Saying Goodbye: A Celebration of Life for Alan Nishio – Long-Time Community Activist, Leader, and Friend

Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC) mourns the passing of Alan Nishio, their longest-tenured board president, iconic community leader, wise mentor, and deeply cherished friend. After battling cancer for over 17 years, Alan died peacefully on December 27, 2023, at the age of 78.

“In 1942, the United States government ordered more than 110,000 men, women, and children to leave their homes and detained them in remote, military-style camps. Manzanar War Relocation Center was one of ten camps where the US government incarcerated Japanese immigrants ineligible for citizenship and Japanese American citizens during World War II.” National Park Service.

Alan was born in the Manzanar incarceration camp in 1945. 

(Photo Courtesy: National Parks Organization)

“Alan responded to the prejudice his family and community experienced by bolstering organizations and leading social justice movements with skill and compassion. He dedicated his life to strengthening Little Tokyo and the Japanese American community in solidarity with other communities of color.” – Little Tokyo Service Center. 

Alan’s brilliant career included being the founder of UC Berkeley’s Asian Americans for Political Action student group and member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during the Free Speech Movement in the 1960’s; a founder of UCLA’s Asian American Studies in 1968, serving as Director for two years; an administrator at CSULB from 1972 and later becoming Associate VP of Student Services until his retirement in 2006.

(Photo Courtesy: Little Tokyo Service Center)

As a professor and lecturer in CSULB’s Department of Asian and Asian American Studies, Alan founded Little Tokyo People’s Rights Organization in the 1970s and co-chaired the National Coalition of Redress and Reparations in 1980 (a grassroots organization that played a significant role in the redress campaign for Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II).

Serving on the Board of Directors of LTSC, Kizuna, the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, and the California Conference for Equality and Justice, Alan committed himself to promoting Little Tokyo’s rich cultural heritage.

(Photo Courtesy: Little Tokyo Service Center)

“We at LTSC are deeply grateful for the invaluable insights, pioneering vision, stabilizing wisdom, smart quips, and radiating warmth that Alan brought to our organization. He served on LTSC’s Board of Directors for 38 years (1984–2022), 12 of which as Board President.”

“Although we mourn the loss of an iconic leader and dear friend, we’re grateful and blessed to have had Alan champion our mission. LTSC will continue forging ahead with the tools and vision Alan provided. We will keep him in our hearts, referencing him as our guide, knowing that every positive impact we create would make Alan so proud.”

“Alan Nishio was the perfect board leader. Over the course of LTSC’s development, creating the CDC branch and later merging, he served as the President of LTSC for over 20 years! Alan could listen to conflicting viewpoints during a board discussion and somehow synthesize differing comments into a common-ground resolution that everyone on the board could support.

He was a master at that, and I jokingly told Alan he could be “President for life“ if he chose to do so. Alan guided LTSC during its growth years and helped the board make key decisions regarding which directions and policies the organization should implement. Alan also made sure that the board supported the staff and worked cohesively with the staff so that the organization functioned efficiently and provided services that benefited the community. We have lost a wise and compassionate leader, and his voice will be missed.”

–Bill Watanabe, LTSC Founding Executive Director

(Photo Courtesy: Little Tokyo Service Center)

Alan was an incredible driving force for LTSC, Little Tokyo, and the Japanese American community. A true gift of his was his ability to mentor and inspire the next generation of leaders to ensure continued stability and strength for our community. He was brilliant and committed to LTSC’s mission, and I know he’ll be dearly missed. I am forever grateful for his thoughtful guidance, kind words, and unending care for Little Tokyo.”

–Claire Kitayama, President, LTSC Board of Directors

(Photo Courtesy: Little Tokyo Service Center)

“For all of Alan’s incredible accomplishments and impact as a decades-long community activist and leader, what makes Alan really special is the way he always took the time to sit down and get to know each person that crossed his path, with a genuine interest in their life and aspirations. This was reflected in all of the students whom he got to know during his years as an administrator at Cal State Long Beach and in the countless LTSC staff who worked with Alan or who may have only had brief but memorable and meaningful encounters with him during his tenure on the Board. He made everyone around him feel valued, which is ultimately what his vision for a better community and world was about.”

–Erich Nakano, LTSC Executive Director

A Celebration of Life for Alan Nishio will be held on February 10, 2024, from 2-4 PM at Terasaki Budokan in Little Tokyo. In lieu of flowers or koden, the Nishio family would appreciate memorial contributions to Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC),

Author: Jamie Herrera

Writer l Father of many | Master of none l