Board of Directors
Roles and Terms
Tonari Gumi’s Board of Directors consists of volunteers from a variety of backgrounds. The Board’s role is to oversee and manage the organization within the guidelines set out in its constitution and by-laws on issues such as organization policies, human resources and authorities given to staff to carry out day-to-day operations.
Board of Directors
2023-2024 Board of Directors
Alan Iwaasa Jr.
Alan Iwaasa Jr. earned his Bachelor of Management in human resources and labour relations from the University of Lethbridge in 2019. Alan is a human resources generalist currently working at Amazon. As a yonsei, Alan Jr. has a keen interest in contributing to the Japanese Canadian community.
Emily attained her CPA, CMA designation in 1991 and has a Masters of Arts in Political Science that she attained in 2003. Her industry experience includes import/export, public utility, agriculture, healthcare, tech and not-for-profit in Canada and the United States. She enjoys a nearly daily dose of boxing/kickboxing/out-of-the-box-fitness and has completed 13 marathons and several half-marathons, triathlons and duathlons. In her free time she is often seen walking her Maltese pup, and driving around discovering new restaurants and unique businesses.
Naomi is a Sansei who grew up on a berry farm in the Fraser Valley. After graduating with a BA in Anthropology she lived in Japan for 5 years, worked at Tonari Gumi in it's early years as well as for Powell St. Festival and JC Redress. She was employed at Select Wines as a Japanese Accounts Marketing Rep before retirement. Enjoys practicing tai chi and continues to volunteer for various community groups.
Makiko was born in Yokohama, Japan, but raised in Toronto, where she established a floral design business. Later moving to Vancouver, she graduated from University of British Columbia, with a Major in Philosophy and later completed the SFU’s Sustainable Community Development Certificate Program. In 2000, she joined the Canadian federal service, transferring in 2004 to their newly released New Horizon’s for Senior’s Program, working with that program until her retirement.
She now volunteers with the Tonari Gumi Garden Club and writes the monthly gardening column Our Edible Roots for the Bulletin. In addition to the numerous TG test gardens, she also volunteers at the historic Cougar Annie’s Garden on Vancouver Island and several other local community gardens. Currently Makiko is still waiting for her yuzu plants to fruit.
Board Vice Chair
Born and raised in Kyoto, Japan, Makoto graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and worked as an interpreter at the Kyoto International Conference Centre prior to immigrating to Canada in 1981. In addition to her deep Kyoto roots and education are the life lessons learned as a small business owner; raising a bright, successful daughter; and, latterly, settling visiting Japanese language students into rewarding home stay placements. Now semi-retired, Makoto hopes to share those roots and life lessons with others, volunteering with organizations such as Tonari Gumi.
Larry M. Okada
Larry has been a Professional Chartered Accountant in Canada and a Certified Public Accountant in the United States for 37 years. He was involved with mining companies during those 37 years as an auditor for 31 years, as a Chief Financial Officer for 5 years, and a director of public mining companies listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange for 10 years. The majority of companies he worked with during those 37 years had mineral properties located in North, Central and South America.
Board Vice Chair
A Bachelor of Applied Sciences (majoring in Textile Science) from the University of Guelph led to a career as the Manager of Quality Control Labs for Levi Strauss Canada. This was followed by a move to Tokyo, working for 6 years for Yamaichi Securities while also studying the making of kakejiku and byobu and frequenting flea markets. After starting a family upon returning to Canada, Carol and a partner opened “Kikori,” a Japanese antique store in Vancouver that operated for 17 years. A love of vintage Japanese textiles continues to be a passion.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. After achieving a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Winnipeg, further learning of the Japanese language began then the first visit to Japan. When returning to Manitoba in May when snow could still be seen, an escape from the long winters soon followed. Vancouver was the destination. Employment includes provincial then federal public service and learning languages is always an interest, but the key is to keep practicing.
Arrived in Canada in 1991 from Greece, where her son was born and where she spent several years after leaving the Eastern Europe. Bea is a sociologist by trade (SFU) and an avid researcher. She is a public service employee and has worked with the federal public service off and on since 1997. Bea has been involved with Tonari Gumi for the last 5 years as a volunteer tax preparer (through Community Volunteer Tax Clinic program). Bea believes in intergenerational kinship and transfer of knowledge as well as the importance of community engagement, especially during our senior years. Having a background in art/literature, Bea volunteered for several years at Firehall Art Centre during the Dancing on the Edge Festival and during the regular season. Bea enjoys organizing and planning events & strives to find the best solutions. After spending over a decade in Vancouver, she currently lives in Port Coquitlam.
Thank you for your dedication and hard work on the board!