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APA Spotlight

Chris Aihara, Japanese American Cultural & Community Center

Chris Aihara is the Executive Director of the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center (JACCC), one of the largest ethnic cultural centers of its kind in the U.S. She was the former Chair of the Little Tokyo Community Council, a member of the Mayor’s Little Tokyo Community Advisory Committee, and member of the California Japanese American Community Leadership Council. She has written several publications on Japanese American culture and has served as a member of the City of Torrance Cultural Arts Commission for six years.


The JACCC is dedicated to the promotion and presentation of Japanese and Japanese American arts and culture to diverse audiences.

What is the mission statement of your life?

To not be afraid to live because I’m afraid to die.

How did you end up doing what you’re doing?

I totally “ended up” doing what I’m doing. It has been a journey of self-discovery: who am I as a post-war Sansei woman growing up in the ‘50s, experiencing the ‘60s & ‘70s, and emerging through the rest of it. I landed in places that fed my interests and provided opportunities to learn and be challenged. For me, it’s always been very personal. I am of the ilk that was not career savvy. I never anticipated nor set a goal to  run an organization. Timing is everything, and at this time in the JACCC’s history, I was the person to step forward.

If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you?

Emma Thompson, Holly Hunter, Ruth Gordon (although she’s deceased) or Roseanne Barr (only selected scenes).

How can people find out more about your organization or get involved?

Call me or members of my staff. Jessica Kikuchi & Janet Hiroshima are good advocates for the organization.

Address: 244 S. San Pedro Street, Suite 505, Los Angeles, CA 90012
Phone: (213) 628-2725 
Fax: (213) 617-8576

If you had a crystal ball, what do you see for the future of the Asian Pacific Islander American community?

What I see, or what I want to see? I see a community that is diverse and multi-cultural. I’d like to see continuation of values and culture that is distinct from Western culture and values, like emphasis on the group, sense of interconnectedness, respect for elders. I’d hope that the connection to Asia and ethnic communities will reinforce and help to maintain the identity of individual cultures: Japanese, Chinese, Korean, etc. I’d like to see the API community have impact and influence, through individuals and as communities, on the broader American culture

Bonus Question: What advice do you have for young professionals?  Would you give different advice for young Asian Pacific Islander American professionals?

Know your values, what you live by. In your work, understand your objective, what you wish to accomplish. Your values and goals are the basis for your decisions. Take calculated risks. Study and observe, and then factor your gut reaction into the decision. Utilize and maximize the available resources. Maintain good relationships.

For API professionals: group consensus and opinion are important, but sometimes the stronger stance will lead to a better and clearer outcome. Sometimes you go against the popular opinion.

Bonus Question: What are your comfort foods and what memories do you have associated with them?

Ochazuke is my comfort food. Tea, rice and tsukemono. I ate this sitting on my baa-chan’s (grandmother) lap. I even have an old photo. I’m in those pajamas that snap together with the feet attached.

Bonus Question: What’s your guilty pleasure?

I like to chill out watching old sit-com re-runs, like The Cosby Show in my nightgown… in bed.

* This article was originally published on on August 19, 2010.

© 2010 Koji Steven Sakai

Chris Aihara JACCC Japanese American Cultural & Community Center little tokyo Los Angeles sansei

About this series

"APA Spotlight" is a regular interview series on by Koji Steven Sakai interviewing Asian American community leaders from around the country.
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