For the first time the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre partners up with the University Health Network for the Ninth Annual Sakura Gala. Photo credit: Cary Rothbart.
TORONTO — The 9th Annual Sakura Gala on April 18 heralded many unique firsts for the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre’s largest and most regal annual fundraiser.
It was the first time that JCCC hosted a joint gala. This year’s gala was a partnership between the JCCC and the University Health Network (UHN).
The recipient of the Sakura Award this year was Dr. Kazuhiro Yasufuku, a world-renowned surgeon who is literally at the “cutting edge” of medicine with minimally invasive surgical techniques for the treatment of lung cancer. As noted in the evening’s program, Dr. Yasufuku “has established UHN as the world’s foremost centre of excellence for the development of new surgical techniques and technologies for lung cancer diagnosis and treatment.”
It is no surprise that doctors from around the world come to train under Dr. Yasufuku’s guidance and leadership, many of which are from Japan. When their training is complete, many return to their home countries to help improve the quality of the healthcare there.
It was the first time that the gala was held outside of the JCCC. Choosing this year to host the event at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, it was the perfect forum for a collaboration of East meets West.
Attendees were greeted by kimono clad JCCC members and then treated to the extraordinary music performed by Linda Caplan, Canada’s premier koto artist. Nagata Shachu, Canada’s famous Japanese taiko ensemble led everyone into the main hall where dinosaurs share space with Asian treasures.
The strong Japanese influence, felt by many for the first time, was enjoyed by guests at every stage of the evening.
It was the first time that there was a culinary collaboration between Kaiseki Yu-zen Hashimoto and the executive chefs of Oliver and Bonacini. When combined with the stunning sushi from EDO, the result was an extraordinary meal from start to finish.
The event was MCed by journalist Mary Ito. She has been the MC every year since the Sakura Gala began. She once again masterfully infused the evening with her passion and upbeat voice, elegantly moving the event forward without a hitch.
Canadian artist Lawrence Gowan, lead vocalist of the band Styx, returned to the Sakura Gala to entertain the guests. His extraordinary talent and energy “rocked the house” and his musical performance was met with thunderous applause.
Sponsor Shiseido supplied gala guests with incredibly generous gift bags filled with an array of Shiseido products for guests to pamper themselves with in the coming months.
It was a blend of exciting firsts combined with tried and true talent and community support that led the 2018 Sakura Gala to be the extraordinary success that it was.
Gary Kawaguchi, president of the JCCC put the entire event into perspective when referring to this year’s Sakura Award recipient. “Dr. Yasufuku embodies the spirit of the Sakura Award and we were so honoured to share a wonderful evening with his family while learning more about his humble personality during his acceptance speech,” he said. “Dr. Yasufuku is a great role model for both the medical and Japanese Canadian communities, making us all proud that he chose Toronto as the leading centre for his ground-breaking surgical practice and research.”