Kenji G. Taguma
Award-winning journalist Kenji G. Taguma, a native of Sacramento, Calif., is the founding president of the Nichi Bei Foundation and editor-in-chief of the Nichi Bei News. He was previously the English section editor and Nichi Bei Times vice president. As the Nichi Bei Times was closing in the summer of 2009, he led the movement to create the Nichi Bei Foundation, an educational and charitable nonprofit organization that launched the first nonprofit ethnic newspaper of its kind in the country, the Nichi Bei Weekly (renamed Nichi Bei News in 2023). He led the launch of the Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival in 2011, followed by Films of Remembrance, a showcase of films on the wartime incarceration of Japanese Americans, in 2012; Nikkei Angel Island Pilgrimage in 2014; and a pilgrimage to the historic Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony in 2017. Kenji received the distinguished Alumni Honors Award from California State University, Sacramento, the Community Service Award from New California Media, and a Consul General Award from the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco. He was also recognized by the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California.
Nancy Ukai is a Berkeley Sansei. She is director of the 50 Objects digital project which explores the WWII incarceration of Japanese Americans through 50 artifacts (50objects.org). It is a National Park Service Japanese American Confinement Sites grant project. She helped lead protests against the auction or private sale of camp artifacts including the Rago auction of the Eaton collection (2015), the Kitaji Bibles (2017) and the eBay auction of Manzanar drawings (2021) and against eBay’s commodification of camp objects on its platform. She is an advisor to the Japanese American National Museum on the Eaton artifacts and is on the board of the Berkeley JACL. She is a cofounder of Tsuru for Solidarity. Nancy lived in Japan for 14 years after graduating from UC Santa Cruz in 1976, with majors in anthropology and East Asian Studies.
Laurie Shigekuni, ESQ
Board Vice Chair
Laurie Shigekuni graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in 1989 and has been an active member of the California Bar since that time. In 1983, she received her undergraduate B.A. degrees from the University of California, Santa Cruz with honors in Sociology, while also majoring in Biology. After spending six years in the area of civil litigation at a legal services organization in Oakland, Ms. Shigekuni started her own practice. She has focused in the area of wills, trusts, estate planning, probate, trust administration, and Medi-Cal long term care planning since 1996, serving a diverse clientele in Northern and Southern California. Her concern about access to the justice system for underrepresented people includes an interest in expanding awareness of, and access to, family wealth preservation mechanisms such as trusts, in minority communities where many older residents are homeowners but few receive expert legal or financial advice.
Raised in the South Bay, Courtney Iwanaga is a fourth-generation Japanese American, with fond childhood memories of Sundays spent running around the San Jose Betsuin, summers dancing at the Obon and weekends playing CYS basketball. Courtney spent over 10 years in marketing and promotions for media ad sales where she specialized in network partnerships and developing unique client events and experiences. More recently, Courtney has spent the last few years with PG&E where she focuses on marketing for residential energy-efficiency and clean energy programs. She most enjoys collaborating, building strong cross-functional relationships, editing copy and believes marketing can play a key role in growing a more diverse, equitable and inclusive world. Courtney holds a BA in English from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a Master of Art, Sport Management from the University of San Francisco. She’s a third-generation Niner faithful who also loves to bake.
Graig Inaba, a fourth-generation Japanese American raised in Sacramento, is a pharmacy tech at San Francisco General Hospital. He is a leader of the Nakayoshi Young Professionals, the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Program, and has taught sushi-making classes in the community. Graig has organized numerous fundraising events, including the VIP Reception for sponsors of the Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival, and coordinated food booths at the past two Festivals. A graduate of University of California, San Diego with a degree in Bio Chemistry, Graig currently resides in San Francisco. He serves on the Programs and Membership committees.
Koji Lau-Ozawa is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University, is a multiracial Sansei (third-generation Japanese American) based in San Francisco. His research centers on the archaeology of Japanese Diaspora and in particular WWII Japanese American incarceration camps. His dissertation research focuses on the Gila River incarceration camp in southern Arizona, and he has worked extensively with the Gila River Indian Community to document the camp remains. Before studying at Stanford, Lau-Ozawa received his undergraduate degree in archaeology and social anthropology from the University of Edinburgh and a master’s degree in anthropology from San Francisco State University. He has also worked in archaeology for the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and for Stanford University Heritage Services. In the community, he is the head instructor of the San Francisco Kendo Dojo, and previously a board member of the Northern California Kendo Federation.
Yuki Nishimura is a Japanese immigrant who was born in Yokohama and grew up in Sendai, Japan. She is a development and outreach manager at the Silicon Valley office of Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit organization which “investigates and reports on abuses happening in all corners of the world.” Prior to earning her master of arts degree in Human Rights Studies from Columbia University in New York, where her thesis “Human Rights or Civil Rights? The Exclusion of Japanese Latin Americans from the Civil Liberties Act of 1988” won the 2021 Human Rights Thesis Competition, Yuki earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuroscience from the University of Toronto. She is currently on the board of directors of the Japantown Task Force, Inc., the Executive Committee Secretary of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival, and the President of the Northern California Naginata Federation.
Kiyomi Takeda, a fourth- / second-generation Japanese American raised in San Francisco, is an occupational therapist at the California Pacific Medical Center. At CPMC, she treats individuals recovering from stroke, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries and specializes in hand rehabilitation. She is the Co-Chair of the Northern California Soy and Tofu Festival, an annual fundraiser for the Nichi Bei Foundation, and is the chair of vendor committees of both the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival and Nihonmachi Street Fair. She is also an active member of nihonmachiROOTS, which is a group of young adults who focus on issues regarding San Francisco’s Japantown, as well as Nakayoshi Young Professionals, which is a group that offers opportunities for networking and volunteerism. A member of the 2010 Queen Court, Kiyomi also volunteers for the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Program.
Wesley Ueunten, Ph.D.
Wesley Ueunten is associate professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, joining the faculty in 2002. A third-generation Okinawan, he was born and raised in Hawai’i and spent a total of nine years in Okinawa and Japan learning Japanese and Okinawan languages, studying Okinawan music, and working as a translator and English teacher. He completed a B.A. in ethnic studies and an M.A. in sociology at the University of Hawai’i, and earned his Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley. In addition to the board of directors of the Nichi Bei Foundation, Wesley serves on the board of the National Japanese American Historical Society, the Japanese American National Library, and currently serves as President of the Okinawa Kenjinkai of San Francisco. He has also served as a researcher for the Japanese Peruvian Oral History Project.
Wendi Yamashita, Ph.D.
Wendi Yamashita is an assistant professor in Asian American Studies at California State University, Sacramento, is a fourth-generation Japanese American (Yonsei) originally from Oxnard, Southern California. She has been teaching at CSUS since the fall of 2021, where she serves on the Curriculum Committee, MA DevelopmentCommittee, AsianAmerican Studies Search Committee and Social Media Committee. Prior to that, she was an assistant professor at Ithaca College’s Center for the Study of Culture, Race, and Ethnicity in New York, and at UCLA taught classes such as Power and Comparable Carceral Studies, and Contemporary Mass Incarcerations. Her research interests include Comparative Ethnic Studies, Japanese American Studies, Carceral Studies, Gender and Sexuality, Memory Studies and Oral History. In the community, Wendi is a member of the Manzanar Committee, and co-director of its Katari and Manzanar at Dusk youth education programs. She is also on the planning committee of the Northern California Time of Remembrance and a member of the Florin chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League.
Former Board Members Nichi Bei Foundation Advisory Council
- Kerwin Berk
- Fred Kochi
- Grace Horikiri
- Keith Kamisugi
- Keith Nagayama
- Paul Osaki
- Lisa Yokota
- Tobin Tsuji
- Michael Innes
- Reiko Iwanaga
- Jason Okazaki, Esq.
- Tim Yamamura, Ph.D.
- Mark Osaki, Ph.D.
- Jeffrey T. Yamashita
- Keith Stevens
- Linda Harms Okazaki
- Alan Matsui
- Sandy Close, Founder and Executive Editor, New America Media
- Jon Funabiki, Founder, Renaissance Journalism
- Art Hansen, Director Emeritus, Japanese American Oral History Project, California State University, Fullerton
- Carole Hayashino, President and Executive Director, Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i
- Cathy Inamasu, Executive Director, Nihonmachi Little Friends
- Jan Masaoka, Director, Blue Avocado
- Dale Minami, Community Activist and Attorney
- Andy Noguchi, Civil Rights Co-Chair, Florin JACL
- Jon Osaki, Executive Director, Japanese Community Youth Council
- Paul Osaki, Executive Director, Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California
- Don Tamaki, Chair, San Francisco Japantown Foundation
- Twila Tomita, Board Member, Florin JACL
- Rosalyn Tonai, Executive Director, National Japanese American Historical Society
- Bill Watanabe, Executive Director, Little Tokyo Service Center
- Akemi Kikumura Yano, former President and CEO, Japanese American National Museum
In Memoriam … Wayne Maeda
Wayne Maeda retired after 40 years as a senior lecturer in the Department of Ethnic Studies, California State University, Sacramento (CSUS). He is one of the founding members of the Asian American Studies Program and Ethnic Studies Department. He taught the first Asian American course in 1970. He also taught at Sacramento City College, and periodically at UC Davis as a Senior Lecturer in Asian American Studies.
Wayne wrote a book that provides a regional overview of the Japanese American communities (Vacaville, Walnut Grove, Loomis, Penryn, Auburn, Florin, and Sacramento) from the 1860s to 1980s, “Changing Dreams, Treasured Memories: A Story of Japanese Americans in the Sacramento Region.” He is also the co-editor of “Ethnic America: Readings in Race, Class, and Gender.” He is a former board member of the National Japanese American Historical Society and the Gold Hill-Wakamatsu Project, dedicated to preserving the first settlement of Japanese immigrants in America. He had been a contributing writer for the Nichi Bei Times since 1995 until his passing in February 2013.
After his passing, the Nichi Bei Foundation created the Wayne Maeda Educational Fund as a means to honor his legacy and fund the Foundation’s educational initiatives. In May of 2014, the California State University, Sacramento launched the Wayne Maeda Asian American Studies Archives.