Spring 2021 Decoration Conferred on Mr. David Yamahata

On April 29, 2021, the Government of Japan announced the recipients of its Spring 2021 Decorations and within this Consulate General's jurisdiction, Mr. David Mikio Yamahata received the Order of the Rising Sun, Silver Rays.

The conferment ceremony for Mr. Yamahata was held on Wednesday, October 13, 2021. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, the ceremonies were held at the Consul General's Official Residence with a limited number of guests.

Mr. Yamahata joined the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) in 1977 and became the first Japanese American captain in 1985. In 2011, he became the first Asian American and Japanese American Chief Deputy in the LAFD’s 125-year history. He has contributed greatly to the elevation of the status of not only Japanese Americans but also the larger Asian American community. 
Mr. Yamahata has been committed to serving the Japanese American community since his early career at the LAFD, where he became actively involved in basic fire education programs developed by the LAFD for local residents. He participated in monthly meetings of the Little Tokyo Public Safety Association as the LAFD representative, provided information on disaster crisis management, and guided Safety Association members on improving safety at their offices. He has generously spread knowledge of firefighting to various Japanese American organizations and has continued his contributions as a firefighting expert for more than 30 years, benefiting the disaster prevention, security, and steady development of the community.

In his role as Chief Deputy of Emergency Operations at the LAFD, he actively engaged in international cooperation with Japan through firefighting, providing information on LAFD operations on behalf of the LAFD to research teams visiting from Japan, thereby helping Japanese local governments improve their firefighting capabilities.

Mr. Yamahata was appointed a member of the Board of Directors of the Nisei Week Foundation in 2015, and was named President in 2019. Drawing inspiration from his career as a firefighter, Mr. Yamahata designated “Fired Up” as the 2019 Nisei Week Festival theme and developed various promotions tied to the festival to enliven the community. 

In particular at the annual Dodgers Japan night sponsored by the Los Angeles Dodgers in July 2019, Mr. Yamahata called on spectators at Dodgers Stadium to participate in the Nisei Week Festival, introducing the festival to a wide audience, where baseball stars Shohei Ohtani and Kenta Maeda along with tennis champion Naomi Osaka were gathered that evening. At that year’s Nisei Week Festival, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti also participated in the parade. 

Mr. Yamahata continued to serve as President for the 2020 Nisei Week Festival, which was forced to move online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under his leadership, the organization revamped its website and created a long-term succession plan for the future of the organization. By turning the pandemic crisis into an opportunity for further growth of the organization, Mr. Yamahata continued to make significant contributions to the ongoing development of the festival. 

Mr. Yamahata first visited Japan as a member of the 2013 Japanese American Leadership Delegation program sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which ignited his interest in further involvement in the Japanese American community. Upon retirement from the LAFD in 2013, Mr. Yamahata used his vast knowledge to provide guidance directly to the community in areas such as basic medical assistance, safe rescue strategies, and emergency preparedness in the case of natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis. At the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, where he serves as a member of the Board of Directors, he provides guidance during the Center’s annual evacuation drills.

Through his prominence in the Los Angeles community in his years of service as a firefighter achieving the highest rank ever in the LAFD as an Asian American, and in a range of volunteer activities in the Japanese American community, Mr. Yamahata has contributed greatly to the welfare of the community and the strengthening of the U.S.-Japan relationship through enhancing the relations between Japanese Americans and Japan.