Natalie Nakatani, 9, on Dec. 19, 2011. She suffered from an aggressive form of leukemia and was helped by the Bay Area-based Asian American Donor Program, which sought suitable bone marrow donors. She had a bone marrow transplant in 2010 but suffered a relapse.
Jane Michiko Imamura, 91, on Dec. 26, 2011 in Berkeley. Known for her active role in promoting the study of Shin Buddhism, she contributed to Berkeley Buddhist Temple, Buddhist Churches of America, Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawaii, and Hawaii Kyodan. Wife of the late Rev. Kanmo Imamura and mother of Rev. Ryo Imamura.
Wendy Mieko Hamabata, 25, on Dec. 28, 2011 in a traffic accident on Interstate 805 in Chula Vista. She was head lifeguard at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Spa & Marina and a counselor for troubled youth at the YMCA.
Gordon Hirabayashi, 93, on Jan. 2 in Edmonton, Alberta. During World War II, he challenged the constitutionality of government curfew and exclusion orders imposed on Japanese Americans. The Supreme Court ruled against him, but his conviction was overturned in the 1980s. He was a professor at University of Alberta and a frequent speaker on human rights issues.
Isamu “Sam” Hirahara, 82, on Jan. 18 in South Pasadena. An atomic bomb survivor and a gardener, he was the inspiration for his daughter Naomi’s popular Mas Arai mystery series.
Kenje Ogata, 92, on Jan. 18 in Sterling, Ill. One of five Nisei known to have served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, he was shot down twice over Europe and completed 35 missions. After the war, he became a dentist.
Eiko Ishioka, 73, on Jan. 21 in Tokyo. A visual artist whose costumes were worn by Broadway actors, Olympic athletes, Cirque du Soleil performers and movie stars, she won an Oscar for costume design for “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” in 1992 and a Grammy for the cover design of Miles Davis’ “Tutu” in 1986.
Lillian Tateishi, 98, on Jan. 24 in Culver City. The mother of former JACL Executive Director John Tateishi, she was interned at Manzanar and was a devoted member of West L.A. United Methodist Church for much of her life.
Misako Martha Suzuki, 90, on Feb. 16. With her sister, Tomoye Takahashi, and brother-in-law, the late Henri Takahashi, she turned San Francisco-based Takahashi Trading into one of the nation’s most successful Japanese import companies and established the Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation, which has supported numerous community organizations and academic institutions.
Minoru Mori, 77, on March 8. A property tycoon who was one of Japan’s most influential developers and built China’s tallest building.
Sho Funai, 23, on March 11 in a hit-and-run accident near the Nimitz offramp on Interstate 80. An associate engineer at Goodrich Aerostructures in Chula Vista, he was an alumnus of Palos Verdes High School and UC San Diego.
Donald Nakahata on March 15. A dentist and an associate professor in clinical dentistry at UC San Francisco, as a young man he fought against a California constitutional right to discriminate in housing; in 1981, he testified about his experience in camp before the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Civilians.
David Bailey, 50, on April 3 of cardiac arrest. A veteran Los Angeles County firefighter, he was part of the Urban Search and Rescue team deployed to northeastern Japan after the 2011 tsunami and Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
David Ishii, 76, on March 1. His store, David Ishii Bookseller, was a fixture in Seatle’s Pioneer Square and a destination for many Asian American writers. He was a tireless supporter of the arts, especially Asian American literature.
Victor Shibata, 67, on April 17. He was part of the group that made the first trek from Los Angeles to the site of the Manzanar concentration camp in 1969 and gave the Manzanar Pilgrimage its name. He was a founder of the Yellow Brotherhood in the Crenshaw District and was later known for his work as a chiropractor.
James Murakami, 85, on April 28. He served as national president of JACL from 1976 to 1978, when the decision to pursue redress was made, and remained active in the redress campaign and JACL as well as Sonoma County community organizations.
James Hirabayashi, 85, on May 23 in San Francisco. Brother of Gordon Hirabayashi and father of UCLA scholar Lane Hirabayashi, he was an author, actor, anthropologist, emeritus professor of ethnic studies at San Francisco State University, and a leader of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles.
Yasuhei Nakanishi, 95, on May 25. He worked at The Rafu Shimpo on the presses before World War II and assisted The Rafu and The Kashu Mainichi with their linotype machines for decades afterwards. He was well known in the local typesetting community.
Kaneto Shindo, 100, on May 29 in Tokyo. A film director and screenwriter known for such works as “Children of Hiroshima” (1952) and “Naked Island” (1960). He directed 49 films and 231 of his scripts were made into films.
Martha Shoaf, 92, on June 3. She taught at Manzanar from 1942 to 1944 and spent the rest of her life giving talks on her experiences, traveling frequently to the Manzanar Interpretive Center from her home in Trona, Inyo County.
Prince Tomohito, 66, on June 6 in Tokyo. A cousin of Emperor Akihito and known as “the bearded prince,” he spoke out against allowing a woman to ascend to the imperial throne.
Yutaka Shimizu, 84, on June 10. Known as “Coach Shim,” he was a basketball coach for several Los Angeles-area high schools from the 1960s to ’90s, including Bell, Belmont, Hamilton and Kennedy (Granada Hills). Many of his players went on to become star athletes.
Henry Hashiguchi, 89, on June 26 in La Mesa. He was struck by a runaway car that crashed into his room at a nursing home. He received two Purple Hearts while serving with the 442nd RCT and attended a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in San Diego.
Masaharu Matsushita, 99, on July 16 in Osaka. Son-in-law of Panasonic’s founder, Konosuke Matsushita, he helped lead the electronics company for half a century as it grew into a global brand.
Lloyd Kino (real last name: Kinoshita), 93, on July 21 in Woodland Hills. A singer and actor for more than 50 years, he appeared in such films as “The Wackiest Ship in the Army,” “Battle at Bloody Beach,” “The Outlaws Is Coming,” “Mortal Kombat” and “Miss Congeniality 2” and such TV shows as “Hawaiian Eye,” “McHale’s Navy,” “Star Trek,” “The Man from UNCLE” and “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea.”
Manabi Hirasaki, 89, on July 26 in Camarillo. Owner of Manabi Farms in Oxnard, he was the first non-family member to become a director of the Driscoll Strawberry Association. A veteran of the 442nd RCT’s 522nd Field Artillery Battalion, he was an early supporter of the Japanese American National Museum, which named its resource center after him and his wife Sumi.
Miyoko Watanabe, 91, on Aug. 12 in Los Angeles. A kabuki dancer, actor, teacher and author, she became a star with Shojo Kabuki, all all-girl troupe, studied kabuki with National Living Treasure Fujima Kanjuro VI, served as interpreter/translator for the Grand Kabuki, and assisted with kabuki actors’ performances in the U.S.
Howard “Howe” Hanamura, 93, on Aug. 19. A decorated veteran of the 442nd’s L Company, he was the subject of a documentary, “Honor Bound: A Personal Journey,” by his daughter Wendy, a Bay Area news reporter. He was honored at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in San Jose in February.
Alexander Saxton, 94, on Aug. 20 in Lone Pine. UCLA history professor emeritus and former acting director, long-time Faculty Advisory Committee chair of the Asian American Studies Center, labor organizer and historian, he authored “The Indispensible Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California” (1975).
Robert Yasui, 88, on Aug. 20 in Philadelphia. A respected surgeon, he was the Little League Baseball World Series physician for more than 50 years and the sports physician for the Williamsport School District and Lycoming College. One of his siblings was the late civil rights leader Minoru Yasui.
Mika Yamamoto, 45, on Aug. 20 in Aleppo, Syria. A reporter for the Japan Press news agency, she was killed by gunfire while covering the Syrian civil war. She was a veteran journalist who survived the shelling of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad in 2003.
June Otani Baensch, 78, on Aug 26 in New York. A New York-based artist, sculptor and illustrator with roots in Southern California, she did fashion illustrations for major magazines, illustrated several children’s books, and co-founded the Upstream Gallery.
Yoshiko “Yo” Hironaka on Aug. 30. A fixture in San Francisco’s Japanese American community, she was on the board of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California and was its last Nisei member. She was also active with San Francisco JACL, Japantown Task Force and Christ United Presbyterian Church.
Shinichi Nishimiya, 60, on Sept. 16 in Tokyo. Previously Japan’s consul general in New York, he had just been appointed ambassador to China and was to have assumed his post in October.
Ryan Yonny Koyama, 69, on Sept. 18 in a car accident in Rolling Hills Estates. Son of optometrist John Koyama, he was a founding member of the Japanese American (now Asian American) Optometric Society, a coach with South Bay FOR, a magician, craftsman, custom-car enthusiast and collector of Japanese antiques.
Yoshio Hosobuchi, 74, on Sept. 19. A retired neurosurgeon from Novato, Calif., he died in a hiking accident in Subway Slot Canyon in Utah’s Zion National Park. He and his wife had been traveling for years to cross items off a “bucket list,” including a hike on Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Ocean Miyake, 101, on Sept. 26. A resident of Artesia and a 442nd RCT veteran, he participated in the rescue of the “Lost Battalion” in France’s Vosges Mountains in 1944 and was believed to be the oldest living 442nd veteran.
James Izumizaki, 28, on Oct. 1 in San Leandro, an apparent suicide. A popular teacher and coach at Albany Middle School in Alameda County, he was accused of committing a lewd act on a minor. Due to his death, the case never went to trial and has been the subject of much controversy.
Mervyn Dymally, 86, on Oct. 7. A former lieutenant governor, congressman and assemblyman, he introduced redress legislation for Japanese American internees in 1982 while representing the Gardena area in Congress and later supported the Civil Liberties Act of 1988.
John J. Saito, 84, on Oct. 16. He served as regional director for JACL’s Pacific Southwest District for many years and was instrumental in developing new leaders within the organization.
Koji Wakamatsu, 76, on Oct. 17 in a traffic accident. Japanese director who ruthlessly challenged authority with the grotesque and sexual.
Elaine Akagi, 67, on Oct. 19 in Rockville, Md. Active in JACL at all levels, she was Pacific Northwest District governor, a member of the National Board, and a JACLer of the Biennium and Ruby Pin awardee.
Jimmy Mirikitani, 92, on Oct. 21 in New York. An artist who grew up in Hiroshima, was interned at Tule Lake, and was living on the streets of New York City when he became the star of the documentary “Cats of Mirikitani,” he exhibited across the country and was a fixture at the Tule Lake Pilgrimage.
Frank Tanabe, 93, on Oct. 24 in Honolulu. A photo of him on his deathbed filling out his absentee voter form with his daughter’s help went viral on the Internet and became a symbol of patriotism. He was interned at Tule Lake and Minidoka and served in the Military Intelligence Service during World War II.
Michael Miyamoto, 18, on Nov. 1. The Walnut High School graduate and Sabers/Saberettes Youth Organization member had been battling leukemia for 11 years. He played with the Sabers Wizards from the first grade and received a 2012 scholarship from the organization.
Frances Hashimoto, 69, on Nov. 4. CEO of the Los Angeles company that popularized mochi ice cream, she was a leader with such organizations as Little Tokyo Business Association, Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Southern California, Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, and Nisei Week. A plaza in Little Tokyo has been named in her honor.
Takenori “Tak” Yamamoto, 74, on Nov. 9. A pioneer gay activist and long-time leader of the Manzanar Committee, he was the first president of Asian Pacific Lesbians and Gays, was the first openly gay president of a JACL chapter, and was instrumental in having the National JACL endorse same-sex marriage in 1994.
Bill Saito, 75, on Nov. 14. A U.S. Army Reserve veteran and log-time teacher and actor who appeared in numerous movies, including “Sayonara,” “Walk Don’t Run,” “Smokey and the Bandit,” “All of Me” and “Matchstick Men” and TV shows, including “Get Smart,” “Kung Fu,” “The Six Million Dollar Man,” “Quincy, M.E.” and “Walker, Texas Ranger.”
Setsuko Matsunaga Nishi, 91, on Nov. 17. Professor emerita of sociology at Brooklyn College and City University of New York Graduate Center, pioneering scholar of Asian Americans and multiracial relations, and former member of the New York Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
James Day Hodgson, 96, on Nov. 28 in Malibu. U.S. secretary of labor under President Richard Nixon and U.S. ambassador to Japan under President Gerald Ford, he was an early supporter of the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Los Angeles.
Kanzaburo Nakamura, 57, on Dec. 5 in Tokyo. One of Japan’s most famous contemporary kabuki actors, he helped boost the popularity of the traditional art form and also played roles in film, TV and stage dramas.
Frank Kageyama, 96, on Dec. 7. A horticulturist who worked on the Manzanar Guayule Project (to develop a new source of rubber for the war effort), a supporter of the Manzanar National Historic Site, and a fisherman featured in the “Manzanar Fishing Club” documentary.
Tetsuo “Tim” Nomiyama, 96, on Dec. 10. A prewar draftee, he and other Japanese American soldiers protested discriminatory treatment by the Army and became known as the Fort McClellan Disciplinary Barrack Boys. In 1982, the surviving “DB Boys” were partly successful in having their names cleared.
Daniel Inouye, 88, on Dec. 17 in Washington, D.C. The Hawaii senator and influential Democrat broke racial barriers on Capitol Hill and played key roles in congressional investigations of the Watergate and Iran-Contra scandals. He was the second-longest-serving senator in U.S. history.
Keiji Nakazawa, 73, on Dec. 19 in Hiroshima. A survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, in which he lost his father, a sister and a brother, he created “Hadashi no Gen” (Barefoot Gen), an anti-war comic book based on his experiences. The series has been translated into several languages and read around the world, and has been made into both animated and live-action films.