In honor of Friendship Day, Keiro will share a series of articles highlighting the many bonds Our Community members have with each other. From friendships formed in the community to those going back to childhood, these relationships have stood the test of time and distance.

Community Friendship

The friendship between Dr. Jack Fujimoto (92) and Hank Iwamoto (82) has deep ties to community and place – Sawtelle, Los Angeles, to be exact. The pair have been building their connection since the 1950s, while also working together to strengthen the Japanese American community where they, and their families, call home.

Temple Ties

Jack attended the University of California, Los Angeles in 1952, where he met Hank’s older brother, Eddie. Jack soon met the rest of the Iwamoto family (lovingly referred to by Jack as “The Iwamoto Clan”), including Hank. The two bonded through shared activities at the West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple, including obon festivals and the Young Buddhist Association (YBA). Being 10 years older, Jack was Hank’s YBA adviser during this time. They also played on the same softball championship team at the temple. Jack and Hank’s friendship grew through these shared activities, though they went their separate ways for a time after college. However, Jack later recommitted himself to working with the temple, and the friends connected once again.

Jack and Hank with the Sawtelle Reunion Committee

Jack and Hank’s friendship is also built upon family history in Sawtelle. Jack’s father-in-law owned a fish market on Sawtelle, across the street from Hank’s parents’ store, Safe and Save. Reflecting on their shared history, Jack commented that “the Iwamoto family has been very much involved with the temple, with the community, and in general bringing people together or back to Sawtelle. So to that extent I’m really grateful.”

Connected Through Service

Jack and Hank have worked together to build community in the Sawtelle area, especially through activities at the West LA Buddhist Temple and the Japanese Institute of Sawtelle. “We sort of have to keep the community together,” Jack explained. Upon his return to Sawtelle, Jack helped Hank’s father, Bob Iwamoto, organize more community-centered activities at the temple. Jack and Hank have collaborated on the committee for organizing the Sawtelle Reunion, of which they have held four since 2010.

From McDonalds to Messaging

Before the pandemic, the friends would regularly see each other during a weekly Thursday morning meetup at McDonalds with others in the Sawtelle community. “We want to keep in touch with other people that we used to know,” Hank explained. “Most of the people that are there, we knew each other since grammar school.”

However, since the pandemic, Jack and Hank have been keeping in touch through email and the occasional phone check-in. “Not a day goes by that I don’t get some kind of message from him,” Jack said. Though both agreed that they enjoy the ease with which they can send emails, Jack mentioned that they try to talk on the phone occasionally because “just to say hello, just the idea of meeting and saying hello is gratifying.”

A Working Respect

No matter the situation, the two hold an admiration for each other that is rooted in their community work. In speaking to what he admired about his friend, Jack mentioned how Hank took over as treasurer for the Japanese Institute of Sawtelle when there was a vacancy. He said he admired his friend’s willingness to volunteer: “that volunteer spirit of his that says ‘hey, I gotta contribute, I gotta keep this thing going’ ̶it’s that quality of his personality that gets in there and helps out wherever he can.” Hank praised Jack’s knowledge, stating “he’s very intelligent,” and talked about their shared involvement in Sawtelle being an integral link in their friendship. “Even though he’s a Bruin and I’m a Trojan, we still get along,” Hank concluded.

This Friendship Day, we hope to celebrate friendships that keep our life connected with others and enhance the quality of our daily lives. No matter the length of friendship, being connected and having a support system keeps everyone healthy, and helps both in good and difficult times.

Keiro Challenge

What qualities do you admire the most about your friends? Have you taken the time to let them know? Reach out to your friends, and share your story with us! Let us know how you have maintained your new and old friendships at [email protected].

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