Ms. Yasuko Sakamoto was born in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture in 1948. Upon graduating from high school, she moved to Tokyo and studied English Literature at Meiji Gakuin University while working. She returned to the same university after graduation for Social Work program in the Sociology Department hoping to become a case worker. She was also working as a governess during the same period. Upon receiving Bachelor’s degree in Social Work, she started working at a neurology clinic in Tokyo and provided services to both inpatients and outpatients as a case worker.
In 1976 Ms. Sakamoto moved to Los Angeles. She worked as a case manager for 1 ½ years at Oriental Service Center, which was established as the first organization in Los Angeles providing social services for the Asians and Pacific Islanders, then joined Little Tokyo Service Center (LTSC), which was newly established in 1980, as one of its first staff members. While working at LTSC, she completed a Master’s Degree in Social Welfare at UCLA and later obtained a license as a clinical social worker (LCSW). As a Japanese-English bilingual social worker, Ms. Sakamoto has provided essential support for Japanese speakers, such as Issei (first generation) seniors and Shin-Issei (new first generation) families, who were unable to access English-only welfare services. She has also often worked alongside with other social services agencies, police departments, and courts on behalf of her clients.
Ms. Sakamoto has greatly contributed to the development of culturally sensitive and linguistically appropriate mental health and social welfare services for the Nikkei community by building the foundation for LTSC to grow into a multi-faceted organization through development of numerous programs such as the Nikkei Family Counseling Program, and, after assuming a founding director of social services of LTSC in 1996, by supervising and training a cadre of social worker under her rich experience of practical work and leadership. In order to sustain the programs, Ms. Sakamoto applied for and received grants and collaborated with government agencies, foundations and private groups.
After retiring, Ms. Sakamoto started “Sakamoto-Juku” which is an extra-curricula focus group with her colleagues. This is to enhance social work professionalism, leadership, mentorship, advocacy and the Juku members continue to work for the wellness of the community.
In 2018, being acknowledged with these achievements, she was inducted into the California Social Work Hall of Distinction at USC.