Discover Nikkei

On Justice Todd’s Involvement with the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center

I left the board [of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center] a few years ago. I just thought now…younger people and a new, you know, sort of new ideas and faces should be involved, but I was on the board for over twenty years, and…I became involved when—well, before I joined the board, I became involved down there because my former husband designed an exhibit—one of the earliest exhibits—which was of Isamu Noguchi lamps. And so we were down there—my daughter was just a little tiny tyke—and we were down there installing the show, and getting involved, and I knew the young man who was the head of the visual arts—Miles Kubo—at the time, and so I got involved down there. And I…I thought…I think, and continue to think, that it was very, very important for the community at large but particularly for my daughter—I wanted her to really have a sense of Japanese culture. And I think Japanese culture is rich and deep and broad, and I’m talking about traditional Japanese culture.

communities cultural identity group identity identity law

Date: July 10, 2012

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Lawrence Lan

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum; Japanese American Bar Association

Interviewee Bio

Justice Kathryn Doi Todd was born on January 14, 1942, one month before President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, after which she and her family were interned at the Heart Mountain concentration camp in Wyoming and the Tule Lake concentration camp in northern California.

After World War II, her family returned to Los Angeles, where she grew up. Todd graduated from Los Angeles High School in 1959, and she went on to Stanford University, where she received a degree in history in 1963. She eventually went on to Loyola Law School, where she received her law degree in 1970.

Todd's legal career began when she opened up her own civil practice in Los Angeles' Little Tokyo, at a time when there were only three Japanese American women lawyers working in Los Angeles. In the mid-1970s, Todd and several other Japanese American jurists came together to found the Japanese American Bar Association (JABA), whose primary objective at its inception was to increase Japanese American representation on the bench.

In 1978, Governor Jerry Brown appointed Todd to the Los Angeles County Municipal Court bench, giving her the distinction of being the first Asian American woman judge. Three years later, in 1981, Brown elevated her to the Los Angeles County Superior Court bench. In 2000, Governor Gray Davis appointed Todd to the California Second District Court of Appeal, Division Two, where she currently serves as an Associate Justice. (July 2012)

*This is one of the main projects completed by The Nikkei Community Internship (NCI) Program intern each summer, which the Japanese American Bar Association and the Japanese American National Museum have co-hosted.


Ethnic diversity

(b.1926) Democratic politician and three-term Governor of Hawai'i


Christian gatherings in homes

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline


Not bringing shame to family

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline


Role of the Japanese American National Museum

(1926 - 2012) Scholar and professor of anthropology. Leader in the establishment of ethnic studies as an academic discipline

Bain,Peggie Nishimura

Learning American cooking

(b.1909) Nisei from Washington. Incarcerated at Tule Lake and Minidoka during WWII. Resettled in Chicago after WWII


Japanese American community life

(b. 1939) Japanese American painter, printmaker & professor


Her early life in Canada

(b.1912) Japanese Canadian Issei. Immigrated with husband to Canada in 1931


Downtown in Portland, Oregon

(b. 1918) Founder Azumano Travel


Lessons learned from The Hapa Project

(b. 1965) filmmaker and artist


Peru Shimpo for the Nikkei community (Spanish)

(b. 1937) Professional journalist


Japanese community in Mission

(b. 1922) Canadian Nisei who was unable to return to Canada from Japan until 1952


Taiko as self-expression

Co-founder and creative director of San Jose Taiko


A “principally-based” taiko group in England creating a global taiko community

Co-founder and creative director of San Jose Taiko


Growing up in a Japanese American community

Illustrator and designer

Sogi,Francis Y.

The Kona Island community

(1923-2011) Lawyer, MIS veteran, founder of Francis and Sarah Sogi Foundation