Taiko Drummer, Activist Molly Kitajima Dies at 89

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Molly Kitajima performs with a taiko group at the 2004 Tule Lake Pilgrimage in Klamath Falls, Ore. (Hokubei Mainichi)

Molly Kitajima performs with a taiko group at the 2004 Tule Lake Pilgrimage in Klamath Falls, Ore. (Hokubei Mainichi)

UNION CITY — Mary “Molly” Kitajima of Union City passed away on the morning of Jan. 25, surrounded by her family, friends, and loved ones. She was 89 years old.

Born on Oct. 25, 1925, Kitajima grew up in the Surrey and Delta regions of British Columbia. When World War II broke out, her father, Yamazo Enta, was arrested along with other Japanese Canadian leaders. The family was incarcerated at the Winnipeg Assembly Center and moved to a sugar beet farm in Middle Church, Manitoba.

Decades later, Kitajima was active in the Japanese American and Japanese Canadian redress movements, which resulted in payments and an apology for former internees. She was a guest speaker at last year’s Day of Remembrance program in San Jose.

Kitajima enjoyed poker games, golfing, and traditional Japanese drumming — which she performed well into her late senior years — with Heiwa and Onami Taiko. She drummed at many community events, including the Tule Lake Pilgrimage. Onami Taiko performed in her memory at this year’s SACBC Crab Feed.

She is survived by her sons Robert Keith and Scott Kitajima, daughter Naomi Kitajima, daughter-in-law Karen Kitajima, son-in-law Tom Langenstein, grandchildren Kurt, Kris, Kameron and Jennifer Kitajima, Jonelyn and Jeffrey Langenstein, Sam Kimbrel, Valerie Vizena, and her faithful dog Rimi.

Services were held at Southern Alameda County Buddhist Church in Union City on Feb. 15. In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations to SACBC’s Umenoki Gardens Senior Home, 32965 Alvarado-Niles Rd., Union City, CA 94587.

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