Before Japanese language television program was aired in 1971, live Japanese song stages performed by local talents were very popular in Los Angeles’ Japanese speaking community.
As a MC on stages of Japanese songs and a stage event coordinator behind the scenes, Mr. Tak Takehiro Nishi, 80 years old, of West Los Angeles, has been a fixture at the Japanese American community for 50 years.
In the Fall 2016 Decoration announced on Nov. 3, the Japanese government recognized Nishi’s contribution for perpetuating popular Japanese culture in Los Angeles, and he will be awarded with the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays.
Nishi, a second generation Japanese American, was born at the Sawtelle district in Los Angeles in 1936, and from 1941 resided in his parents’ hometown of Kaseda City, Kagoshima Prefecture, eventually returning to Los Angeles in 1956. In 1959 he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served until 1961, retiring with an honorable discharge.
During 1960s, the West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple was a place for Nishi to socialize with people of his generation. Nishi belonged to the Kotobuki-kai, a group of America-born and Japan-educated Nisei generation in the Buddhist temple.
In 1965, he was asked to be a MC of a stage event with the Youth Accordion Band in the temple, and received a big applause. This was the first step for Nishi to bring Japanese songs to community events for the next 50 years.
In the Japanese American community, live entertainments were held almost every weekend on the occasions such as picnic events of numerous Kenjinkai and gardener associations at that time. Before Karaoke equipment was introduced in Los Angeles, live bands formed by local talents were invited to social gatherings. There were always four or five live bands existing then.
After members of the Youth Accordion Band became mature and stopped performances, Nishi worked with the Yokotake Family Band and eventually joined to produce the U.S. Version Kohaku Uta Gassen show at the Nishi Hongwanji Los Angeles Temple. In January 2016, the show marks 45th anniversary.
Being a MC and stage event coordinator in weekend, Nishi’s regular job has been a landscaper and gardener until the present day. Nishi has been a member of the Southern California Gardeners’ Federation for 45 years, and has continued supporting leadership behind the scenes.
Nishi has served additional organizations including as board member of the Japanese Prefectural Association of Southern California for over 30 years, President of Showa Kai of Southern California, and Hokubei Hyakudoukai (an organization promoting work until 100 years of age).
Nishi has also been instrumental to the preservation and promotion of traditional Japanese culture as a board member of the Nanka Nippon Minyo Kyokai (Southern California Japan Folk Music Association). In 1975 he achieved the professional designation “natori” rank of the Matsutoyokai School of which he is the president, and continues his work promoting Japanese folk music in the region.