TORONTO – On January 28th, Martin Kobayashi received The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays at a ceremony held at the residence of the Consul-General of Japan.
“To receive this honour would not have been possible without such a vibrant Japanese Canadian community,” Martin Kobayashi said. Photo by: Matthew O’Mara
The Order of the Rising Sun is awarded to individuals who have made contributions to the promotion of Japanese culture, development of welfare, and preservation of the environment.
Kobayashi was recognized for his charitable actions and his lifelong volunteerism including the contributions he has made to the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre.
“Marty has worked tirelessly for the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre as its president of 12 years and he has sat for more than 20 years as a board member,” Yasunori Nakayama, Consul-General of Japan in Toronto, said at the event.
“Whether helping pack bento boxes for Issei Day or serving on the Sakura Gala committee, you have a reputation for being reliable, responsible, and humble,” Nakayama said.
Kobayashi was first elected to the JCCC’s board of directors in 1982 and in 1984 became the first Sansei and youngest elected president of the centre. He served for 12 terms making him the longest-serving president in the centre’s history.
Kobayashi has held many other key and executive roles, but one that Kobayashi recalls as one of the most gratifying is playing Old St. Nick at the JCCC’s Winter Family Festival.
“To be able to play Santa, one of the most recognizable characters in the world, and to see the faces of the kids recognizing you and lighting up is just so rewarding,” Kobayashi said.
“Mind you, for photos there are a lot of kids who will sit on my lap, look up at me, and just start balling,” he joked.
At the event, Kobayashi also spoke of his parents who he says put him on the path to receiving this award.
“I really owe my start to my parents,” Kobayashi said. “And I really wish they could be here tonight to see this, I’d like to thank them for getting me started on this.”
Also at the event were David Zimmer MPP Willowdale and Ontario Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, Scarborough Centre City Councillor Michael Thompson, and current JCCC President Gary Kawaguchi.
No one was prouder of Martin Kobayashi’s achievements than his children, Kristin and Kevin, who stood by him as he received his commendation.
Kristin Kobayashi has recently become a board member of the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre and Kevin Kobayashi recently returned from teaching English in Japan.
“It’s such an honour, not only for the family, but for the entire Japanese Canadian community,” Kevin Kobayashi told Nikkei Voice.
“It’s something that we’ve been working towards, not as an end goal, but to build up our community,” he said. “I think that this honour really solidifies all the years of hard work the volunteers have put into the cultural centre.”
When asked if he was interested in one day receiving The Order of the Rising Sun himself, Kevin says he hopes so.
“Perhaps one day in the future,” he laughs. “I think at this point it’s baby steps.”