Noted Nisei Athlete, Coach ‘Chi’ Akizuki Dies at 92


SAN JOSE — Chitoshi “Chi” Akizuki of San Jose passed away on April 28 at the age of 92.

Akizuki was a brother, uncle, husband, father, and grandfather. He was also a standout athlete in high school; recognized as one of the outstanding Nisei basketball and baseball players; and a coach and adviser to generations of young athletes and other coaches in the area.

Chitoshi Akizuki

Chitoshi Akizuki

Born on Feb. 2, 1923 in San Jose, he grew up in Japantown and worked for the U.S. Postal Service for more than 30 years. Sports and his family were his passion. He was a star basketball player and track athlete at San Jose High School, where he was a top sprinter, set long jump records, and was a member of the team that won a Northern California track championship.

Akizuki was on the San Jose State track team when World War II broke out, and his family was sent to the Heart Mountain internment camp in Wyoming. He never resumed college, but in 2010 was one of the Nisei who received an honorary degree from SJSU.

For many years he played basketball and baseball for the San Jose Zebras, including at Heart Mountain. At a camp reunion, he was named Heart Mountain’s Outstanding Athlete.

In the 1960s, Akizuki was one of the original members of the San Jose Japanese Community Service, for which he coached baseball and basketball for more than 15 years. He also coached San Jose JACL track teams to championships.

In the 1970s, he coached Police Activities League baseball with friends Ed Rosette and Bobby Amaro. For most of his adult life, he was a player, coach and adviser for the San Jose Zebras, earning the nickname “Mr. Zebra.”

He faithfully attended the activities of his three sons and proudly supported his two grandchildren and their basketball teammates, almost never missing a game from elementary school through high school.

Akizuki is survived by his wife, Kim; sons, Dennis, Bruce, and Kevin; grandchildren, Leslie and Mark; sisters, Amy Miyakawa (Los Angeles), Agnes Yoshioka, and Suma Kuwada (Gilroy); Joanne Akizuki; and many nieces, nephews, and cousins.

Funeral service was held on May 6 at San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin.



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