Annual Award Of Honor Gala

Annual Gala

Japan Society 2011 Gala
VIP Reception: 5:30 pm
General Reception: 6:00 pm
Dinner Program: 7:15 pm

Hotel Nikko, 222 Mason Street, San Francisco

Thank you to all for your tremendous support for the Japan Society’s 25th Annual Award of Honor Gala! We truly are grateful for our corporate and individual members and the many other companies and individuals from around the Bay Area and Japan who supported this year’s gala with sponsorships, tickets, auction donations, wine and food and volunteering on Gala night. We couldn’t have done it without you. Kokoro kara orei moushiagemasu!

Please click here to view photos from the event.

This year we celebrated US-Japan baseball and the teams, players and management who have supported Japan’s earthquake relief efforts. Ambassador Ryozo Kato, Commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball and former Ambassador of Japan to the United States, accepted our 2011 Award of Honor (by video). Accepting a special Citizenship Award were Managing General Partner and CEO William H. (Bill) Neukom on behalf of the San Francisco Giants, and Owner and Managing Partner Lewis Wolff on behalf of the Oakland Athletics. Masanori “Mashi” Murakami–a former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants and the first Japanese player ever to play for a Major League team–and Sadaharu Oh, Chairman of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks (accepted by video) received Lifetime Achievement Awards.

  • SF Giants
  • Oakland A's

2011 Gala Sponsors

We would like to thank each of our sponsors in 2011*:

  • JAL
  • UnionBank
  • united


  • Artesa
  • BANK of the WEST
  • Takeda San Francisco

Gerald and Keiko Horkan

Hiro and Betty Jean Ogawa


Individual Sponsors

Gala Donations
  • Mitsuko and Edwin Duerr
  • Takaaki Eguchi
  • Hidemi Fukuhara
  • Larissa Roesch and Jason Crethar


*Sponsor list current as of October 28, 2011

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Honoree Biographies

Ryozo KatoRyozo Kato
Nippon Professional Baseball
(Accepting by video)

Ambassador Ryozo Kato, Commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball, said in a BabeRuthCentral.com interview, “Even today, one of the strongest common bonds between Americans and Japanese is their love of baseball.” Ambassador Kato is a career diplomat and lawyer who served as the Japanese Ambassador to the United States from 2001 to 2008 and was Consul-General of Japan in San Francisco from 1994–1995. A graduate of Tokyo University Faculty of Law and Yale Law School, he served his country in Australia, Egypt, and the United States, in addition to multiple global assignments within the Ministry in Tokyo.

Positions which Ambassador Kato served in the United States include the Third Secretary in the Embassy and Minister in the Embassy. In 1995, he returned to Japan to serve as the Director-General of the Asian Affairs Bureau and the Deputy-General of the Foreign Policy Bureau. In 2001 he was appointed the Ambassador of Japan to the United States of America, a position he held until 2008 when he became the Commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball.

William H. NeukomWilliam H. Neukom
Managing General Partner and CEO
San Francisco Baseball Associates L.P.

Accepting the award on behalf of the San Francisco Giants, William H. (Bill) Neukom has been a member of the Giants ownership group since 1995 and a general partner since 2003. Previously, Mr. Neukom served as the lead lawyer at Microsoft for nearly twenty-five years, with the last seventeen years as the General Counsel and head of Microsoft’s legal, government affairs and philanthropic activities. Before and after his service at Microsoft, he was a partner in the international law firm of K&L Gates, working at its Seattle office.

Mr. Neukom has been active in bar association and community activities, and served as president of the American Bar Association in 2007–2008. In 2006, he founded the World Justice Project, a multinational, multidisciplinary initiative to strengthen the rule of law worldwide.

In 1995, Mr. Neukom and four of his children founded the Neukom Family Foundation which supports nonprofit organizations. Mr. Neukom is a graduate of San Mateo High School, Dartmouth College and Stanford Law School.

Lewis WolffLewis Wolff
Owner and Managing Partner
Athletic Investment Group

Accepting the award on behalf of the Oakland Athletics, Lew Wolff enters his sixth season this year as Owner and Managing Partner of the Oakland A’s.

The San Jose Mercury News ranked Mr. Wolff first in its annual listing of the Bay Area’s 25 Most Powerful Sports Figures in both 2006 and 2007.

In September 2008, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group also presented him with its prestigious “Community Cornerstone Award.” The award is given to “a Silicon Valley leader who has displayed a lifetime of impeccable ethics, business achievement and community engagement.”

Mr. Wolff is the founder of Wolff Urban Development and co-founder of Maritz-Wolff, entities that are involved in the development, acquisition and management of a wide range of commercial, office, parking and hotel properties in several California cities including San Jose, Los Angeles, Pasadena and Burbank. His ownership interests in representative hotels and resorts include properties such as The Carlyle in New York City, Four Season Hotels in Houston, and Fairmont Hotels in San Jose and San Francisco.

Masanori MurakamiMasanori Murakami
First Japanese Major League Baseball Player

Masanori “Mashi” Murakami—the first Japanese player ever to play for a US Major League team—is a former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants. Sent to the US by the Nankai Hawks, Mr. Murakami made his professional baseball debut in 1964 at age twenty. Mr. Murakami played two seasons with the Giants before returning to Japan. He went on to pitch for another seventeen seasons in Japan, scoring 103 career wins.

After Mr. Murakami retired from professional baseball, he became a batting practice pitcher for SF Giants’ home games. In 2004, Murakami was presented with the Foreign Minister’s Certificate of Commendation in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Japan-US relationship by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.

Currently, Mr. Murakami is involved with various nonprofit and baseball-related organizations including Japan Association for UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters Alumni Association and All Japan Baseball Foundation.

Sadaharu OhSadaharu Oh
Chairman, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks
(Accepting by video)

Born in Tokyo in 1940, Sadaharu Oh joined the famed Yomiuri Giants from Waseda Jitsugyo High School. Perfecting his unique, one-legged ‘flamingo’ batting stance, he virtually monopolized the title of Japanese homerun king for his generation, winning it 15 times in his career. He was a triple crowner in 1974-75 with the most home runs, runs batted in, and highest batting average in Japan. On September 3, 1977, he knocked out his 756th homerun–breaking the US Major League record–and went on to hit a career 868.

After retiring, Mr. Oh managed the Yomiuri Giants and then the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks (today’s Fukuoka Softbank Hawks). He led his teams to three Pacific League pennants, and two Japan Series championships. In 2006, Mr. Oh led the Japanese national team to victory at the first World Baseball Classic international baseball tournament in San Diego.

Today he serves as Chairman of the Hawks, special advisor to the Commissioner of Nippon Professional Baseball, and Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Special Baseball Ambassador.


Black tie optional.

Please Note

Your contribution to the Japan Society is tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law.