SAN FRANCISCO — Noted architect Wayne Yoshito Osaki passed away peacefully on April 13, surrounded by his loving wife and family, one day after his 57th wedding anniversary.
Born in 1923 in Clarksburg, along the Delta near Sacramento, he spent his childhood and teen years fishing, swimming and playing sports around the Delta community. In his early school years he was forced to attend segregated schools until he attended Clarksburg High, an integrated school. There he enjoyed playing baseball and basketball and joined the football team.
His father, Isao, immigrated to America in 1903 from Shimane Prefecture and his mother, Tomi (Matsuura), came in 1909 from Wakayama Prefecture. He was proud of his Osaki family ancestry, which dates back to 1177 A.D.; his great-grandfather was the chief advisor to the lord of Tsuwano Castle.
His parents taught at the Holland Union Japanese School in Clarksburg, until his family was uprooted and forced into concentration camps along with 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II. He and his family were interned at Tule Lake near the Oregon/California border. He was released in early 1946 and reunited with his family, who were living in San Francisco.
Upon his return, Osaki attended City College of San Francisco while also serving in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves. In 1948, he enrolled in the School of Architecture at UC Berkeley, while working as a farm laborer in the summers to pay for his tuition. He became a lifelong Cal Bears fan; in the past few years, he wore his Cal cap and slippers every day, even during his many hospital stays.
When Osaki left Tule Lake, he was inspired to become an architect that could help people and to rebuild the Japanese American community. In 1951, he began his career as an architect in San Francisco. He designed many stores, apartments and schools, but his true love was designing churches.
Throughout his career he designed 69 churches, including Allen Temple Baptist Church, the prominent African American church located in Oakland, as well as Jerusalem Baptist Church and Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Palo Alto. His designs also included the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California and the Japanese Community Youth Council, both located in San Francisco’s Japantown.
From the 1950s to the ’70s, Osaki challenged the Redevelopment Agency (RDA), which forced out many of the businesses and residences out of Japantown and the Western Addition. In 1966, he was a founding member and program chairperson of the Western Addition Community Organization (WACO), a committee of Japanese and African American activists who opposed the RDA.
In an effort to help rebuild Japantown, he designed many of the businesses and apartments along Sutter Street and the Buchanan Mall. His architectural office was based in Japantown, where he could often be seen eating ice cream at Benkyodo manju shop during his afternoon breaks. He especially loved eating orange creamsicles at home every day after work.
Osaki attended Christ United Presbyterian Church in Japantown and designed the new church in 1975. CUPC was one of the most important aspects of his life for over 50 years; he served in various leadership positions there.
He loved going on cruises, family vacations at Donner Lake, traveling to Japan, going fishing, and researching family history. In his retirement, he wrote many short stories about his life growing up in Clarksburg and his internment years at Tule Lake.
Osaki also wrote a critically acclaimed children’s book, “My Dog Teny,” which was based on his experience of having to leave his childhood dog behind as he was shipped to Tule Lake. In his retirement years he adopted a dog and named it Teny.
He was known for his gentle smile, his kindness, and being nice and courteous to everyone he met. His proudest legacy is the continuing involvement of his sons in the Japanese American community in San Francisco.
He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Sally; his four sons, Glenn, Paul, Dean (Diane), and Jon (Julie); three grandchildren, Shannon, Mika, and Lee; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded by his mother, Tomi; father, Isao; brother, Tetsuo; and sister, Ayako Nakao.
The family would like to thank his personal caregiver, Ken Villanueva of Vintage Coventry and Sutter Home Hospice.
A “Celebration of Life” service will be held at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 3, at the JCCCNC, 1840 Sutter St. in San Francisco. For further information, call (415) 567-5505.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the JCCCNC, JCYC, or CUPC.