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Book Committee

The Lotus Skyliners Committee LLC is a team of dedicated individuals who helped to document this band's remarkable journey. Many of the committee members currently belong to the Buddhist Churches of America, performed with the Lotus Skyliners, or attended their performances back in the 1950s and 1960s. Thanks to the publication of The Lotus Skyliners "A Big Band Lifts Up a Small Community," the band’s unique story will be memorialized for future generations to come. 

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Kay Hirai

Kay Hirai, Chairperson

Business Owner, Entrepreneur, Author, Artist, and Philanthropist

Kay Hirai opened her salon business, Studio 904, in 1976. After 46 years, the salon is still operating today and is nationally recognized for its hiring practices, workforce training, economic development, and community outreach programs. In 2002, Studio 904 became the first small business in the Western region to win the “Better Business Bureau’s International Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics” and in 2004, Kay was named the “National Minority Entrepreneur of the Year” by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Recognized as a leader in her industry, Kay is a business mentor for the Small Business Administration’s SCORE program. In that role, she counsels entrepreneurs with their start-up business plans and offers on-going advice to help grow and develop promising, new businesses. She chaired the Governor’s Small Business Improvement Council from 1997 – 2001 and represented the small business and workforce training position on the Governor’s Economic Development Commission in 2003. Kay also authored a “Direct Entry to Work” bill in the 2003 Washington State legislative session, a bill that was successfully passed in 2008.

Kenny Aoki

Kenny Aoki

Former Lotus Skyliners Band Member

After receiving his degree in Music Education, Ken was hired by the Seattle Public Schools in 1963 to be a part of the Elementary Instrumental Music staff, teaching students to play string, woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments. He received his master’s degree in music education and taught for 38 years. 

Janet Baba

Janet Baba

Retired Seattle Public Schools Elementary School Teacher

Janet received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Education degrees from the University of Washington and taught school from 1977 – 2003. From 1942 – 1945, she was incarcerated first in the Minidoka concentration camp in Idaho and then the Tule Lake concentration camp in California. She attended three of the schools that are prominently mentioned in the book:  Bailey Gatzert, Washington Junior High School, and Garfield High School.

Her community activities include participating in the Omoide writing group and publishing a book of personal stories about being incarcerated in the aforementioned concentration camps. She has spoken at community centers and public schools in Western and Eastern Washington about the incarceration of Japanese Americans and was also president of the Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Women’s Association from 2012 – 2015 and the Northwest Buddhist Women’s Association from 2012 – 2013.

Shinya Ichikawa

Shinya Ichikawa

Former Lotus Skyliners Band Member

Shinya graduated from Garfield High School in 1959. From 1959 to 1964, he attended the University of Washington and graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Shinya worked for the Shell Chemical Company from 1964 – 1965 and from 1965-1966, he attended Oregon State University and received a degree in MS Chemical Engineering. In 1966, he joined the U.S. Public Health Service and worked there until 1968. From 1968 - 2006, Shinya worked in the data technology field and retired from an electric utility company in 2006.

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Vic Kihara

Former Lotus Skyliners Band Member

Vic graduated from Garfield in 1956 and went on to enroll at Whitman College, where he played trumpet in a small combo. He graduated in 1960 with a degree in political science. Vic has worked as a project manager on a wide range of projects - from the Mill Creek residential development north of Seattle, to international operations for an Alaska-based regional corporation, to negotiating on the production of Boeing 787 components with a Japanese aircraft maker. Vic joined his wife after retirement and is now working in the field of real estate investment and brokerage.

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Kai Kubota

Medical Coder and Part Owner of a Family Business

Kai is the youngest member of the committee and is the son of a former Lotus Skyliners band member. He has participated in and worked extensively with youth groups in scouting, basketball, and swimming. As a member of the Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple, Kai travels extensively and is knowledgeable about Buddhist churches and their programs throughout the United States.

Jean Nishi

Jean Nishi

Former Seattle Central Community College Instructor

Jean was born in the Minidoka concentration camp in Hunt, Idaho. After the war ended, her family returned to Seattle, Washington where she attended Summit Elementary, Meany Junior High School, and Garfield High School. She graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and a minor in Education. Jean taught ESL (English as a Second Language) at Seattle Central Community College for 30 years.

Dennis Tsuboi

Dennis Tsuboi

Former Lotus Skyliners Band Member

After graduating from Garfield High School in 1956, Dennis attended Central Washington College of Education in Ellensburg, Washington and majored in music. He transferred to the University of California at Berkeley, where he graduated in 1962 with a major in Landscape Architecture.

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Gary Yamashita

Former Lotus Skyliners Band Member

Gary graduated from Bowdoin College and earned his MBA in Accounting and PhD in Finance from Columbia University. He was a professor at California State University in Hayward, California for ten years and retired from Chevron after a thirty-two year career in accounting/auditing and as a manager in the Ombudsman office.

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