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Bryan Takeda

Episode 24

Gathering & Preserving History

Bryan Takeda is President of Affinity Associates, a program management and consulting business located in Monrovia, CA. He is also a partner of Creatively, a creative design, promotions, and marketing services business with offices in Washington, DC, and Monrovia, CA.

Bryan is extremely active in the Japanese-American community, as is evidenced by his extensive list of programs and organizations. He also worked as the first Program Director for the US-Japan Council under Irene Hirano Inouye from 2009 to 2012 and is most proud of their efforts in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami, and Nuclear Disaster in March 2011.

His most recent project is Kansha Pasadena, which strives to honor, preserve, and share the unique history and culture of Japanese Americans in the Greater Pasadena area by researching and documenting family histories, personal stories, cultural sites, and historic buildings. (Kansha means Gratitude in Japanese.)

Bryan holds the rank of Yondan (4th degree black belt) in Kendo and was a member of the U.S. Kendo Team at the 1976 World Kendo Championships in London, England. Bryan earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from UCLA. Bryan and his wife, Jeri, have two adult daughters, Lauren and Courtney.

Facebook group: kanshapasadena


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Bryan Takeda Quotes

  • “I asked my dad, why did you give me my name? He said it means straight. You’re going to be a straight person, like a katana, strong.”
  • “I got this idea; I said, you know, we really need to do something to preserve the stories of Japanese Americans in our own community, our local community, in Pasadena.”
  • Bryan grew up in a traditional Japanese-American way
  • He greatly respects his Japanese heritage and continues many traditions in his own family
  • Bryan practiced Kendo and is very fond of the martial art
  • Bryan created an exchange program for students in the USA and Japan
  • Bryan began a group to preserve the history and stories in Pasadena

What is Bryan’s connection to SGV?

Bryan spent his entire life in Pasadena, went to school in Pasadena, and then went to UCLA. He never moved away.

Bryan had a Japanese-American experience in Pasadena, like many others, where Bryan claims there is a strong Japanese community.

Little Tokyo is considered the center of the Japanese community, and Northwest Pasadena is the hot spot for Japanese Americans.

What is the Pasadena Buddhist Temple?

Bryan grew up at the Pasadena Buddhist temple and went to Sunday school and many activities there. Now, the culture is more diverse, but it was very Japanese-focused when Bryan was a child. It was a major gathering point for Japanese Americans.

A gymnasium was built, which did wonders in providing basketball, martial arts, Boy Scouts, and more to the community.

What is Bryans’s origin with Kendo?

When Bryan was 6 or 7, his father wanted him to learn a traditional Japanese martial art. Originally, he started in judo. However, ending up small and skinny, Bryan wasn’t succeeding or enjoying judo.

Coincidentally, a few of Bryan’s neighbors were practicing, and one became Bryan’s Sensei.

Kendo is the way of the sword. Essentially, you practice with a bamboo sword, wear equipment, and practice striking each other with the stick. You aim for the head, wrist, and the side. When you are a black belt, you focus on the throat.

What does Bryan believe that Kendo teaches you?

You learn discipline, manners, respect for elders, physical techniques, and loyalty. You learn a lot of life skills and characteristics.

What does the Japanese culture mean to Bryan?

It is through the lens of Kendo and his relationship with his parents. To him, it is loyalty, discipline, and being a good person.

How has Bryan kept Japanese culture with his own family?

Bryan’s parents and his children’s grandparents speak Japanese at home, and they cook traditional Japanese meals. Bryan tries to visit Japan regularly with younger folks, too. He actually helped facilitate an exchange program between Pasadena and Mishima.

10 to 12 students spend a week visiting the other country (USA and Japan), and this program has continued for the last 21 years.

What has Bryan done to preserve Japanese culture in Pasadena?

Around the same time, Bryan lost his father and a friend whom he was anticipating speaking to and learning about their experiences and starting a business in Pasadena post-WWII.

This hit Bryan hard when he released these stories, and memories were lost.

So, Bryan was inspired to preserve the stories of Japanese Americans in the local Pasadena community by the Little Tokyo Historical Society. They gathered photos and old stories.

Bryan thought, why not start this amazing opportunity to respect the past in Pasadena? This led to Bryan sending a Zoom invite via email to a bunch of his friends. About ten people showed up, and they discussed ideas. The main focus was gathering old photos.

This was the start of a beautiful project for the community.

Picture of Bryan Takeda

Bryan Takeda

Pasadena Japanese Cultural Center, Pasadena Buddhist Temple, First Presbyterian Church Altadena

Pasadena Tournament of Roses parade

The Rose Bowl