Those We Lost in 2018

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Following, in alphabetical order, are some of the notable individuals who passed away during the past year.

Daniel Akaka, 93, on April 6 in Honolulu. First U.S. senator of Native Hawaiian ancestry (1990-2013). An advocate for working people, veterans, Native Hawaiian rights, and the people of Hawaii. He was instrumental in upgrading 22 Asian American WWII veterans’ medals to the Medal of Honor in 2000, including fellow Hawaii Democrat Sen. Daniel Inouye.

George Aki, 103, on July 4. The last surviving chaplain to serve with the 100th Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team. He was with the unit during fighting in Italy and it was his lifelong mission to honor the men whose lives were cut short. He served Japanese American churches after the war.

Joe Annello, 85, on Nov. 8. Korean War veteran known for his lifelong friendship with Medal of Honor recipient Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura after both were captured by Chinese forces. Their story is told in Vincent Okamoto’s “Forged in Fire.”

Jun Ashida, 88, on Oct. 20 in Tokyo. Renowned fashion designer whose creations included clothes for Japan’s imperial family and uniforms for Japan’s national teams at the Asian Games and the Olympics.

Robert Masao Baba, 100, on Jan. 4. An Army medic during WWII, he opened his dental practice in Whittier in 1957and specialized in dentistry for children until 1992. He allowed patients to pay as they could.

Glen Chin, 70, on Aug. 14 in Stockton. Actor who worked with East West Players and appeared in TV shows and movies, as well as Michael Jackson’s music video “Black or White.”

Masanori Fujimoto, 92, on April 20. Longtime scouting coordinator for Boy Scout Troop 379 of Koyasan Beikoku Betsuin. He mentored generations of young boys and conducted more than 123 investigure ceremonies for the troop’s Eagle Court of Honor.

Yoshito Fujimoto, 100, on Nov. 6 in El Monte. A WWII and Korean War veteran, he was instrumental in the conclusion of the Pacific War by being the main translator of the surrrender documents signed by the Japanese in Tokyo Bay in 1945. He later worked as a cost accountant.

Nariko Fujisaki, 85, on Sept. 5 in San Diego.She owned and operated Fuji-San Restaurant and Fuji-San Nursery, was a talented seamstress and homemaker, and was an active member of Seicho-No-Ie.

Richard Fukuhara, 74, on Dec. 4 in Orange. Community leader, artist and photographer who founded Shadows for Peace to memorialize victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. President of Nanka Yamaguchi Kenjinkai and volunteer with many organizations, including Love to Nippon, Tanabata Festival and Los Angeles-Nagoya Sister City Affiliation.

Tadashi Goto, 85, on Nov. 8. He spent over 40 years in the aerospace industry, working on the Mercury, Apollo, and space shuttle programs at companies including TRW and Boeing.

Charles Oihe “Charlie” Hamasaki, 95, on Aug. 30. A leader of the Terminal Islanders group and a member of the planning committee for the Terminal Islanders Memorial Monument, he is also remembered for his testimony before the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians in 1981.

Shinobu Hashimoto, 100, on July 19 in Tokyo. A screenwriter who worked on a number of iconic Japanese films, including Akira Kurosawa’s “Rashomon,” “Seven Samurai,” “Ikiru” and “The Hidden Fortress.”

Terumi “Terrie” Hashimoto, 88, on Oct. 28. At Rohwer camp during WWI, she was a member of The Crusaders, who wrote letters of encouragement to soldiers of the 442nd RCT. She worked for Standard Homeopathic Co. for over 30 years.

Akira Tairyo Hata, 97, on March 27 in Panorama City. He served as a minister at Fresno Betsuin, Placer Buddhist Church and West Los Angeles Buddhist Church before his retirement in 1989.

Ike Hatchimonji, 90, on Jan. 17. A longtime volunteer for the Japanese American National Museum who received JANM’s Community Award and, with wife Ruth, the Museum Family Spirit Award. He worked for the L.A. County Public Health Department and U.S. Agency for International Development.

Asaichi Shimidzu Hieshima, 98, on Jan. 10. As a trilingual family practice physician, he served his community with his skills as a doctor and his kindness and consideration as a friend and leader.

Mary Kinoshita Higashi, 96, on Dec. 9. She worked for the California Employment Development Department, was active in La Rambla Presbyterian Church an First Presbyterian Church of San Pedro, and was an active member of the Poston Community Alliance. She was featured in the documentary “Passing Poston” and was often invited to speak about her camp experiences.

Toshio Hirai, 34, on Nov. 15. A motorcycle officer with the Gardena Police Department, he joined the force in 2006 and was on the SWAT team. He was fatally injured in a collision with another vehicle in Harbor City.

Kengo Ihara, 87, on Aug. 31 in Pasadena. He served in the U.S. Army in Korea from 1955 to 1956 and was a member of the Southern California Gardeners Federation for 40 years utnil 2015.

Michiko Marlene Inouye, 92, on May 16 in Lakewood, Wash. She was active as a vocal coach and teacher to performing arts students in Palos Verdes and also directed the choir at Seicho No Ie.

Colette Isawa, 85, on Jan. 11. She worked in the medical field, assisting prominent physicians in the South Bay until her retirement in 2001. She was active in the South Bay JACL, serving on the Scholarship Committee.

Stone Ishimaru, 95, on Sept. 10. A teacher, media consultant and archival and historical coordinator for the Los Angeles Unified School District for 46 years. As a photographer since his incarceration at Poston during WWII, he shared his camp photo exhibit at public events throughout Southern California.

George Matsuichi Ito, 100, on Dec. 25, 2017 in Los Angeles. A member of the prewar Cougars baseball team of Boyle Heights, he was a member of VFW Post 9902 and worked for San Lorenzo Florist until he retired.

Sakae Ito, 85, on May 24 in Torrance. Also known as Hanayagi Wakana, a master Nihon buyo teacher, in Japan and L.A. She toured the world twice in the 1950s with the Azuma Kabuki Dance Company and taught at University of Toronto and Yale as well as privately for over 70 years. Wife of the late Jerry Ito, a well-known entertainer in Japan.

Toshiko Joy Nagamori Ito, 93, on July 14. Appeared in documentary “The Legacy of Heart Mountain,” wrote “Memoirs of Toshi Ito,” and was on Advisory Council of Heart Mountain Wyoming Foundation. Mother of former judge Lance Ito.

Rodney Kageyama, 77, on Dec. 9. A stage actor with Asian American Theater Company in San Francisco and East West Players in L.A., he had numerous screen credits, including “Gung Ho” (the film and TV series) and two “Karate Kid” movies. He organized and emceed countless events in the Little Tokyo community and was Shogun Santa during the holidays.

Hiromu Kaichi, 89, on Jan. 15. He worked in the aerospace industry for over 40 years and was the band leader of the Miyako Band and an active member of Seinan Judo Dojo Koenkai.

George T. Kaneshiro, 102, on May 29. A Korean War veteran who received the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, he was a charter member of West L.A. Holiness Church and a leading member of the Venice Japanese community.

Mitsuru “Mits” Kataoka, 84, on May 24 in Pasadena. He joined the UCLA faculty in 1965 and mentored many students and faculty until retirement in 2001. He worked with businesses and government agencies to pioneer the use by non-experts of newly available communication technologies.

Nobe Kawano, 95, on July 27 in Los Angeles. He was clubhouse manager of the L.A. Dodgers from 1959 to 1991 and was friends with Sandy Koufax. He previously worked for the Hollywood Stars of the Pacific Coast League. Brother of Yosh Kawano.

Yosh Kawano, 97, on June 25 in Los Angeles. He was equipment manager of the Chicago Cubs for 65 years, retiring in 2008. He donated his trademark fishing hat to the Baseball Hall of Fame and once threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Brother of Nobe Kawano.

Atsuko Kawaratani, 88, on Sept. 20 in Montebello. She worked as a registered nurse with newborn intensive-care babies, then became director of nurses at Minami Keiro Nursing Home for many years.

Tamiko Kawashima, 90, on May 6. She helped her late husband, Bob, open Miyako Restaurant, a popular restaurant in Pasadena for 40 years.

Jean Komae, 95, on May 20 in Torrance. She returned to college (Cal State Long Beach) when her boys were grown and taught home economics at South Gate High School for many years.

Yoshisuke Jack Kunitomi, 102, on Jan. 20. A Heart Mountain incarceree who served with the Military Intelligence Service in the Philippines and occupied Japan, he worked for the L.A. Unified School District for 30 years and participated in many Nisei veterans’ events. The Dodgers recognized him as Veteran of the Game.

Shuichi Tom Kurai, 70, on June 29 in Duarte. Head minister at Sozenji in Montebello from 1996 until his passing. He began teaching taiko at Sozenji in 1978 and later established Taiko Center of Los Angeles. He was a pioneer in popularizing taiko not only in the U.S. but also in Italy, where he was a sensei at Fudenji Buddhist Monastery.

Yoshito “Yosh” Kuromiya, 95, on July 24. An artist, landscape architect and WWII draft resister at Heart Mountain, he spoke out about the constitutional basis for the resistance and appeared in the documentaries “Rabbit in the Moon” and “Conscience and the Constitution.” He and other resisters received an apology from the JACL in 2002.

Koshi Hiroyuki Kuwahara, 83, on March 12. He served many years as resident priest at Zenshuji Soto Mission in L.A.

Tsutomu Maehara, 98, on June 5. To assist JA families returning to Downtown L.A. from the camps, he founded Anzen Hotel Supply in Little Tokyo in 1946 and later Anzen Hardware. A board member of Little Tokyo Public Safety Association and other community organizations, he received Nisei Week’s Pioneer Award in 1990.

Helen Sachi Masaoka, 90, on April 6 in Los Angeles. She taught many years at George Hall Elementary School and was an active member of Sturge Presbyterian Church, both in San Mateo. She was married to the late Tad Masaoka, who worked for JACL and HUD.

Mike Kazuji Miyagishima, 87, on March 5 in El Paso. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force, where he served from the Korean War to the Vietnam War, he was an active volunteer in the Las Cruces, N.M. community after retirement from civil service. Father of Las Cruces Mayor Ken Miyagishima.

Osamu “Ham” Miyamoto, 91, on Nov. 20 in Arcadia. He served as chair of the Dental Head Start Program of Southern California, founder and president of Pasadena Nikkei Seniors and president of the Issei Oral History Project for 18 years.

Toru Miyoshi, 90, on Aug 13. He served on the Santa Maria City Council from 1978 to 1982, was elected to the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors in 1982 and served two terms. He returned to the City Council in 1992 and completed 20 years of public service in 2000.

Sakiko Monuki, 89, on March 5. Active in Japanese tea ceremony with the Urasenke School, she achieved the level of kyoju (professor) and taught numerous students.

George H. Nakano of Los Altos on Jan. 16. He worked his entire career as an experimental physicist at Lockheed Missiles and Space in Palo Alto.

Arthur Nakazato, 65, on Dec. 17, 2017. Named a magistrate judge for the Central District of California in 1996, he was the first JA appointed to that position in the continental U.S. He retired in 2016. A successful business trial and appellate lawyer prior to that, he was a founding director of the Orange County Japanese American Lawyers Association.

Richard Shigeru Nishimura, 96, on Aug. 24. A WWII veteran, he worked as a traffic manager for RBK Importers, a women’s apparel importer in Downtown L.A., for over 20 years. After retirement, he worked as a bookkeeper at his brother-in-law’s (Tee Saisho) Asian produce company for several more years.

Watson Kazuyuki Noda, 96, on March 9. A WWII Army veteran who was active in the community, he was a founding member and commander of VFW Post 1961 in Gardena.

Mitsuye Masako Oba, 96, on Jan. 1 in Los Angeles. In the 1960s, she owned and operated the Miss Pony Tail girls’ dress store in Crenshaw Square, and in the ’70s and early ’80s worked in sales at The Broadway in Century City.

Steven Isamu Ogawa, 87, on July 6. A retired electrical engineer for McDonnell Douglas, he was active in Heart Mountain reunions and youth sports activities such as boys’ basketball and baseball for VFW Kazuo Masuda Post 3778 and Wintersburg Presbyterian Church.

Soon-Tek Oh, 85, on April 4 in Los Angeles. A founder of East West Players and a group that became Lodestone Theatre Ensemble. The Korean American actor had extensive stage and screen credits, including “Hawaii Five-0” and “MASH” on TV and the films “The Man with the Golden Gun” and “Mulan.”

Takeshi Onaga, 67, on Aug. 8. He became mayor of Naha in 2000 and was elected governor of Okinawa Prefecture in 2014. He sought to end the heavy U.S. military presence in Okinawa and opposed the relocation of Futenma Base within the prefecture, a project that the central government in Tokyo supported.

Henry Ong, 68, on Sept. 29. A fixture of the L.A. theater community for more than 35 years, he was a nationally and internationally produced playwright whose works included “Madame Mao’s Memories,” “Sweet Karma,” “Fabric,” “The Legend of the White Snake,” and “People Like Me.”

Hideki Saijo, 63, on May 16 in Yokohama. A singer and TV personality whose career spanned three decades, he was most famous for “Young Man,” his cover of the Village People’s “YMCA.” In the ’70s, he was one of the New Big Three with Goro Noguchi and Hiromi Go.

Momoko Sakura, 53, on Aug. 15. Creator of the semiautobiographical manga “Chibi Maruko-Chan,” which made its debut in 1986 and later became an anime series. She was also known for the surreal fantasy series “Coji-Coji.”

Iwao Peter Sano, 93, on April 8. Born in Brawley, he was sent to Japan at age 15 as an adopted son and was drafted into the Japanese military. He was captured by the Russians in 1945 and held prisoner for nearly three years. He told his story in “One Thousand Days in Siberia: The Odyssey of a Japanese American POW.”

Mario Segale, 84, on Oct. 27. A real estate developer in Washington state, he rented a warehouse to the U.S. unit of Nintendo around 1980. Shigeru Miyamoto named a character in the Donkey Kong arcade game after Segale. The character shot to international fame when Super Mario Bros. was released in 1985.

Isamu Carlos Arturo “Art” Shibayama, 88, July 31. One of the Japanese Peruvians abducted by the U.S. government for a hostage exchange with Japan, he fought in the courts for equitable redress for Japanese Latin Americans, who were excluded from the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. His story is told in the documentary “Hidden Internment.”

Minoru “Min” Shinmoto, 92, on April 21 in Torrance. He and his brothers Tsuneo (Tony) and Kiyoto (Herk) co-founded Southern California Nursery in Culver City and operated it for 51 years. He co-authored “Seinan Southwest Los Angeles” and “Nikkei General and Admirals” and was responsible for the re-landscaping project at the Go for Broke Monument.

Eriko Shinozuka, 71, on Sept. 9 in Torrance. She opened a fashion boutique, Uniquely Tokyo, in Gardena in 1984, and she taught a Zumba class at Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute.

Alice Etsuko Eto Sumida, 104, on Aug. 16 in Beaverton, Ore. She was recognized by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for her promotion of cross-cultural understanding. She began ballroom dancing at age 84 and won competitions in the U.S. and abroad. Her accomplishments were captured in Allen Say’s book “Music for Alice.”

Elizabeth Sung, 63, on May 22 in North Hollywood. An actress, acting teacher and filmmaker, her on-screen credits included “Elementary,” “Shameless,” “The Sopranos” and “Bones” on TV and the films “The Joy Luck Club,” “Ping Pong Playa,” “The People I’ve Slept With” and “Memoirs of a Geisha.”

Sharon Naomi Aono Taggart, 77, on April 7 in Santa Rosa. She grew up in L.A. and was director of the arts program at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., where she resided for many years.

Kenichi Takahashi, 97, on June 20. Drafted to the Army during WWII, he worked with the Military Intelligence Service as a translator for the Tokyo War Crimes Trials after Japan’s surrender. He spent over 40 years in Japan as a mechanical engineer for the Army.

Isao Takahata, 82, on April 5 in Tokyo. Director, screenwriter and producer who founded Studio Ghibli with Hayao Miyazaki. His films include “Grave of the Fireflies,” “My Neighbors the Yamadas” and “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya.”

Dorothy Okamoto Takasugi, 84, on April 11. A former Heart Mountain incarceree, she worked for over 20 years as a school psychologist fo the Pasadena Unified School District and was married to the late Judge Robert Takasugi.

David Shunji Tamura, 79, on April 8. Retired owner (31 years) of East-West Furniture Store in Anaheim.

Yuko Tomimitsu, 63, on Aug. 24 in Camarillo. She and her late husband Masao opened Masa Sushi in Camarillo in 1984 and kept it running for 30 years.

Chizuko “Chiz” Toyama, 85, on Jan. 15 in Montebello. She was a beloved teacher in the local school district for 44 years.

Jean Tsuchiya, 95, on May 26 in Pasadena. She was an active volunteer with Japan America Society, Los Angeles-Nagoya Sister City Affiliation, and Nisei Week Japanese Festival, and received many awards for her accomplishments.

Tsutomu “Toot” Uchida, 82, on Jan. 21 in Glendora. Under President Nixon, he received a White House appointment to the U.S. Small Business Administration. He founded the Asian American Business Association and was appointed to the Community Redevelopment Agency for the City of Los Angeles.

Miles Akira Usui, 72, on Feb. 24. A Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, a retired elementary special education teacher for the L.A. Unified School District, and a member of Sunnyside Assembly of God Church in Jeffersonville, Ind.

June Atsuko Watanabe, 88, on Sept. 18 in San Gabriel. She came to the U.S. from Japan in 1954, studied cosmetology and opened her own beauty salon.

Susan Watanabe, 49, on Aug. 25. A successful writer for such TV series as “Girlfriends” and “One on One,” she was well-known in L.A. for her support and fundraising for progressive candidates and causes, new authors, young professionals and community groups. She served as president of two neighborhood associations.

Hiroko Yamagata, 84, on April 15. She and her sister Grace opened Aoi Restaurant in Little Tokyo in 1976 and served generations of customers for 37 years. They were honored by the Little Tokyo Community Council in 2014 for their contributions to the neighborhood.

Jimi Yamaichi, 95, on May 12 in San Jose. A carpenter, WWII draft resister, Tule Lake Committee member, and co-founder of the Japanese American Museum of San Jose. He was a leader of the Tule Lake Pilgrimage and efforts to have Tule Lake named a national historic landmark and national monument. As a young man he helped build camp structures, including the jail that still stands today.

Mitsuye “Mitzi” Yamamoto, 97, on Oct. 15 in Patterson. She was a member of Patterson Senior Citizens, Farm Bureau, Patterson Garden Club, C.W.A., Stockton Buddhist Church, San Joaquin Nisei League and an honorary Red-Hatter.

Masao Yamashiro, 102, on Sept. 19. A Kibei Nisei columnist who wrote for more than four decades for the Japanese section of **The Rafu Shimpo,** starting in 1970. His column was titled “Kobuta Kai Ni” (To Buy a Piglet). Part of a literary group at Tule Lake, he also published the books “Kibei” and “Tooi Taigan” (The Far Opposite Shores).

Junwo “Jim” Yamashita, 93, on Dec. 19, 2017. 442nd RCT veteran and charter member of Americans of Japanese Ancestry WWII Memorial Alliance. For more than 20 years, he worked on the “Echoes of Silence” CD-ROM and website, which contain the profiles of every KIA (killed in action) Nisei soldier and their caucasian officers. He received the Japanese American Living Legacy Award in 2011.

Wakako Yamauchi, 93, on Aug. 16 in Gardena. Noted short story writer and playwright whose plays included “And the Soul Shall Dance,” “12-1-A,” “The Music Lessons” and “The Chairman’s Wife.” Author of “Songs My Mother Taught Me” and “Rosebud.” She was a member of Pacific Asian American Women Writers West.

Sakae Inouye Yasukochi, 102, on Sept. 17. Returning to San Marcos after WWII, her late husband Shozo began growing carnations commercially in 1967. After he suffered a stroke in 1979, she assumed responsibility for the business and retired at age 69.

Aiko Herzig Yoshinaga, 93, on Aug. 5. A researcher and activist, she played a pivotal role during the 1980s with the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians, the coram nobis cases of Fred Korematsu, Gordon Hirabayashi and Minoru Yasui, and the class-action lawsuit filed by National Council for Japanese American Redress. She discovered documents proving that the JA incarceration was unjustified.

Howard Kenso Zenimura, 91, on Dec. 13. A baseball pioneer like his father Kenichi and brother Harvey Kenshi, he played at the Gila River camp and for Fresno State University and the Hiroshima Carp. He later started and coached the Fresno USA Baseball Team, which played in International Boys League tournaments.amd was inducted into the Fresno State Baseball Hall of Fame.

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