The Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival held its 25th annual Senior Appreciation Brunch on April 22, at the Hotel Kabuki in San Francisco Japantown. Sponsored by Kaiser Permanente, this year’s brunch honored a special group of seniors–local Nisei veterans of World War II, who collectively received the Congressional Gold Medal last year.
“This is one of the most important events of the Cherry Blossom Festival that pays homage to the well deserving seniors in their respective communities for all their hard work and dedication,” said Japantown community leader Allen Okamoto.
VFW Post #9879 presented the colors as the two oldest veteran honorees, Moffet Ishikawa and Fred Kitajima, lead in the Pledge of Allegiance.
“This is a special brunch, because we are celebrating a key milestone: our silver anniversary. It is amazing how many seniors have been honored over the last 25 years at this event. It has been more than 200 well-deserved individuals,” said emcee Mike Inouye, NBC 11 weekday morning traffic anchor, who has been emceeing the event for the past seven years.
“All of our veterans are also active in their local community groups. They are committed to the Japanese community and to passing along Japanese culture, heritage and traditions to younger generations while providing leadership and other things that keep our community moving forward.”
Consul General of Japan Hiroshi Inomata and Mrs. Midori Inomata were in attendance.
“Today we take a moment to celebrate the achievements of the senior members of our community,” said the Consul General. “This dedication in many ways is sharing history and culture with younger generations and military services…and the appreciation for the volunteers who provide the background and foundation such as the community here in Japantown and around Northern California.”
Other dignitaries in attendance were Mark Leno, California State Senator, District 3 and Christina Olague, newly elected San Francisco Supervisor of District 5; June-ko Nakagawa, executive director, Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California, who has been a long–time supporter of the brunch and past emcee for many years. Allen Okamoto and Richard Hashimoto, co-chairs of the 45th Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival were also present.
Dr. Sumie Iwasaki, a physician and the representative for Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco gave remarks on her experience while visiting Japan, the area affected by last year’s disaster and information about providing health services at Kaiser.
Hiroshi Haruki, president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California and his wife Yoko Haruki also attended.
Announced were this year’s grand marshal of the parade, Mrs. Tomoye Takahashi, a long-time Japantown philanthropist, and her daughter Martha Takahashi.
New sponsor Grace Kase, who has been very generous in her support of the community and today’s brunch was introduced.
Each honoree will be presented with certificates of honor and receive a gift from the Senior Appreciation Brunch Committee.
The five certificates will be from the following representatives: State Senator Leland Yee, State Senator Mark Leno, Speaker Pro Tempore and State Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, San Francisco Supervisor Christina Olague, San Francisco City Assessor-Recorder Phil Ting, and a plaque from the Cherry Blossom Festival/Senior Appreciation Brunch committee.
Consul General Inomata presented their awards to the honorees.
The first honoree is being honored posthumously. Yoshio Kato was nominated by Pine United Methodist Church and is represented by his wife, Stella. Yo, as he was affectionately called, was a long time San Franciscan and an active member of PUMC. During the war, Yo was assigned to the Military Intelligence Service, or better known as M.I.S., and worked as a Japanese language instructor stationed at Fort Snelling in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Yo used to talk about another Japanese civilian language instructor, Mitsu Iino, who he met while at Fort Snelling, and how he helped Mitsu, his wife and three daughters drive back to California after the war. This was a fond memory for him. The Iino family settled in Monterey, and Yo and Stella stayed in contact with them ever since.
Yo was a quiet man who always enjoyed mechanics and after the war, and graduation from the College of San Mateo, he worked at a service station on Bush and Steiner Street and eventually became part owner of Les and Yo’s Mobil Station. Yo and Stella have two children, Lane Kato and Cindy Kim, and six grandchildren.
Pine United Methodist Church is proud to honor Yoshio Kato. Stella is accepting the award on behalf of her husband Yo.
Moffet Ishikawa was nominated by Yu-Ai Kai. Moffet and his older sister, who is 98 years young, are the oldest living family in San Jose’s Japantown. They were born where the current Japanese American Museum of San Jose now stands. Moffet’s brother was the first Nisei medical doctor in the San Jose area, too.
Moffet served in the M.I.S. from 1942 to 1945, after being drafted while he was attending San Jose State University. Moffett went to the M.I.S. school at Camp Savage, Minnesota. When he was shipped overseas he was at New Caledonia, Guadalcanal, the Philippines and Korea. When Japan surrendered, Moffet was in the Philippines. Since he was the only Nikkei in his unit, the army supplied him with a bodyguard.
One thing Moffet will always regret is his decision not to build a foxhole. While he was sleeping on the ground, they were attacked. He said it was one of the scariest experiences of his life.
Today, Moffet goes to Yu-Ai Kai every day for the lunch program, is in the Tomodachi bereavement group and attends the balance and hula class. Yu-Ai Kai is proud to honor Moffet Ishikawa.
Fred Kitajima was also nominated by Yu-Ai Kai. Fred went to the M.I.S. school also at Camp Savage for six months and was then transferred to Fort Snelling. Fred was translating top secret documents in the Quadulan Islands, Northern Lozon, Philippines and Korea. He interrogated prisoners of war and said he didn’t have a problem with most of the Japanese prisoners, but some were very sarcastic to him. He served in the M.I.S. from 1941 to 1946.
While in Korea, Fred helped set up a democratic government but it was a struggle because communism was so strong. Several Korean leaders were released and that pushed the Americans down to Pusan, which is the port between Japan and Korea, and then the Korean War started.
After the war, Fred went to Cal and received his degree as a chemist and worked with radioactive waste. He eventually had to quit and help his parents, eventually retiring as a retail clerk.
Fred participates at Yu-Ai Kai by attending the lunch program, live performances and movies and going on gambling trips. Yu-Ai Kai is proud to honor Fred Kitajima.
Shigeyuki Doi was nominated by Sakura Kai. Shig was not able to join in the recognition. Shig was born in Auburn and now lives in Richmond.
Shig served in the U.S. Army in the 442nd Battalion from 1942 to 1945. He was heavily involved in the fighting to rescue the Lost Battalion from Texas while his family was interned at Amache. Much of his extraordinary war experiences are chronicled in two DVDs: “Yankee Samurai” and “Valor with Honor.” Shig is also featured in many books such as “And Justice for All,” “Go for Broke,” “Lost Battalions: Going for Broke in the Vosges,” “Bridge of Love” as well as many articles.
Arthur Zich reported the story of Sergeant Shig Doi who hitchhiked his way back to Auburn, having survived three major campaigns with his duffel bag on his shoulder and his Bronze Star on his chest. Shig recalled hostility and prejudice upon returning home. The packing shed at the Doi farm was firebombed, and shots were fired at their house so Shig had to fight racism in America as well as on the battlefield.
At Sakura Kai, Shig leads the men’s discussion group, brings unsold nursery plants for others to grow, provides fruit and desserts for lunch and visits seniors who are unable to come to the center. Sakura Kai is proud to honor Shig Doi. Setsuko Doi will be accepting on behalf of Shig.
Warren Eijima was nominated by Nikkei and Retirement. He was born in Oakland and lives in San Francisco.
Warren served in the M.I.S. from 1944 to 1946. His class of 500 students, consisting mostly of Japanese Americans, was the largest class to graduate from the Fort Snelling M.I.S. Language School. He left Fort Snelling in July of 1945 on a troop train to Terminal Island in Los Angeles. There, Warren boarded USS Storm King Troop ship which took 30 days to get to Manila Bay in the Philippines. They stopped briefly at Eniwetok Island, which was part of the Marshall Islands, and joined a convoy headed for Manila.
Warren and his troop reached Manila on August 8, 1945, which was the day that Japan surrendered to the Allies. They were not allowed to disembark the ship because of the fear of rioting by the Filipinos against the many Japanese American M.I.S. personnel on board.
Warren was engaged in interrogating captured Japanese Army medical corps personnel – mostly doctors and nurses. They had wonderful Japanese meals which they shared with some of the men who were on U.S. K-Rations. Later, Warren served with the Allied Translators and Interpreters Section, or ATIS, in Ogi, Tokyo, which was housed in the Japan Army Armory where he was the team leader of the 5250th, a technical intelligence unit.
Warren and his wife, June, are active supporters of Nikkei and Retirement, both as participants and donors. Nikkei and Retirement is pleased to honor Warren Eijima.
Mas Ishikawa was also nominated by Nikkei and Retirement. He was born in Holt, CA and now lives in San Francisco. Mas served in the M.I.S. for four years. He volunteered at Tule Lake Relocation Camp in November, 1942 and studied language for six months then went to Camp Shelby for basic training and later to Fort Snelling.
While the ship transport was being repaired at San Francisco, Mas and his troop were picked to do some document investigation. After about three weeks they finally sailed overseas to Noumia, Caledonia. Mas then went to Guadalcanal; Green Island; Hollandia, New Guinea; Morotai; and Luzon, Philippines. Seven places in a short time. Mas went to Japan as an advance unit after the war was over. He stayed for about three months then returned back to the States.
Mas and his wife, Sets, are active members and donors to Nikkei and Retirement, and the organization is proud to recognize Mas Ishikawa.
Marshall Sumida, was nominated by Kimochi, Inc. He was born in Los Angeles and was interned at Rohwer, Arkansas and served in the 441st Counter Intelligence from 1945 to 1953.
During the time the Sumida family was planning their move from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., Marshall received his draft notice. Somehow, his sister successfully got an extension on Marshall’s reporting date so he could assist with the family’s cross- country move. Marshall is still in awe that she was able to convince officials to allow the extension.
Marshall ultimately reported to Fort Douglas, Utah and later attended the M.I.S. Language School at Fort Snelling.
The next year, he was re-assigned to Japan and then for a brief period beginning in 1950, Marshall served with a combat unit in Korea, for which he was awarded a Bronze Star. He eventually returned to Japan, and, as a commissioned officer, completed his post-secondary education with a degree in Economics from Sofia University in 1953. Later that year, Marshall and his wife, Misako moved to San Francisco where they still live. In fact, Marshall and Misako will celebrate their 67th wedding anniversary in May.
Marshall currently resides at Kimochi Home and participates in all their programs and activities. Kimochi is proud to honor Marshall Sumida.
Oliver Nishimura was nominated by Eden Japanese Community Senior Center. He is not able to be with us today.
Oliver was born in Hayward but also lived in Oregon, Idaho and Colorado. Oliver was in the US Army’s 442nd Battalion, Company K from 1943 to 1946. He was stationed in Italy, France and ended his tour in Germany. He was wounded in 1944 while rescuing the Lost Battalion and received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
Oliver is active at the Eden Center where his wife, Michiko, is the pianist. Eden Japanese Community Senior Center is proud to honor Oliver Nishimura.
Fred Shimasaki was nominated by the Eden Japanese Community Senior Center. He was born in Strathmore, Calif. and now lives in Hayward.
Fred was drafted into the Army while interned at Rohwer in Arkansas. He received infantry training at Camp Wheeler in Georgia then went to Fort Mead in Maryland before being sent overseas. He served in the 390th M.P. Service Battalion in Belgium and guarded freight trains to Holland, across Germany and finally to the Rhine River. Fred served from 1944 to 1946 in WWII.
After the war, Fred attended UCSF’s School of Pharmacy and became a pharmacist. Yesterday, Fred attended the UCSF pharmacy school’s Half Century luncheon since he has been a pharmacist for more than 50 years.
Fred then served in the Korean War in the 23rd Regiment in the Medical Company from 1951 to 1953. He administered tetanus shots to soldiers who were required to receive them every six months.
Fred attends the senior center every month and secures guest speakers and entertainment. Eden Japanese Community Senior Center is proud to honor Fred Shimasaki.
Marvin Tetsushi Uratsu was nominated by Sakura Kai Senior Center. Unfortunately he was not able to join us today. Marvin and his family were sent to Arboga (also called Walerga) near Marysville and then to Tule Lake and Amache. In April 1944, Marvin wrote to Paul Rusch and asked to go to the M.I.S. language school. Even though he did not quite finish high school, the Army sent orders for him to go to Camp Savage. Marvin was sent to Fort McClellan in Alabama for basic training and then, like the others, he went to Fort Snelling. He went to the Philippines where his brother, Gene, was also stationed.
Although the war was winding down, there were plans for a major invasion into Japan’s mainland. After the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Marvin was one of the interpreters assigned to tell the Japanese P.O.W.s about the horrific event and that the land would not be good for anything for 100 years and that Hiroshima was also destroyed.
In October 1945, Marvin was sent to Tokyo to work at HQ and procure whatever General MacArthur wanted for renovation and reconstruction for the Occupation.
At Sakura Kai, Marvin participates in the oral histories, at barbeques, on field trips and informs the center of possible funding. Marvin is also the CFO at the National Japanese American Historical Society. Sakura Kai is proud to honor Marvin Uratsu.
Marjorie Fujioka will be accepting on behalf of Marvin.
Another nominee from Sakura Kai is Yoshiro Tokiwa. Yoshiro served in the Army’s 442nd Battalion from 1944 to 1947 in Italy after he graduated high school in the Poston Internment Camp. He took basic training at Camp Shelby and joined the 442nd Infantry Regimental Combat Team in Brescia, Italy. A few months later, the unit was moved to Lecco and then to the Pissa-Livorna area. After the war, Yoshiro, worked for the California Department of Health.
At Sakura Kai, he is a board member and actively participates by helping to set up the audio system for various fundraising events. Yoshiro is also active in the Contra Costa JACL and keeps the center informed about activities that are important to their program which is helpful in planning events. Sakura Kai is proud to honor Yoshiro Tokiwa.
Ken Nihei was nominated by Kimochi, Inc. Ken was just 18 years old when he was drafted for the 442nd Regimental Combat Team from the Topaz concentration camp and eventually served as the squad leader of Company L, 3rd Battalion, during his two years of service in France and Italy.
Near the beginning of the U.S. offensive in Europe, the 442nd was instrumental in pushing the German stronghold out of the Italian Alps, including Mt. Fogorita, a position in which the Germans had been entrenched for two years, and cracking through the Gothic Line. The 442nd moved into position under the cover of night and surprised the enemy at the break of dawn. It’s been recorded that this battle was essentially over in 30 minutes.
Ken recalls a tense night when he and two of his fellow 442nd comrades escorted a large group of captured German soldiers down the mountain. Due to the waning light they had to spend the night on the mountain. He says the Germans had no intention of escaping, although the three 442nd soldiers threatened them with dire consequences should just one of them try.
Later, Ken was one of four Staff Sergeants charged with escorting 400 prisoners of war back to Germany. He remembers riding the train through various areas of Europe, managing the large group of defeated enemy at each stop, and how they eventually seemed glad to be home and that the war had finally ended.
Today, Ken participates at Kimochi in the home delivery program, and the organization is proud to honor Ken Nihei.
Yutaka Kobori was nominated by the Eden Japanese Community Senior Center. He was born in Fresno and lives in San Leandro. Yutaka served in the M.I.S. from 1944 to 1946 after being interned at Jerome Internment Camp in Arkansas. He was stationed at Camp Savage and Fort Snelling before going to Japan. He was stationed most of the time in Tokyo where he met his future wife, Kimiko Koizumi (now deceased). There are stories that Yutaka visited Kimiko’s Dad more than her because her Dad enjoyed having a sake buddy to drink with.
Yutaka’s rank was T3, which is a stripe above a Sergeant. His function in the M.I.S. was to gather information for General McArthur’s language detachment. His awards include the Asiatic-Pacific Theater Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, Army of Occupation Medal with/clasp Japan, American Theater Ribbon, WWII Victory Medal and the recent Congressional Gold Medal. He is one of several Nisei veterans interviewed for a historic DVD, entitled “Legacy of the Nisei Veterans,” produced by the San Leandro Public Library and funded by a grant from the California Civil Liberties Public Education Program. The first public showing of the DVD was on his 86th birthday, which was May 15, 2011.
He was on the Atomic Energy Commission and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Yutaka was an officer at Eden and participates in the lunch program as well as being active in the JACL. Eden Japanese Community Senior Center is proud to honor Yutaka Kobori.
Jack Matsuoka was nominated by Yu-Ai Kai. Jack is very well known in the San Jose Japantown area. He lives at Fuji Towers and is an accomplished cartoonist. He appears at local events like Spirit of Japantown. But in recent years, he has played a major role in educating young people about internment. He has published two books: “Camp II, Block 211” and “Sensei.”
Born in 1925 in Watsonville, Matsuoka was interned at Poston as a teenager. After being released, he attended the Cleveland School of Fine Arts in Ohio and was drafted into the Army. He attended Hartnell College in Salinas, and returned to Japan as a student at Keio and Sophia universities in Tokyo.
Jack served in the M.I.S. from 1944 to 1952. Jack’s war experience that he will never forget is interpreting for the Japanese Imperial Circle.
He attends Yu Ai Kai’s gambling trips and monthly movies. Yu-Ai Kai is proud to honor Jack Matsuoka.
Masaru Kawaguchi was nominated by Pine United Methodist Church for his service in the M.I.S. during WWII and for his many contributions. Mas served as a Special Agent in the Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) in Japan from 1946-1949 and was stationed in various locations such as Yokohama, Tokyo, Sendai, and Niigata. The CIC unit conducted highly classified intelligence operations that proved to be vital to the U.S. Military’s successes.
Mas moved back to the U.S. since Japanese Americans officers in Japan were discriminated against as only Caucasians were being promoted. He served as general staff officer in the 6th Army 91st Infantry Division that was responsible for managing and directing numerous units. Mas held numerous leadership positions during his 39 years of Army service and retired a Lieutenant Colonel.
Mas’ commitment and sacrifice demonstrates a highly uncommon and commendable sense of patriotism and honor. He continues to play a pivotal role today as a role model for youth and the community of how a thoughtful and committed citizen can make a difference. Pine United Methodist Church is proud to honor Masaru Kawaguchi.
Another Pine United Methodist Church nominee is Koji Ozawa. Koji was born in the heart of J-Town and, as a child, his parents sent him to Kinmon Gakuen. His parents owned Joe’s Ice Cream Fountain. When the war broke out his family was interned to Tanforan Assembly Center and Topaz internment camp. From there he went to the University of Minnesota and was subsequently drafted.
Koji served in the M.I.S. from 1945 to 1947 and studied Japanese at Fort Snelling. He served in the Philippines as a translator and interpreter for the War Crime Office, where he interviewed Japanese P.O.W.s.
He was a civil engineer just like the previous nominee. Mas and his wife, Betty, have been active participants at PUMC since 1965 ….. A combined 47 years of dedication and support. Pine United Methodist Church is proud to honor Koji Ozawa.
Ronald Yoshida was nominated by Nikkei and Retirement. Ron, a native San Franciscan, served in the M.I.S. from 1946 to 1948 after being interned at Topaz. He was in the first graduating class at Monterey, California (after M.I.S. moved from Shelby/Snelling in l946).
Ron was sent to ATIS in Tokyo and assigned to Grave Registration in Tomioka, Gumma-Ken. They were assigned to look for American flyers who were buried in Japan. Luckily their team didn’t find any.
After that assignment Ron was stationed in Kyoto at the Kinki Chiho Military Government Headquarters. The Military Government maintained surveillance over land and health reform during the occupation of Japan. Their job was to make sure the Japanese government was complying with General McArthur’s Occupation decrees. The best part of being stationed in Kyoto was it was a beautiful city that was purposely not bombed and near Ron’s parents’ home in Wakayama.
Ron has been attending the Nikkei and Retirements seminars and luncheons for many years. Nikkei and Retirement is proud to honor Ronald Yoshida.
The newly crowned Cherry Blossom Festival Queen Asaki Osato and First Princess Megumi Yoshida attended the Brunch to say a few welcoming words.
This year’s entertainment was provided by Ayako Hosokawa. Ayako is a well-known performer in the Bay Area’s Japanese American community. At the age of 14, she was already performing in the American military clubs in Japan, learning the English language by singing international pop songs of that time. She moved to the United States and was discovered by Earl “Fatha” Hines.
She developed a following of enthusiastic American fans by touring San Francisco, Las Vegas, Montreal and throughout California, and performing in clubs, at local radio stations and on television. Also, due to her recordings for the legendary Japanese jazz music label, Three Blind Mice, she became one of the best known pop and jazz singers throughout Japan. She continues to tour Japan twice a year where she plays jazz festivals and club dates. We are honored to have her perform for us at our 25th annual Senior Appreciation Brunch.
Ayako performed three songs, ”It’s been a long, long, time” and a Japanese song medley of “Sukiyaki” and “Kawano Nagareno Youni.”
Mitsuko Horinouchi, co-chair of this year’s Senior Appreciation Brunch Committee gave closing words.
This year’s Senior Appreciation Brunch Committee consists of Karen Fong, Genny Hom-Franzen, Kevin Liu, Jeff Murai, Teresa Ono, Anna Sawamura, Laura Takeuchi, Mitsuko Horinouchi, and Patty Wada.
The bios and portions of this article were provided by the Senior Brunch Committee.