February 1,1923 – January 14, 2021
Himeji peacefully passed in his sleep just short of his 98th birthday. He was predeceased by his wife of 66 years, Kimiyo, and is survived by his sons Ron, Toshiharu and Richard (Jennifer), three grandchildren, a brother Kumpei and sister Hisako Ouchi.
He was born to Eijiro and Ishi in El Centro and spent his childhood along with four brothers and two sisters in the Imperial Valley. The family moved to Long Beach shortly before World War II and then was forced to relocate and spent the next four years in various internment camps. After the war, the family decided to repatriate to Japan, leaving behind two sons. When the patriarch of the family, Eijiro passed, Ishi and the family returned to the States to rejoin the two brothers to make the family whole. The move included his wife, Kimiyo, a nurse, whom he met and fell in love with when his brother, Kumpei, fell ill and was admitted to the hospital. The move also included two sons.
Upon his return to the States, a third son joined the family and the brood moved to the family abode near the Santa Monica airport which has been the Sakaniwa residence for the last 61 years. Himeji entered the cabinetmakers union and resulted in his vocation and avocation for the next 43 years. He always expressed his gratitude to the Hispanic community in the union for his entrance to the union. Over the years, he mentored hundreds of apprentices, preaching attention to detail and emphasizing encouragement and compliments. His projects were admired by all and compliments included his fit and finish and craftsmanship of his finished products (maybe the compliments were influenced by the fact that he never charged his friends for the fixtures). He crafted most of the doll stands and cases for the Japanese dolls fashioned by Kimiyo and her students, which were displayed for many years at the Nisei Week exhibit. Highlights over the years included return trips to Japan with Kimiyo when she needed to replenish dollmaking supplies and later, lessons from her tea instructors to gain her certification.
Though Himeji had the ability to succeed in college, the opportunity never presented itself, so he worked two jobs for most of his life to provide for the family and so all three sons were able to attend university. He is most proud of his three grandchildren and the academic accomplishments of Jazlyn (graduate program in education at St. Mary’s College in Moraga), Aiko (freshman at Cal State San Jose University) and Dylan (senior honors student at Venice High School).
After working vigorously for most of his life, Himeji discovered a hobby…a sport…a passion…in golf. He embraced a set of Lynx golf clubs and always looked forward to a round of golf with his sons and friends on his favorite courses in the Los Angeles area, Palm Desert and Northern California. He would take his driver and with his severe slice, aim 45 degrees left of the target to try to get in the fairway. His favorite club was the three wood. On his second shot, we’d remind him of the distance to the hole but went unheeded because regardless of the distance, 70 yards…100 yards…130 yards…it was always the three wood. Unfortunately, he was never able to celebrate a hole-in-one. The saddest day other than January 14, 2021, was the day he retired from golf. He played into his 70’s but one day brought out his golf clubs on his handcart and wanted me to find a good home for them. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that the clubs were 27 years old and the Lynx brand no longer existed. He asked that I play one last round of golf with the clubs in his memory and there was money in his bag for a round of beers for the foursome. Well after golf, I was ready for the beers but I found two quarters in his bag. Again, I didn’t have the heart to mention that it was hard to buy a round of beers for 50 cents.
Himeji now rests in peace alongside Kimiyo to continue their eternal journey, after a three year separation, cradling Kaana, their apricot toy poodle and holding his three wood and now, every par three is a hole-in-one regardless of whether the hole is 110 yards, or 130 yards or 140 yards…
Dad, love you and thanks for all the things you’ve sacrificed and done for us.
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