TOP 30: Katy Itani

Katy Itani
Major: Business Administration
Year: 3
Age: 21
Hometown: San Jose
In One Word: Reliable

With both her positions as Executive Director of Jodaiko, and also Jodaiko Representative of Tomo no Kai, Katy Itani strives to keep learning about her culture and the art of taiko drumming.

Now that cultural night and Jodaiko’s 20th anniversary concert are over, Katy and the rest of Jodaiko are working hard to prepare for the Intercollegiate Taiko Invitational, which will be held at Stanford University in the end of May.

As a business administration major with a specialization in accounting, Katy hopes to get her CPA, and go into anything to do with business. She’s very open to the different aspects of the business realm.

A friend of Katy’s describes her as “hard-working, down to earth, and just inspirational to those around her. She was in every single cultural night act during cultural night one year – her devotion to learning about and spreading awareness for her culture is just astounding.”

KS: Tell us about yourself.

KI: I grew up in San Jose, CA. In high school I was really involved, as well as in middle school. My middle school was a performing arts magnet, so we were required to take a  year of performing arts electives such as choir, drama, band, and dance. I did choir and dance for 6th 7th and 8th grade, and continued both into high school. I was on the dance team and the advanced choir, and did the spring musical every year. I was always busy with performing arts events. Ethnicity-wise, I am half Chinese and half Japanese. Neither culture was pressed onto me, but I adapted more to the Japanese side. My family from my Japanese side got together more often, and because of that, I got to go to obon festivals and different services. My first taiko experience was when San Jose Taiko, one of the most prestigious taiko groups in the US, came to my elementary school and performed. It was inside our cafeteria, so I could not only hear them playing, but I could also feel it.

KS: What have you accomplished here on campus, and what do you hope to accomplish?.

KI: Coming to UCI, I really wanted to go somewhere where I could start fresh. At the time, I was going through a  cultural phase, and I was really interested in the Japanese and Chinese cultures. I wanted to learn more about both of them. I initially planned to join Tomo no Kai, Jodaiko, Chinese Association, and CADC. But then I realized it would be a hectic schedule, so I stuck with Tomo and Jodaiko.Culturally I was more comfortable with the Japanese culture, so I wanted to expand my knowledge about the Japanese culture.

I was Jodaiko’s Executive Director as well as Tomo no Kai’s Jodaiko Representative for this school year, and the thing that really made me want to run for this position was my close bond with both Tomo no Kai and Jodaiko. I was so close with the people from both groups, and the position itself (Jodaiko’s Executive Director) was so unique because I got to be on both Jodaiko and Tomo no Kai’s boards.

Being in these clubs helped me learn more about my culture, and that was definitely something I wanted to accomplish in college.

I still have one more year here at UCI, so I hope that I could explore my Chinese side more, since I spent 3 years learning and spreading cultural awareness on my Japanese side. I would also like to spread awareness about these cultures to other people.

KS: What have you done for the Asian Pacific Islander community?

KI: Any contributions I have made to the API community have been through Tomo no Kai and Jodaiko, through the events that are associated with them. For Tomo no Kai, we had volunteer events, like Evening of Aloha, Chibi K, and Little Tokyo Scavenger Hunt. Evening of Aloha is an event put on by the Go For Broke Foundation, a dinner to commemorate Japanese American veterans who were part of the 442nd Battalion and their families for their services. It’s a cool event for Tomo no Kai to be a part of because it allows our members to network with and just talk to the veterans. Chibi K is a fun-run / walk for kids. The kids get their exercise, and after the run they get to play games and do arts and crafts, and we volunteer to help run the different booths. It’s also an event where the Japanese American organizations from the other schools in Southern California, part of the Intercollegiate Nikkei Council, come together as well. Everyone gets to interact with kids and also other college students.

For Jodaiko, we decided to have a concert, because it is our 20th year as a club, since Jodaiko was founded in 1992. In past years, we’ve had concerts as well, but because of the occasion, we wanted to find ways to make the 20th anniversary concert unique. We were able to do this by using a totally different venue, a theater in Little Tokyo, bringing back old songs, having two shows in one day, having alumni perform, as well as having a group from our sister club, Tomo no Kai, perform. The concert’s name, Onkochishin, means “Respect the past, Create the new”, and we chose this to reflect that this is where Jodaiko has progressed in 20 years, and that we want to keep progressing for the many years to come. The concert itself was a different kind of challenge, because we branched out to a different audience than normal. Usually we perform for students, but we really tried to go broader and get the Japanese community to come out.

What was unique about this year’s directorship compared to past ones was that we reached out to Jodaiko alumni to see who would be interested in performing. It was fun to compare how the group has changed, and also reaching out to the alumni was a good source for life after college, since a lot of them are working now. We are actually trying to organize a reunion for Jodaiko alumni very soon.

KS: Who or what has been the most influential to you?

KI: In college, I think the most influential to me was the seniors in Tomo no Kai my first year, because they were basically my family away from home, as I was transitioning into college life. The things that they believed and did inspired me, and I tried to carry over what they did for me.

In general, definitely my parents. Sometimes when I think about what I should do, I think about how my parents would handle the situation, and try to follow that. I definitely don’t want to feel like I disappoint them.

KS: What are you most passionate about?

KI: Jodaiko does mean “passionate drumming”. Taiko and everything about the Japanese culture is so new to me, that I definitely have a passion to keep learning. I feel like I’ve been able to begin to fulfill that through my involvements with Jodaiko and Tomo’s Cultural Night. Before being in Cultural Night or Jodaiko, I had never worn a yukata before, and I didn’t know how to put one on – now I help people put them on. So I’m definitely passionate about taiko and all aspects of the Japanese culture.

KS: When you were six years old, what did you want to be when you grew up?

KI: I wanted to be a meteorologist. I always watched the weather reports with my mom, and it made me want to be a meteorologist.

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    Asian Pacific-Islander Heritage Month (APIHM) is hosted by the Asian Pacific Student Association at UCI and features various programs, workshops, and events that celebrate the APIA culture and address pertinent issues in the APIA community.

    Please refer to the tabs above for more details regarding each event.

  • Contact Us

    Any inquiries regarding Asian Pacific-Islander Heritage Month can be directed to Programming Coordinators, Siamrath (Sam) Boonsakul and Alison Tominaga, at

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