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About San Mateo JACL

The Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) is a membership organization whose mission is to secure and maintain the human and civil rights of Americans of Japanese ancestry and others victimized by injustice. The JACL has 112 chapters nationwide and eight regional districts with over 24,000 members found in twenty-three states. In addition to its national headquarters in San Francisco, the JACL has five regional offices (Los Angeles, Fresno, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago), as well as an office in Washington D.C. and an organizational newspaper, the Pacific Citizen, distributed nationally from its office in Los Angeles.


The JACL derives its effectiveness through its regional offices located in key cities and areas to serve the needs of the organization's members and to maintain the well-being of all Asian Americans. 

A History of the San Mateo JACL

The San Mateo chapter of the JACL was established on May 11, 1935, with Saiki Muneno elected as the very first chapter president. There were initially about 15-20 members, and the chapter was borne of young Nisei who wanted to separate themselves from the Issei generation and demonstrate their loyalty to the United States. In fact, the average age of the early chapter members was only about 18 years old, and the theme of the chapter's inaugural banquet was "Americanism and second-generation progress." However, any progress that was made by these early efforts to integrate into American society was erased after the bombing of Pearl Harbor and subsequent incarceration in internment camps.


After the war, about sixty percent of the former Japanese residents returned to San Mateo County, and the San Mateo JACL was reactivated on October 22, 1946, with William Enomoto as president. Post-war, the chapter worked tirelessly to fight against civil injustices in the face of extreme prejudice and rampant anti-Japanese discrimination. However, even as trust in the Japanese American community was slowly restored, the chapter maintained its vigilance, allowing it to monitor and respond to issues that impacted the civil and human rights of all Americans, not just the Japanese American community. Even so, the chapter’s importance to the JA community has never wavered, with a long history of promoting educational opportunities, social services, cultural awareness, and the preservation of the community’s history and heritage.


Over the last 80 years, the San Mateo JACL has accomplished a great deal, including:

  • Paved the way for local Issei to gain US citizenship, first in its support of the Walter McCarren Omnibus Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1952, then in its offering of US citizenship classes

  • Supported the Redress Movement at both a local and national level, supporting efforts of the San Mateo Nikkei Redress Committee and the Peninsula Redress Committee, and testifying before the Congressional hearings of the Commission on the Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians

  • Promoted local education and awareness of the significance of the Day of Remembrance, including teacher workshops, classroom speakers, and donated curriculum

  • Wrote the language for a memorial plaque and served on a steering committee to establish a suiseki garden on the grounds of the former Tanforan Assembly Center

  • Instituted a chapter scholarship program for local high school seniors, including fundraising events like an annual golf tournament and countless bake sales and raffles

  • Supported the publication of several history books detailing the experiences of the Japanese American community in San Mateo county

  • Established the San Mateo Japanese American Community Center, now an independent, non-profit organization of its own

  • Promoted and held fundraising events for Kimochi, the non-profit organization that serves the Japanese American senior community

  • Sponsored the San Mateo Asian Pacific American Film Festival every year since its inception

  • Promoted cultural awareness by participation in events such as the Millbrae Japanese Culture Festival, and holding cultural programs like sushi making and Japanese craft classes

  • Demonstrated support for non-Japanese minority communities, such as the Muslim American community post-9/11, by participating in a candlelight march in San Jose with the Nihonmachi Outreach Committee and South Bay Islamic Association, and a forum at the College of San Mateo featuring Imam Tahir Anwar


The San Mateo JACL Today

As we reflect on the history and events of the past 80 years, let it not be just with a sense of great accomplishment, but also with a sense of tremendous gratitude. For the leaders of the past, like Saiki Muneno, William Enomoto, Yasuko Ann Ito, Richard Nakanishi, and Ernie Takahashi, have created for us a society in which it is difficult to imagine being denied citizenship, housing, or a job based solely on our ancestry. It is a society in which it is easy to take our civil liberties for granted. But we must not become complacent. As an organization, we must remain vigilant and sensitive to injustices perpetrated on not only the Japanese American community, but on Americans and human beings around the country and the world. We must continue to honor the past by preserving and celebrating our heritage and legacy, while also building for the future, as the Nisei and Sansei generations make way for the Yonsei and Gosei. The San Mateo JACL is 80 years old, but we believe the best is yet to come.

San Mateo JACL: Past Presidents (1935 - 2018)

1935 - Saiki Muneno

1936 - Saiki Muneno

1937 - Frank Kawai

1938 - Joe Yamada

1939 - Hirosuke Inouye

1940 - George Takahashi, DDS

1941 - Fred Ochi

1942 - George Takahashi, DDS

   (Reactivated, 1946)

1947 - Ken Kato, Hirosuke Inouye

1948 - Howard Imada

1949 - Hiroji Kariya

1950 - Kaz Kunitani

1951 - Dick Arimoto

1952 - Robert Sugishita

1953 - Dr. Andrew Yoshiwara

1954 - Howard Imada

1955 - William Takahashi

1956 - Saiki Yamaguchi

1957 - Saiki Yamaguchi

1958 - Tom Marutani

1959 - Haruo Ishimaru

1960 - Haruo Ishimaru

1961 - Kiyoshi Ota

1962 - Wilson Makabe

1963 - Jake K. Oiwa

1964 - Haruo Ishimaru

1965 - Irene Ikeda

1966 - Hy Tsukamoto

1967 - Hy Tsukamoto

1968 - Dr. Mitch Wakasa

1969 - Dr. Mitch Wakasa

1970 - Tom Hisata

1971 - Tom Hisata

1972 - Eugene Moriguchi

1973 - Tom Konno

1974 - Tom Konno

1975 - Yosh Kojimoto

1976 - Yosh Kojimoto

1977 - Yasuko Ito

1978 - Suzu Kunitani

1979 - Terrence Terauchi

1980 - Suzu Kunitani

1981 - Suzu Kunitani

1982 - Richard Nakanishi

1983 - David Hayashi, DDS

1984 - Hiroyuki Arima, DDS

1985 - Noell Kubota

1986 - Noell Kubota

1987 - Hiroyuki Arima, DDS, Nancy Takahashi

1988 - Nancy Takahashi

1989 - Niles Tanakatsubo

1990 - Niles Tanakatsubo

1991 - Steve Okamoto

1992 - Steve Okamoto

1993 - George Ikuta

1994 - Karyl Matsumoto

1995 - Karyl Matsumoto, Allen Sakamoto

1996 - Allen Sakamoto

1997 - Ted Yamagishi, Craig Ichiuji

1998 - Ted Yamagishi, Craig Ichiuji

1999 - Noell Kubota

2000 - Noell Kubota

2001 - George Ikuta

2002 - Jeff Okamoto

2003 - Jeff Okamoto

2004 - Kate Motoyama, Mary Jo Kubota-Arcarese

2005 - Kate Motoyama, Mary Jo Kubota-Arcarese

2006 - Steve Okamoto

2007 - Steve Okamoto

2008 - Steve Okamoto

2009 - Kate Motoyama

2010 - Steve Okamoto

2011 - Brent Nakagiri

2012 - Brent Nakagiri

2013 - Brent Nakagiri

2014 - Brent Nakagiri

2015- Steve Okamoto

2016- Steve Okamoto

2017- Steve Okamoto

2018- Steve Okamoto

2019- Steve Okamoto

2020- Steve Okamoto

Japanese American Citizens League

The San Mateo Chapter of the JACL is located in San Mateo, California, and serves the needs of JACL members on the San Francisco Peninsula.

Our Mission

San Mateo JACL is dedicated to promoting the historical and cultural understanding of the Japanese American experience, and to protecting and advancing the human and civil rights of our multi-ethnic society through educational and community programs.

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