtesy of Akiko

Tucson Eat Yourself: At the Mercado San Agustin (125 S. Avenida del Convento) on Oct. 10 & 11 were several food trucks for a smaller food venue, including the popular Takoyaki Balls food truck of Tomomi Katz. Tomomi is pictured below on the far left. They were also at the next weekend roundups at  Cafe Santa Rosa (2615 S. 6th Avenue)  on Oct. 17 and 18, and at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church on Oct. 24 and 25.  Photo courtesy of Steven Meckler for Tucson Meet Yourself.
This was indeed a different rendition of Tucson Meet Yourself with virtual performances, three smaller Tucson Eat Yourself venues (west, south, and central locales), and video taping of artisans on six public building walls around the city.
Let’s see what TMY in 2021 holds for us.


SAJCC provides assistance funds to several Japanese American businesses and organizations during COVID-19 pandemic in July, 2020

The Southern Arizona Japanese Cultural Coaltion (SAJCC) Council decided to provide emergency assistance funds to Japanese American businesses and organizations during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. A committee consisting of Director Yuki Ibuki, Treasurer Clint Cooper, Secretary K. Negley, and Dr. Min and Evelyn Yanagihashi set up a selection process and chose these recipients, with approval of the full Council. Funds were distributed in July, 2020 to:

  • Odaiko Sonora (taiko drummers): $1500 Covid-19 support donation (1013 S. Tyndall Avenue)
  • Tucson Japanese Language School: $500 for Covid-19 scholarship support plus a donation of 15 purchased Family Memberships for Yume Japanese Gardens (1701 E. Seneca St.)
  • Yume Japanese Gardens: $500 Covid-19 support donation (2130 N. Alvernon Way)
  • Ikkyu Restaurant: $500 to assist with their restaurant operations for food donations to medical personnel of Covid-19 (2040 W. Orange Grove Rd). 

Be well everyone, and stay safe during this pandemic. For more info about these donated funds, contact Director Yuki Ibuki at


SAJCC’s Ross Iwamoto and Carolyn Classen receive awards at Pan Asian Community Alliance Lunar New Year celebration on Feb. 29, 2020

Southern Arizona Japanese Cultural Coalition’s founder and 1st Director Ross Iwamoto was named Pan Asian Man of the Year, and SAJCC Editor (for 7 years) Carolyn Sugiyama Classen was named Friend of Pan Asian — at the Feb. 29 Pan Asian Community Alliance’s 25th annual Lunar New Year celebration at the Tucson Marriott University Park Hotel, 880 E. 2nd St.

PACA dinner program, courtesy of Daisy Rodriguez-Pitel

Ross served on the SAJCC Council from 2012 to 2016, and Carolyn is a Founding member of the SAJCC & is still currently on the Council.

Ross has also been active on PACA’s board, with the TUSD Pan Asian Studies Program and the So. Az Asian Pacific Islanders Health Coalition. Ross was the Director of a 2009 Asian American Pacific Islander conference in Tucson, bringing in his cousin Robert Kiyosaki (Rich Dad, Poor Day author) as keynote speaker. Ross is Sansei (3rd generation Japanese American), from the island of Molokai, Hawaii. He also paints watercolors and has been included in a few United by Art exhibits at the Consulate of Mexico in Tucson.

Carolyn also served for one year on the PACA board, three years recently on the Community Council of APASA (Asian Pacific American Student Affairs), where she was awarded the 1st Community Builder award in 2018. She teachers students how to play mah jong every Friday during the academic school year. She founded Mah Jong Mondays at Himmel Park Library, which celebrated its 10th anniversary in January. Carolyn has also been a member/volunteer at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center since 2008. She is likewise a Sansei, from N. Kohala on the Big Island of Hawaii.


L to R: Carolyn Sugiyama Classen, Friend of Pan Asian award; Ross Iwamoto, Pan Asian Man of the Year 2020, photo taken by Albrecht Classen

Entertainment at the PACA dinner was provided by Mari Kaneta’s Suzuyuki Kai Dancers (pictured below), Siva Maia Polynesian Dancers, and Neneng Babanto Fassler Filipino dancers.

Suzuyuki-Kai dancers L to R: Risa Peters and Suzu Igarashi , courtesy of Cat Ripley

Some of the Japanese/Asian American past recipients of PACA awards were:

Dr. Henry “Hank” Oyama, Pan Asian Man of the Year 2005 (Educator/Vice President Emeritus at Pima Community College). He was interned during WWII at Poston Internment Camp. Hank passed away in 2013 at age 86.

M. Craig, Pan Asian Woman of the Year 2006 (founder of Tucson Origami Club, past President of Japan America Society of Tucson, founding member of SAJCC). M is half Japanese/half African American.

Karen Falkenstrom, Pan Asian Woman of the Year 2009 (founder of Odaiko Sonora taiko drummers, active on Tucson Japanese Festival committee and former SAJCC Treasurer – half Korean American/half Caucasian).

Dr. Sylvia Lee, Friend of Pan Asian 2014 (former President of PCC NW and elected to one six year term on Pima Community College Governing Board). Sylvia is of Japanese/Chinese/Caucasian ethnicity.

Mari Kaneta, Pan Asian Woman of the Year 2018 (founder of Japanese dance troupe Suzuyuki-Kai, owner of Yamato Japanese restaurant).



Tucson Japanese Festival held on January 18, 2020 was a huge success

Our 7th New Year’s mochi pounding Tucson Japanese Festival was another huge success, with over 2,000 attendees. Held for the 2nd year at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center (1288 W. River Rd.), performances were done by co-sponsor Odaiko Sonora, and Tucson Japanese Language School student choir and Ayla & Shiho  (mother/daughter duo on violin & piano), Empty Bamboo Shakuhachi Circle, Suzuyuki-Kai traditional Japanese dancers on the Court stage.  Martial arts were demonstrated by Tucson Kendo Kai, Tucson Bujinkan Dojo, and Aikido Shoubu Dojo in the outside garden. Several tea ceremonies were held by Urasenke Chanoyu and Sakura Tea Circle in both the library and dance studio. Arizona Kyudo Club performed an archery demonstration as well.
Mochi pounding was again the highlight with free mochi samples for all. Food vendors included food  trucks Takoyaki Balls, Solid Grindz, and Fat Noodle, along with Sushi Zona and Matcha-An (green tea ice cream). MC (new) was Stuart Ferguson.  The welcome was once again given by PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert (whose PCC Diversity Club participated), and SAJCC Director Yuki Ibuki.  
Origami was taught by Tucson Origami Club and various games – kendama, ayatori, fukuwarai, otedama  were played in the gaming room, along with Go teaching in another room.  There was even a contest for picking up beans with chopsticks. 
For the first time, volunteer t-shirts (green Year of the Rat) were provided to the 60 plus volunteers.  Also for the first time, SAJCC hired a Festival Coordinator, Laurie Neal Parker. Happy New Year of the Rat 2020. 

Odaiko Sonora taiko drummers on stage, courtesy of Angela Salmon/Desert Aloha LLC


Mochi pounding team: Micha Sherman in red hapi coat, and the Pimienta family – Julian, Benito, Isaac, and Miki. Usu belongs by Miki’s mother Fusako. Courtesy of M Fumie Craig

Cici Okuburo drawing henonoheji (faces with Japanese alphabet) with brushes on magic water paper, courtesy of Teena Werley

Photo gallery with more photos of the festival published in Blog for Arizona:  hyperlink:



Two SAJCC Study Abroad Scholarships awarded to University of Arizona students for summer 2019 in Kyoto, Japan

In Feb. 2019 the SAJCC Council created a Study Abroad in Japan Scholarship program, to award two $500 scholarships to financially needy UA college students enrolled in a Kyoto, Japan summer class.

12 students in the June to July course were encouraged to submit information on an application form and an essay about why they wanted to study in Kyoto, Japan. An SAJCC selection committee was established and the deadline to apply was April 1, 2019. The selection committee were Chair Carolyn Sugiyama Classen, her husband Professor Albrecht Classen (Director of Medieval Europe study abroad for 15 years), and retired East Asian Professor Min Yanagihashi.

University of Arizona students Adrian Ford and Philipp Roederer were each awarded these scholarships  to use in their study abroad course “Arizona in Kyoto: Japanese Food & Traditional Culture”. Ford is a Broadcast Journalism major, with a minor in Japanese; Roederer is a Japanese language/Pre-Business major.

Adrian Ford

Ford’s statement (excerpt): “My dream is to be a foreign correspondent for a big news network writing and speaking on Japan. My number one dream would to be move there and report from there. However, I have never travelled to Japan, this trip would allow me to see my dream out and guarantee to myself that this is what I want to do, and where I want to live.”

Philipp Roederer

Roederer’s essay (excerpt): “I have not yet been to Japan, in fact, I have not yet traveled outside of the United States. So, studying abroad in Kyoto will be a first for both for me. As mentioned, what made me interested in learning about Japan in the first place is Zen Buddhism and so Kyoto will be the perfect place for me to study abroad in as it is a center for Japanese culture, including Buddhism.”

Both students were required to give a short presentation on their study abroad experience to the SAJCC Council in the Fall of 2019. 

On September 16, both students presented a power point at the Johrei Fellowship Center about their learning and culinary experiences in Kyoto and Osaka, Japan. Both enjoyed their summer study abroad experience and were grateful for the scholarship.  Attending this meeting were several SAJCC Council members, Professor Albrecht Classen, and East Asian Studies professors Josh Schlachet and Chieko Nakano, who ran the Kyoto study abroad program.




Childrens’ Day celebration held at Yume Japanese Gardens on March 9, 2019

Yume Japanese Gardens (2130 N. Alvernon Way)  hosted a Children’s Day celebration early on March 9, 2019. Usually this event is held on Children’s Day which is on May 5 of each year.  Various activities were held for children to participate in such as wearing yukata and hapi coats, origami folding, decorating  a  paper lantern,  learning Japanese games such as hanafuda, kendama, ayatori, fukuwarai.  Otaku  Nation store had a table with Japanese  items for sale, and the Takoyaki Balls food truck served takoyaki, curry rice, onigiri, okonomiyaki.  Calligraphy, anime viewing and a puppet show were also included with admission.

Carolyn Classen, SAJCC Editor taught the Japanese card game of hanafuda, while SAJCC Councilmember Miki Pimienta taught the other games listed above. SAJCC Councilmember Miyako McKay helped dress the children & adults in the yukata & hapi coats.

Photos below courtesy of M Fumie Craig, founder of Tucson Origami Club & also a SAJCC Councilmember, who taught origami at this event. More photos at Tucson Origami Club’s FB page:

koinobori on display for sale, to fly on May 5


Tucson Origami Club table with young girl in yukara


Carolyn Classen teaching hanafuda, to Miki’s sons Taka and Masa


Tucson Japanese Festival on January 19, 2019 a huge success at new location Tucson Chinese Cultural Center

For the 6th year in a row, SAJCC hosted a New Year’s Tucson Japanese Festival on January 19, 2019 at the lovely Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, 1288 W. River Rd.  Once again Japanese cultural activities,food, games, musical/dance performances, taiko drumming, martial arts was included in the day’s festivities. 

MC again was Louis Rivera, and Dr. Min Yanagihashi gave his talk again about the history of rice and mochi pounding. Photos below courtesy of M Fumie Craig, founder of Tucson Origami Club and one by Louis Rivera. Chair of the event was Sharon Arceneaux, who has been a volunteer for the festival for 4 years. 

Co-host Odaiko Sonora performed on their taiko drums, Suzuyuki Kai danced a few traditional dances from Japan. There was martial arts demonstrations by Tucson Kendo Kai, Tucson Bujinkan Dojo, Bujinkan USA, Aikido Shoubu Dojo, and  Aikido at the Center.  Paul Amiel & Empty Bamboo Shakuhachi performed their flutes in the library.

Origami was taught & folded in a dance studio, along with Go, kendama & furuwarai games, with kimono demonstrations & tea ceremony in another dance studio.

Free samples of mochi (with kinako) were offered


Tomomi Katz serving takoyaki at her food truck


Southern Arizona Koi Association brought some of their favorite koi for display

Additional photos published in  Blog for Arizona:

creative Origami cranes & butterflies on display & for sale


Odaiko Sonora performing on their taiko drums


Talk on WWII Japanese American internment camps in Arizona held at Himmel Park Library on April 11, 2018

Retired East Asian Studies Professor Dr. Min Yanagihashi wrote a scholarly article on the two Arizona WWII Internment camps (at Gila River and Poston),  and then presented his paper, with a slide show at a SAJCC sponsored event, at Himmel Park Library (1035 N. Treat Ave.) on April 11, 2018.

Event flyer created by Crystal Akazawa posted here, as well as pdf of Min’s article, and two videotapes (taken by SAJCC volunteer freelancer James Tokishi). Water and Japanese snacks (senbei, arare) were provided by SAJCC with some donated by Kenji Azeka, with assistance of Evelyn Yanagihashi.  


Videotape 1 (lecture, with welcome by Carolyn Sugiyama Classen, Editor):

Videotape 2 (questions/answers):

Thanks to the PCC Asian Pacific Cultural Club who helped set up the chairs, serve refreshments, and clean up afterwards.

SAJCC Council members in attendance at this event:  Director Yuki Ibuki, Dr. Min Yanagihashi, Carolyn Sugiyama Classen, Evelyn Yanagihashi, Crystal Akazawa, K Negley, Ginger Sugimoto.  Over 40 people attended this talk.


Tucson Japanese Festival held on January 20, 2018 to celebrate New Year of the Dog

For 5th year the SAJCC sponsored a New Year’s event (along with cohost Odaiko Sonora) now called the Tucson Japanese Festival (formerly called Tucson Mochitsuki) at PCC Downtown, 1255 N. Stone Ave.  Musical and dance performances were held in the Amethyst room, delicious Japanese food (and samples) were provided, along with Japanese games/origami upstairs in the Campus Center building.

Chair of the 2018 event was Suke Nakata and MC was again Louis Rivera.  Mochi pounding was demonstrated outside. Sensei Masayuki Kobayashi from Japan explained the mochi pounding and making process.  Over 1000 people attended, despite the rainy weather.

New this year:  PCC Art /Hiro Tashima ceramics demo and  Mari Kaneta‘s Suzuyuki Kai traditional kabuki dancing on stage.  Dance troupe is pictured below.

Mochi pounding outside of PCC Downtown campus center, courtesy of James Tokishi


Suzuyuki Kai dance troupe, photo courtesy of Breanna Pena. Founder Mari Kaneta in middle (white kimono)


Odaiko Sonora finale taiko drumming, photo coutesy of Louis Rivera

More photos at :

Additional info/photos on FB page:

PCC Aztec Press video:


Beautiful origami on display at Yume Japanese Gardens for “Between Folds: Classical Origami” exhibit  (October 1 to December 31, 2017)

Tucson Origami Club founder/teacher M. Fumie Craig created beautiful plant and animal displays for this exhibit. Origami LAFF teacher Mary Ellen Palmeri contributed a few creations as well.  Photos courtesy of M. Craig.

First time Otaku Festival hosted at Yume Japanese Gardens on March 4, 2017

“The hippest hobby in Japan today is “cosplay.” That’s a portmanteau word that describes making up and suiting up to adopt – and in the most extreme cases, even live out – the activities of characters in Japanese cartoons, anime movies, music videos, and manga comics. The most obsessed, full-time fans form a genuine subculture that Japanese social scientists call “otaku.”

Showcasing these activities at the Otaku Festival on March 4 were — two anime screenings, tin foil art creations by Shawn Richards, modern doll displays, origami taught by M. Fumie Craig, and a lively cosplay dance performance by Lani Villanueva (joined by Louis Rivera, organizer of the festival). Authentic curry stew and inarizushi were on sale, along with other Japanese snacks (i.e green tea pocky and senbei). Lani’s cosplay character is Hatsune Miku.

Doll display inside gift shop, courtesy of Carolyn Classen


Lani Villanueva and Louis Rivera  dancing, courtesy of James Tokishi


Cosplay characters (Franken Stein, a Survey Corps member, & Hatsune Miku) at koi pond in Yume Japanese Gardens,  courtesy of Louis Rivera

Day of Remembrance on Feb. 18, 2017 at the Tucson Desert Art Museum

SAJCC members participated in the Day of Remembrance at Tucson Desert Art Museum, in commemoration of the signing of E.O. 9066 by FDR, which set into motion the relocation & internment of about 120,000 Japanese Americans. Retired East Asian UA Professor Min Yanagihashi, ASU Professor Kathryn Nakagawa (whose family was interned), and former U. S. Senate Legislative Aide Carolyn Sugiyama Classen, JD participated in a panel discussion about the Pearl Harbor attack, the signing of E.O. 9066, the internment camp roundup during  WWII and the aftermath, to seek redress.

Min and Kathryn gave historical perspectives, and Carolyn related her insider’s view of working with Senior Hawaiian U.S. Senator Daniel K. Inouye, in the creation of the National Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians. The Commission found that a “grave injustice” had been done to the Japanese Americans during WWII, and recommended an apology from the US President, and redress of $20,000 per internee.  President Ronald Reagan did finally issue an apology in 1988 and redress was finally paid to over 82,000 recipients, but many internees had already passed away.

L-R:  Carolyn Sugiyama Classen JD, Prof. Min Yanagihashi (speaking) and Prof. Kathryn Nakagawa. Photo courtesy of Shelly Black


Carolyn holding photo of President Jimmy Carter signing P.L. 96-317 creating the National Commission.  Photo courtesy of Shelly Black. Inscription under the photo, handwritten by the Senator: “To Carolyn Sugiyama, This was your day. With affection and gratitude, Aloha, Daniel K. Inouye.”

Three exhibits on the Japanese American internment camps opened on November 5,2016 and are ongoing at the Tucson Desert Art Museum till April 30, 2017. Poet Heather Nagami  (whose family was interned) has some of her poems at this exhibit and also read 9 poems from “Acts of Translation” on the Day of Remembrance.  Professors Terry and Susie Matsunaga also related their family’s internment camp experiences, in a separate panel discussion.  Ongoing exhibits:

photo courtesy of Shelly Black

​​​​Gambatte! Legacy of an Enduring Spirit: Triumphing over Adversity. Japanese American WWII Incarceration Reflections, Then and Now (photography by Paul Kitagaki Jr.)  Kitagaki was supposed to be present on the Day of Remembrance but his flight from California was cancelled due to winter storm weather.

Behind Barbed Wire: Japanese American Incarceration in Arizona

Art of Circumstance: Art and Artifacts Created by Japanese Americans Incarcerated During WWII.

Tucson Japanese Festival a huge success at PCC Downtown on January 14, 2017

Tucson Japanese Festival (new name) was held on January 14, 2017 at PCC Downtown, 1255 N. Stone Ave. to celebrate the New Year. For the 4th year, SAJCC sponsored a New Year’s festival featuring numerous performances.  Origami was taught and Go, fukuwarai and kendama games were played upstairs again in the campus center, and ikebana and bonsai (Tucson Bonsai Club) were on display.  Odaiko Sonora and Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson were festival co-sponsors.

There were more performers this year: Odaiko Sonora, Japanese media presentation by Alex Coulombe, Tucson Kendo Kai, Pianists Shiho Takeda & Aika Tatebe, violinist Ayla Moreno (5 year old), Yuki Ibuki (tenor song), Yosakoi Dancers (Yurika Tatebe & friends), Tucson Japanese Language School choir, Paul Amiel (shakuhachi) and Akiwa Abe Brown (koto), Sonoran Aikikai, Ken Koshio & K2 Enterprise (taiko) from Phoenix (new),  Lani Villanueva (anime presentation), J’s Martial Arts Performing Academy from Mesa.

Green tea, senbei and mochi samples were provided to over 700 attendees. Takoyaki and ramen were sold by Tomomi Katz at her food booth, and onigiri (musubi) were sold by the Tucson Japanese Language School.

Photos below courtesy of M. Fumie Craig. Photo gallery posted:

Odaiko Sonora taiko drummers doing the welcome, at PCC Downtown campus courtyard

Mochi pounding preparation in stone usu (owned by Miki Pimienta) with kine mallets

L to R: Interim SAJCC Director Yuki Ibuki, Tucson Origami Club founder M. Fumie Craig, ret. UA Professor Min Yanagihashi, PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert, SAJCC Editor Carolyn Sugiyama Classen, Suke Nakata (stage manager), SAJCC founder Ross Iwamoto. Yuki, M, Min, Carolyn are currently on the SAJCC Council and helped plan this event and others in the past.

Articles below this line are past events posted in 2012 and afterwards, in reverse chronological order to 2016.


3rd Annual Tucson Mochitsuki held on January 9, 2016 at new location, PCC Downtown

SAJCC sponsored a larger Mochitsuki on January 9 at Pima Community College Downtown, 1255 N. Stone Avenue, with support from Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson, Odaiko Sonora, and PCC Downtown. The event drew more than 600 attendees and had many more exhibitors and food vendors (i.e. takoyaki booth, Fat Noodle Truck, Sky Islands HS Japanese class serving musubi, PCC Diversity Club selling Japanese snacks, Sandyi Oriental Market, etc.)  Event Chair was Wayne Tanaka.

Oshiruko sweet soup with mochi sample and green tea were served.  On the stage were performances from Odaiko Sonora, Tucson Kendo Kai, kyudo (archery), an anime presentation by Lani Villanueva, a chado tea ceremony, singer Yurika Tatebe.  Upstairs were tables with Tucson Origami Club, Tucson Go Club, kendama, fukuwarai.

More photos  and video online at our FB page,, and at

Odaiko Sonora preparing to do the welcome ceremony in Amethyst Room of PCC Downtown

Odaiko Sonora preparing to do the welcome ceremony in Amethyst Room of PCC Downtown (photo credit Brandy Gannon)


Mochi pounding in usu and kine (on loan from Phoenix friends)

Mochi pounding in usu with kine (on loan from Phoenix friends). Photo credit James Tokishi


Tomomi Katz cooking takoyaki at her food booth

Tomomi Katz cooking takoyaki at her food booth, photo credit  Brandy Gannon

Origami paper cranes folded for Tucson Repertory Orchestra’s concert trip to Japan in October, 2015

Tucson Repertory Orchestra (TRO) Director Toru Tagawa is originally from Hiroshima, Japan. He and his violinist wife Laura Tagawa planned a concert trip to Hiroshima and Okayama in October 2015 and Laura decided to ask the community for help in folding 1,000 origami paper cranes to take to the Children’s Peace memorial in memory of Sadako Sasaki, who had tried to fold 1000 cranes prior to her death at age 12 (from radiation sickness).

On September 12, Laura asked the Tucson community (including Tucson Origami Club, Origami LAFF and So. AZ Japanese Cultural Coalition) for help. We all pitched in and within 2 weeks had folded over 3,000 cranes, through the help of the owners of Snow Peas restaurant (1402 S. Craycroft Rd.) which was providing folding space, a large “fishbowl” to hold the cranes, and origami paper for pickup. Several folding sessions were held there for the community to drop in and help.

The final count of strung cranes was 3012, which were shipped in an empty tuba case to Japan.  There were several sizes folded from very tiny 1″ x 1″ to larger 6″x 6″, but the common size was 3″ x 3″, plus others, some from recycled paper.

Congratulations to Laura Tagawa, Toru Tagawa and the TRO for this gesture of peace from the Tucson community, which were presented to the Hiroshima children’s peace memorial on October 14, 2015. Photos courtesy of Laura Tagawa.

More info on TRO at


TRO presenting origami cranes at Hiroshima peace memorial

New Year’s Mochitsuki in the desert; 2nd Annual held 

It was the vision of Founder/1st Director Ross Iwamoto  that our SAJCC and friends sponsor a mochi pounding/tasting festival for Japanese New Year’s. The first successful mochitsuki event was held at Yume Japanese Gardens, 2130 N. Alvernon Way on January 4, 2014.  Executive director of Yume Gardens Patricia Deridder and M. Fumie Craig were in charge, and about 200 people attended. Odaiko Sonora performed on their taiko drums and Paul Amiel played his soothing shakuchachi flute.

Photos below of 1st Mochitsuki, courtesy of Heather Nagami from FB page.

The second one was held on January 10, 2015 at Rhythm Industry Performance Factory (1013 S. Tyndall Avenue), home of Odaiko Sonora taiko drummers, which was even more popular, with double the amount of participants. UA Kyudo Club also participated on stage, and there was an anime presentation, songs by Yuki Ibuki and Okiraku (shakuhachi,koto,shamisen trio).

A stone usu and wooden kine were borrowed from Phoenix for the first event. 2015 Event coordinator was Heather Nagami and her husband Bryan Barnes built a beautiful wooden usu (mortar) and two kines (mallets) for the second. Happy New Year!

Photos of 2nd Annual event here: Additional photos below courtesy of  freelance photographer James Tokishi.

Poster created by Crystal Akazawa

Poster created by Crystal Akazawa (graphic designer)

Ross Iwamoto presenting 2015 Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan calendar to Event Coordinator Heather Nagami:

Director Ross Iwamoto presenting Ikebana calendar to event coordinator Heather Nagami

SAJCC Director Ross Iwamoto presenting Ikebana calendar to Event coordinator Heather Nagami

Odaiko Sonora drummers (Karen Falkenstrom & Nicole Stansbury on left) pounding mochi:


 For even more photos of the Mochitsuki, go to our Facebook page: (public, you don’t have to sign in to FB).

“Wounded” Tiger” book by  former Tucsonan Martin Bennett

This is a compelling novel  published in March 2014. “Wounded Tiger” is about Commander Mitsuo Fuchida who led the famous 12/7/41 Pearl Harbor attack, but also about “Doolittle raider” Jake Deshazer who became a Japanese P.O.W after the Doolittle bombing raid on Japan in April 1942, and a Baptist missionary family the Covells who lived 20 years in Japan, then fled to the Philippines during WWII.  How these 3 true stories intersect is amazing.   More info at Martin Bennett’s website Recent online review about this book:

In Memory of Educator Dr. Henry “Hank” Oyama  (1926 – 2013)

On March 20, 2013 86-year old  Tucson educator Dr. Henry “Hank” Oyama passed away.  He was a former teacher at Pueblo High School, then went on to a career in bilingual education at Pima Community College, retiring as Vice President Emeritus after 22 years.  He was interned at age 15 in the Poston Internment Camp in Arizona in May 1942 (along with his mother and sister), and also challenged the Arizona anti-miscegenation law in 1959, in order to marry his Caucasian college  sweetheart Mary Ann Jordon.  An elementary school in Tucson was named after him in 2003.  Read more in obituary in Arizona Daily Star.

Guest opinion  dated 3/21/17 on Dr. Oyama in Arizona Daily Star, page A10:

Oyama Elementary School  photo below, 2700 S. La Cholla Tucson. 

Sign at Oyama Elementary School in Tucson

Yume Japanese Gardens opened in January, 2013 (first Japanese Gardens in Tucson,  Arizona)

Owner/Executive Director Patricia Deridder had a dream (yume) to create a beautiful and tranquil Japanese garden in her new home of Tucson. Originally from Belgium, she had lived for 15 years in Japan as a young woman, and had learned to speak Japanese and the art of ikebana.  Visit her gardens at 2130 N. Alvernon Way (open daily except for the summer months, after Children’s Day (May 5) through September 30).  More at There have been a number of  Japanese art and cultural exhibitions & workshops, as well as concerts & plays at Yume gardens since the opening in 2013.

“Asako, The Girl Who Saved Her Village” book published by Odaiko Sonora

Local children’s book by Odaiko Sonora about taiko drumming and a tsunami,  published in 2012, a  year after the devastating  March 11, 2011 tsunami in Sendai, Japan. This book was released at the annual Tucson Festival of Books in celebration of Odaiko Sonora’s 10th year anniversary . Contact Odaiko Sonora to purchase a copy of their book at

Discover Nikkei online:

Editor Carolyn Sugiyama Classen  wrote an article in August, 2012 for an online journal Discover Nikkei (about Japanese migrants & their descendents) entitled “My International Family” (click here).  She writes about how her Japanese American family (raised in Hawaii)  married mostly foreigners.  This national website is a resource for everyone of Japanese descent.

Origami/Hanafuda Card Game at Tucson Origami Club 

Interested in learning how to fold beautiful & creative origami (Japanese paper folding) or play hanafuda (Japanese flower 48 card game)? Come to the Tucson Japanese Culture and Origami MeetUp Group (now called Tucson Origami Club) on the 1st Saturday of each month at 10 a.m. at Dao’s Tai Pan resturant, 446 N. Wilmot Rd. (north of Broadway Blvd.) in Tucson.

Founder/Nisei M Fumie Craig has been hosting this origami club for over 10 years, and has taught origami at numerous venues, including the Pima County Public Library. Sansei Carolyn Classen teaches hanafuda, which she learned as a child to play in Hawaii, where the game is very popular. She has taught it also to the Asian Pacific American Student Affairs group at the UA, at several Japanese Speech Contests, Yume Gardens, and at the 2nd Annual Tucson New Year’s Mochitsuki.

Hanafuda cards

Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation Site:

Near Tucson, Arizona is the Gordon Hirabayashi Recreation site on Catalina Highway up to Mount Lemmon, turn off at mile post 7. There are a few concrete remnants of the prison buildings, plus the information kiosk (photo below). Gordon Hirabayashi was a young Japanese American from Seattle, Washington who was imprisoned in the prison camp that existed there during WWII. He challenged his unlawful imprisonment (Japanese American internment)  in U.S. vs. Hirabayashi, 320 U.S. 81 (1943). Read more in wikipedia. The Coronado National Forest named the site after him in 1999.

Photo below courtesy of Brandy Gannon.