5th Annual CBA Conference

At the 5th Annual CBA Conference: “What Every Asian American Woman Should Know,” Jan Yanehiro was the keynote speaker, and she generously donated signed copies of her book “This is Not the Life I Ordered” to guests who attended the CBA conference. In addition, we had a panel of some pretty impressive women who shared interesting experiences as Asian American women, including: – Honorable Joni Hiramoto, Superior Court of Contra Costa County – Sawako Sonoyama, Program Officer at Global Philanthropy Forum & 2007 Northern California Cherry Blossom Queen – Akiko Yamamoto, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Adobe Systems Inc.



Jan Yanehiro pioneered the magazine format on television as co-host of “Evening Magazine”, a nightly program in San Francisco that ran for 15 years on KPIX TV-CBS5.

Currently she is the Director of the School of MultiMedia Communications as the Academy of Art University, San Francisco. She has hosted 6 documentaries on the redress and relocation issues of Japanese Americans during World War II. Jan has won multiple awards including an Emmy and the Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award.

She is the mother of six (three of her own and three step-children), holds seats on several boards including the Kristi Yamaguchi Always Dream Foundation and The Bank of Marin. Her latest book is titled, “This Is Not The Life I Order…50 Ways To Keep Your Head Above Water When Life Keeps Dragging You Down.”

A special thank you to Jan Yanehiro for generously donating copies of her book to CBA conference guests today.



Hon. Joni T. Hiramoto has been a judge of the Superior Court of Contra Costa County since 1998, working primarily in the criminal courts. From 2006 to the present, her assignment has included Drug Court, felony preliminary hearings and Domestic Violence Court. In 2007, she became the first judge to preside over the County’s new Behavioral Health Court. She currently sits in Juvenile Court. Prior to her appointment to the bench, she worked for the San Francisco law firm of McCutchen, Doyle, Brown & Enersen, now Bingham McCutchen (1987-1992). In 1992, she joined the San Francisco office of the Securities and Exchange Commission and became a Branch Chief in the Enforcement Division. In that position, she supervised investigations of insider trading and other forms of securities fraud.

As an Attorney, Judge Hiramoto served as President of the Asian American Bar Association of the Greater Bay Area (1995). She also served on the Boards of the Asian Law Caucus, the San Francisco Women’s Lawyers’ Alliance and the Bar Association of San Francisco. Judge Hiramoto graduated from Harvard in 1983, with an A.B., magna cum laude, in East Asian Studies. She earned her J.D. from Boalt Hall at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1987. Judge Hiramoto has three sons ages 21, 18, and 15. She recommends a career on the bench for women who want to balance work and family, and believes in giving back to the community.


Sawako Sonoyama was born in Niigata, Japan and moved to California in the second grade. Growing up, she attended both American and Japanese schools. Her bi-cultural and bilingual upbringing shaped her interest in different cultures, leading her to a career in international development. She currently works at the Global Philanthropy Forum, where she manages programs on global development for a community of philanthropists and social investors.

Prior to joining the Global Philanthropy Forum, Sawako served as the Project Manager for Medic Mobile, a technology nonprofit that advances rural healthcare networks through mobile technology. She also traveled to Ethiopia where she developed and tested a multi-layer evaluation tool and system that measure the behavioral change of health care providers. Previously, she worked at the Institute of International Education where she organized professional training and exchange programs for the Japanese government. She received her Bachelor’s in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley and a Master’s in international development from Columbia University. Sawako has enjoyed volunteering for the Japanese and Japanese American community in various capacities. Growing up, she volunteered with her family in organizing a student exchange program between Tsukuba, Japan and Irvine, CA. She also volunteered as an interpreter and translator for Peace Boat, a Japanese NGO that promotes peace, human rights and sustainable development through organizing global education programs. She served the Northern California Japanese American community as the Cherry Blossom Queen in 2007 and is a member of the Cherry Blossom Alumnae Association.


Akiko Yamamoto was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to the Bay Area in her late 20’s. All of her and her husband’s families still live in Tokyo and Hiroshima. Inspired by her English teacher in middle school, she wanted to be able to use English in her profession, but she never thought she would live in the US. After graduating from Dokkyo University, majoring in English and Marketing, she spent 5 years working in a large film and TV post-production company in Japan as a production manager and assisted  producing documentary film, TV commercials, special effect projects, and a few projects with Hollywood. Currently, she is a senior product marketing manager at Adobe Systems, working with global customers, partners, press and Adobe field teams. Her passion is to bridge the gap between U.S. headquarters and regional offices around the world to achieve the same goals.

As a Shin-Issei, Akiko wants to pass on her Japanese heritage to her daughter as well as young Japanese Americans, find the right balance between two cultures, know more about the history of Japanese Americans, and contribute back to the community. In her spare time, Akiko enjoys cooking, baking, gardening, and spending time with her husband and daughter.