Mr. Higa was born in 1940 in the village of Nakagusuku in Nakagami, Okinawa Prefecture. After graduating from Futenma High School, he moved to the United States with the support of his uncle residing in Los Angeles, and worked at Hinode Tofu Company while continuing his studies. In 1970, he graduated from Woodbury University with a Bachelor’s degree in International Trade, and began working for Lucky Stores Inc. (currently Albertsons Companies) until his retirement from the company in 2001.
For many years, Mr. Higa has been very active in various Japanese American community organizations. He served the Los Angeles based Japanese language school Rafu Uwamachi Daini Gakuen from 1970 for 15 years as a volunteer. He served four years as Vice Chair and three years as Chair, and contributed to the nurturing of youth and the promotion of Japanese language education and culture to the Los Angeles Japanese American community.
He served as President of the Okinawa Association of America for five years, and established the Katayabira Uchinaaguchi (“Let’s Speak Okinawan”) Class, Senior Citizens Club, and Library. In 2005 he was awarded by the Okinawa Association of America, and the following year at the 4th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival of Okinawa heritage, he was appointed as a New Okinawa Goodwill Ambassador by Okinawa Prefecture to help build bridges between the United States and Okinawa. In 2011, to honor his contributions to the development of the Okinawa Prefecture heritage community and the friendship between Japan and the countries of the diaspora, he was awarded at the 5th Worldwide Uchinanchu Festival.
Mr. Higa also dedicated himself to promoting Japanese and Okinawan culture through radio programs. For eleven years he volunteered as a radio personality for the 24-hour radio station Team J Station on its program Haisai Uchinaa (“Hello Okinawa”), and two other programs on regional Japanese radio stations. He contributed greatly to the operation and continued broadcasting of Japanese radio shows which supported the preservation of Japanese language use in the Japanese American community. The programs also introduced Okinawan dialect and culture, and Mr. Higa was instrumental in passing down language and culture particularly to the younger generations.
In 2011, Mr. Higa was appointed as the President of the Japanese Prefectural Association of Southern California, which is the associated body of the 42 Japanese prefectural organizations in the region. In March 2011 when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, he played a central role by taking the lead in communications with U.S.-based organizations in the midst of the turmoil in the Japanese American community at the time. In addition to gathering a total of $180,000 in relief aid, he delivered rousing words of encouragement to the victims at events beginning with the “Great East Japan Earthquake Victims 100th Day Buddhist Memorial Service,” and including many others. He contributed greatly to the cohesion of the regional Japanese American community and its relief aid efforts.