James Nobuo Yamazaki
July 6, 1916 — March 5, 2021
James Nobuo Yamazaki, 104, peacefully stepped away from this life, in his White Salmon, Wash. home on March 5, 2021, the 7th anniversary of, his sweet wife, Aki’s passing.
His extraordinary life began, July 6, 1916 in Los Angeles, born to Rev. John Misao and Mary Tsune Yamazaki. Growing up, he stayed busy with attending (and cleaning) St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, school, sports, playing in the actual L.A. river, going to the beach, Boy Scouts, ROTC and even learning to play the trombone.
James graduated from L.A. High, UCLA, and was attending Marquette University Medical School, when he received his commission to the Army a week before Pearl Harbor. After finishing his Internship, he was assigned to be the lone Asian and Battalion surgeon for the 590th Artillery Battalion in the 106th Infantry Division.
After a whirlwind romance Jim married Aki Hirashiki, while at Medical Field Service School. Months later James had to leave a pregnant Aki to ship out to Europe. Captured at Battle of the Bulge, marched and bombed while transported in trains, hundreds of miles, to POW camps. He witnessed the mutilated Wereth Eleven being buried by kind Belgium farmers. Another farmer fed and sheltered him and the wounded soldiers he accompanied on their long, winter march. He survived the deprivations of camp to return to Aki but had the further hardship of learning they lost their newborn son to a heart malformation, caused by Aki having rubella during pregnancy. Unfortunately, vaccines for this had not yet been developed.
Upon completion of his military commitment, Jim and Aki moved to Philadelphia then Cincinnati for his pediatric residencies at the prestigious Children’s Hospitals. The young doctor was put in charge of huge wards of children stricken in the polio epidemic. He was heartened to see Dr. Sabin initiate research to develop a polio vaccine. Residency complete, he was recruited to study the effects of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan with the ABCC (US Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission). With newborn son, Paul, they traveled to Hiroshima, but they were not allowed to live in the English Military compound because they were of Japanese heritage. So, transferred to Nagasaki where James was Physician in Charge, setting up the initial studies of children and fetus exposed to the radiation of the bomb. An experience that would convince him that nuclear weapons should never be used again, a message he reiterated for the rest of his life.
Returning to California in ‘51, Dr. Yamazaki became a professor for the inaugural UCLA Medical School class. He realized it would be difficult to raise his growing family on his professor’s salary and opened a private pediatric practice. He will be remembered fondly for over 35 years of compassionate care. Upon his retirement, he started to work on his biography. “Children of the Atomic Bomb,” published in 1995.
In 2007, Jim and Aki left their Van Nuys home of 55 years to move closer to family in Washington. Their marriage would last just shy of 70 years and as Jim would say “Not just 70 years, 70 GOOD years.” He was preceded in death by Aki, son Noel, grandson Masami, his siblings John (Fumi), Peter (Joy) and Louise, as well as most of his generation of friends.
This remarkable man’s life touched so many. He will be deeply missed but his life fully revered and celebrated by his son Paul (Sara) of San Francisco, daughters Katharine of Taos, N.M. and Caroline (Brad) Roberts of White Salmon, Wash.; grandchildren Yuki (Andrew) Romero, Taro, Mariko, Jazmin (Austin) Krentz & Taniya; seven great-grandchildren; many nieces, nephews, cousins, his loving caregivers and countless friends of all ages.
James requested that no services be held, nor flowers or koden sent. Please honor his memory by spreading his message or a donation in support of Social Justice, Peace, Children, Arts or the Environment.
PS. Mom, we hope you’ll let Dad keep his goatee.