2017 Autumn Conferment of Decorations on Foreign Nationals

On November 3, 2017 (Japan Time), the Government of Japan announced the foreign recipients of the 2017 Autumn Conferment of Japanese Decorations.

Among the 149 foreign recipients three recipients have been recognized for their contributions in Northern California. They are Mr. Allen Okamoto, Mr. Benh Nakajo, and Dr. Gary Mukai.

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Name (Age): Allen Okamoto (74)
Decoration: The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays
Service: Contributions to the promotion of friendship and mutual understanding between Japan and the United States
Major Titles: Co-Chair San Francisco Osaka Sister City Association
Address (Nationality): San Francisco (U.S.A.)
Summary of Contributions
  • Mr. Okamoto has promoted regional exchange between Japan and the United States and has contributed to international friendship and goodwill as a co-chair of the San Francisco Osaka Sister City Association.
  • Mr. Okamoto has made contributions to the promotion of Japanese culture and understanding of Japan as a co-chair of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival and the President of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California.
  • As a board member of the Japanese American Citizens League and the US-Japan Council, Mr. Okamoto has promoted goodwill and mutual understanding between Japan and the United States organizing a number of events in support of the Great East japan Earthquake, among other activities.

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Name (Age): Benh Nakajo (75)
Decoration: The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays
Service: Contributions to the promotion of friendship and mutual understanding between Japan and the United States
Major Titles: Chairperson of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Queen Program, Former Chair of the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival
Address (Nationality): San Francisco (U.S.A.)
Summary of Contributions
  • Mr. Nakajo has promoted local understanding of Japan and the development of grassroots cultural exchanges between Japan and the United States through his involvement with the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival and the Northern California Cherry Blossom Queen Program. Mr. Nakajo has been involved in many different capacities every year since the first festival in 1968, including serving as chair of the festival and chair of the Queen Program.
  • Mr. Nakajo has promoted the welfare of elderly Japanese and Japanese Americans through his efforts in helping to establish and serving as a board member of Kimochi, Inc., which provides services for the welfare of 3,000 elderly people and their families annually.
  • Mr. Nakajo has contributed to the revitalization of San Francisco’s Japantown and its community as an early board member of and helping to establish the Japantown Task Force which seeks to find solutions to various issues faced by Japantown in the interest of its community.

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Name (Age): Gary Mukai (62)
Decoration: The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays
Service: Contributions to the promotion of friendship and mutual understanding between Japan and the United States
Major Titles: Director of the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE)
Address (Nationality): San Jose (U.S.A.)
Summary of Contributions
  • As Director of the Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education, Dr. Mukai has developed many curriculum guides for teacher about Japan in grades K-12, which have been distributed in all 50 United States, promoting mutual understanding between Japan and the U.S. He also developed a unique intensive online study course on Japan for select U.S. high school students.
  • Dr. Mukai has contributed to the promotion of exchange between Japan and the United States by annually serving as an interviewer for the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program since shortly after its inception in 1987, interviewing over 1,000 applicants, and he currently serves on the board of the JET Alumni Association Northern California.
  • Dr. Mukai has contributed to maintaining and developing education focused on understanding Japan in the United States and has been instrumental in overseeing the selection process for the US-Japan Foundation’s prestigious Elgin Heinz Outstanding Teacher Award, which recognizes excellent faculty members in Japan-related education throughout the United States.

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