Richard Fukuhara, longtime community leader, artist and photographer, passed away unexpectedly on Dec. 4 at his home in Orange. He was 74.
Most recently, Fukuhara founded “Shadows for Peace,” inspired by the heartbreaking stories of hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors). From 2010, he staged presentations of song, dance, photography and video honoring the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
At the time of his death, Fukuhara was working on the 2020 “Bells for Peace” campaign. His vision was to have bells around the world ring 75 times to commemorate and honor those lives lost on the 75th anniversary of the Aug. 6, 1945 Hiroshima and Aug. 9 Nagasaki atomic bombings.
In a 2015 interview with The Rafu, Fukuhara said he never forgot his first visit to Hiroshima in 1973 and the Japanese phrase kodomo no tame ni (for the sake of the children).
“I was very touched by my experience, and that was always in my mind,” Fukuhara said.
“I wanted to take part in producing ‘Shadows for Peace’ because politicians today do not talk about children. They talk about policy. If they were truly acting for the sake of the children, they wouldn’t do most of the things they do.”
In 2015, Fukuhara was recognized as a Nisei Week Pioneer for his work with many organizations in the Japanese American community.
This year he served as president of the Nanka Yamaguchi Kenjinkai. He was also active in El Toro Young Marines; The Orange County Junior Orchestra; Irvine Chamber of Commerce Ambassadors; Long Beach Japanese Cultural Center; Kokoro Taiko of Long Beach; Institute for Genetic Medicine Art Gallery; Nikkei Games, “Games for the Generations”; Love to Nippon (aid for victims of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami); Los Angeles Tanabata Festival; Los Angeles-Nagoya Sister City, Orange Coast Optimistl and was a contributing writer/photographer for The Rafu Shimpo.
Florence Ochi, vice president of Nanka Yamaguchi Kenjinkai, said, “Richard was a very talented man; he could do so many things very well. I found him to be kind and caring and so enthusiastic about Nanka Yamaguchi Kenjinkai as president this year … He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and the Japanese American community and Japanese community he touched and served.”
Fukuhara was born Aug. 20, 1944 at the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho to Henry Kiyoshi and Mary Sadako Fukuhara.
He graduated from Long Beach Polytechnic High School and Long Beach City College while working as a photographer for The Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1966 and served in the 75th Engineers Battalion as the unit photographer.
After being discharged, he attended UCLA and The Art Center School of Design. In 1970 he opened Fukuhara Photography Inc. in Signal Hill and later moved his studio to Orange. His client list included Toyota, Nissan, IBM, Exxon, Occidental Petroleum, Modern Maturity Magazine, Auto Club Magazine, Hunt-Wesson Foods, Baskin-Robbins, Bumble Bee, and many other companies.
Between the 1970s and the 1990s, one of Fukuhara’s photos was featured in a Life Magazine photography issue, and Nikon World Magazine featured his photos in a six-page spread titled “The Art of Signal Hill.” He received numerous advertising photography awards and was featured on ABC News with Peter Jennings and the KTTV Program “Making It.”
In the 2000s, he began concentrating on the artistic side of photography. His “Tapestries” art pieces were shown at the Nagoya City Museum in Japan; LA Artcore Gallery; and Los Angeles City Hall Bridge Gallery.
In 2010, Fukuhara heard the testimony of a hibakusha during a live video feed from Japan. This story would impact and redirect his creative focus. Beginning in 2015, Fukuhara and producer Robert Horsting staged the first of many “Shadows for Peace: The Hiroshima and Nagasaki Experience” speaker forums, featuring hibakusha presenters and Fukuhara’s works of art, inspired by the 1945 bombings and aftermath. These forums continue through his non-profit organization, Shadows for Peace.
Horsting said that Fukuhara was always thinking of new ideas, including envisioning an original dance performed at “Afternoon of Peace.”
“He had such an amazingly vivid imagination. His output was much less than his ability than what his imagination could conceive. In so many different media too: writing, photography,” Horsting said. “He helped me grow through his vivid imagination and made me see things through a different light.”
After the devastating tsunami in Japan, he traveled to Ofunato in Iwate Prefecture twice to help with the clean-up process.
Fukuhara is preceded in death by his parents and is survived by his two children, Julia (Mark Painting) and Derek (Jen Hackler); brothers Victor (Masako), Larry, and Tracy (Joann); sisters Sandi Saiki and Aki (Mike) Vaughn; nieces and nephews Tony (Carol) Fukuhara, Cindy Fukuhara, Douglas Masuda, Erin Masuda, Jeff Fukuhara and Tricia Fukuhara; grandniece Paige Fukuhara; and grandnephew Warren Fukuhara.
Public funeral services will be held on Friday, Dec. 14, at 10 a.m. at Grace First Presbyterian Church, 3955 N Studebaker Rd., Long Beach, CA 90808.