Noboru Taguma, Nisei draft resister and longtime farmer, dies

Noboru Taguma cutting his home-grown gobo.

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Noboru Taguma, a longtime farmer and Nisei draft resister who took a principled stand during World War II, passed away peacefully at his home in West Sacramento, Calif. on March 11, 2011. He was 87.

A native of Broderick, Calif. who was born on April 3, 1923, he retired in the early 1990s after farming tomatoes for 45 years, mostly for Campbell’s Soup, around Clarksburg, Yolo County, Calif.

During World War II, he and his family of nine were uprooted from their home in Broderick (now part of West Sacramento) and forcibly relocated, first to the Merced Assembly Center — a converted fairgrounds where they spent four months — and then to the Granada (Amache) concentration camp in Colorado.

He was one of only 300 young Nisei to resist a military draft imposed behind barbed wire based upon constitutional principle — and one of just 36 such young men from the Granada concentration camp. He stated he would gladly fight for his country if his family was released from the wartime concentration camps and his citizenship rights were restored.

While awaiting trial, the young Nisei resisters from Granada were visited by two leaders from the Japanese American Citizens League — Min Yasui and Joe Grant Masaoka. While the young Nisei men were eager to meet with them, one by one they were told to go into the U.S. Army. Noboru Taguma and two other resisters who similarly voiced their anger — in his case, yelling at the two and then slamming the door — were then sent to solitary confinement in an apparent attempt to break their will.

Once shunned by so-called “community leaders” and subject to community ostracism, the resisters today are heralded for the civil rights stand they took.

After serving his sentence at a Tucson federal labor camp, he relocated to the town of Granada, Colo. to be near his family. Although he was barred from the camp, every night for about one month, he either walked or hitchhiked three miles to the Granada (Amache) concentration camp, timing the searchlights on the guard towers and sneaking into camp to be with his family. There, he would eat or watch movies, and leave when warned about the presence of military police. Again, at the risk of getting shot, he snuck back out of camp, trekking back to the town of Granada.

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Noboru Taguma’s reasons for resistance

Noboru Taguma’s reasons for resisting the military draft were laid out in a tersely-worded letter to the government.

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Letter to Dad, Sacramento History Museum exhibit on the Japanese American experience, 1992

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Five years later … Remembering Noboru Taguma (April 3, 1923 – March 11, 2011)

On March 11, 2011, as Japan was facing a horrendous triple disaster with the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, us five Taguma children, our mother and 10 grandchildren lost our beloved father, husband, and grandfather. Sharing my eulogy of him, on the occasion of his five-year memorial anniversary.

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Remembering my father, resister Noboru Taguma

Noboru TagumaNoboru Taguma at Seabrook Farms, 1947RUN T.A.G







Eulogy by Kenji G. Taguma

April 9, 2011

Sacramento Memorial Lawn

We find our heroes wherever we can, sometimes not by choice. They could be Super Bowl MVPs, or even more iconic figures like MLK, Malcom X or Cesar Chavez. But some heroes are not necessarily found in history books.

But what my dad taught me is that ordinary people can do extraordinary things in the face of adversity. Even a simple, unsophisticated farm boy like my father.

Growing up, I was ashamed of my heritage, as I was constantly teased for my slanted eyes, and called “Nip,” “Jap” or “Chink” all too frequently. I used to run away from my own mother as she yelled my name in Japanese at the local supermarket. I just wanted to be a “regular” American. But now I realize that “America” is indeed in the heart, and that people of color, who have been marginalized in history textbooks, do have their rightful place in the great American mosaic.

My father’s story saved me. It gave me a sense of purpose. It instilled an unbreakable sense of pride, an unshakeable sense of principle.

My personal relationship with my father, however, actually wasn’t always so great, particularly in my teens, when I saw him as an easily irritable old man. It was probably partially my fault, however, that he appeared so mean. The fifth of five kids, I took it upon myself to rebel from the examples set before me by my other siblings, who were exceptional students, athletes, or both. One day, my English teacher took me outside of class, concerned about my academic performance when compared to my other siblings. I just laughed at him. I knew I wasn’t dumb — I became the editor of our school yearbook, after all — but I felt more at ease goofing off in high school. Instead of the 4.0 GPAs of my siblings, sometimes I barely made a 2.0.

At home, I was a lazy, unfilial son. I wouldn’t be quick to do any chores, and intentionally wouldn’t try hard with homework. In addition, my father must have been disappointed with me, as I got into trouble with the law twice. He never even heard of my other run-ins with the law, including another time when police guns were drawn upon me.

Because of my lack of ambition, he kept yelling at me “Prido ga nai! Prido ga nai!” — or “You have no pride!” He also kept saying “They don’t know about us guys. They don’t know about us resisters” like a mantra.

It wasn’t until my chance enrollment in an Asian American studies class that I started to understand what my father meant, and I began to discover the true heroism in his wartime actions. My semester-long project for Wayne Maeda’s class was to interview and research my father’s history, which eventually became part of Wayne’s exhibit at the Sacramento History Museum.

This process was an epiphany. It transformed me from a relatively shy 20-something — in danger of dropping out of college because I couldn’t deal with Business Calculus — and it gave me my new calling as an activist. I changed my major from International Business to Ethnic Studies, and organized the first of some two dozen programs on the California State University, Sacramento campus — on Nisei draft resistance during World War II. I went on to organize forums on hate crimes, anti-immigrant legislation, Asian Heritage Weeks, film festivals and the like, while publishing three editions of my own Asian American newspaper — all within the course of just one and-a-half years. This once painfully shy boy from the country was transformed to the most active student on campus, inspired by my father’s own fight for social justice.

My father’s story gave me a voice, and so I was committed to give his story the voice that he had been yearning for all these years. The story of the resisters started to be rediscovered on a local, national and even international level. Books, videos and forums would come out. The Florin JACL would honor the local resisters in 1994, and the recognition of this once-shunned group would culminate with the National JACL’s Resisters Reconciliation Ceremony in 2002. We attended event after event together.

Now, dad could no longer say “they don’t know about us guys.”

Through it all, our family was by his side, even traveling to the former federal labor camp he was sentenced to near Tucson, Arizona. It is a testament to my father that his kids truly supported him every step of the way, as he finally received recognition for his gutsy stand some five decades earlier. The uncovering of his story, coupled with the arrival of his first granddaughter Cheryl, helped to peel off layers upon layers of his tough exterior, and truly made him a happy Papa Bear.

His story continues to inspire me.

When the Nichi Bei Times was folding in September of 2009, it took a tremendous will to launch the first nonprofit ethnic newspaper of its kind in the country — especially in the worst of economic times in decades. It took courage and determination that I didn’t even know I had. And while my family and others were supportive of this inspiring community movement, I believe that it was my father’s resistance that gave me the courage to resist the demise of a treasured community institution, and the fight to move forward to give a voice to the voiceless.

My father’s pride and principle, no doubt, will continue to inspire us as the years pass. He will forever be a guiding light as we face adversity. His love of family and his hard work ethic will forever be a part of our fabric, interwoven with the huge generosity and faith that is inherited from our mother.

On March 11, as Japan was losing so much in the devastating earthquake and tsunami, I lost my personal hero. But I’m sure that his spirit will live on in each of us who were touched by him.

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3.11.2015: Remembering my father Noboru, four years later…

Noboru Taguma at Seabrook Farms, 1947









March 11, 2015

Remembering my father Noboru, four years later…

The theme of this year’s Day of Remembrance in San Francisco, held on Feb. 22, 2015, was “Out of the Shadows of Infamy: Resistance From Behind Barbed Wire.” The DOR committee wanted the students from the local Rosa Parks Elementary School to read my father’s letter of wartime resistance based upon constitutional principle.

In memory of the fourth anniversary of my father Noboru’s passing on March 11, 2011, I’m posting this introduction of that letter in tribute to his lasting legacy.

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Day of Remembrance

Sunday, February 22, 2015


By Kenji G. Taguma

I was a very underachieving student in high school. The fifth of five kids, I was lectured by teachers for not being like my four older siblings, who excelled in school. My father kept yelling “you have no pride!” Then one day, I was given an ultimatum by my Government teacher: write a term paper, or don’t graduate.

My eyes opened as I engrossed myself in the story over one weekend, and I was especially moved by the heroism of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, an all-Nisei group of soldiers. Years later I would learn about the courage of the Military Intelligence Service as well, and their role in interpreting documents and interrogating prisoners of war. So today, I honor the Nisei veterans for their role in establishing early pride in myself, and our heritage. And for helping me to actually graduate high school.

Years later, I was a listless college student on the verge of dropping out when I took an Asian American Studies class from Wayne Maeda at California State University, Sacramento. After class one day, I told him that my father was one of these so-called “Nisei Draft Resisters,” who fought against the draft imposed behind young men behind barbed wire, and in essence the constitutionality of the concentration camps. As Wayne remembers, his eyes lit up, because he knew there should be some resisters, but he didn’t know any around Sacramento. Through Wayne’s guidance, we uncovered dad’s history, and put it in the landmark Sacramento History Museum exhibit on the Japanese American experience that Wayne was curating upon the 50th anniversary of Executive Order 9066.

From there, a forum on Nisei draft resistance would be the first of some two dozen programs I would organize on campus. And my father’s story helped to renew my pride, and give me a sense of purpose: historical accuracy and giving a voice to the voiceless. He was also a renunciant, who renounced his citizenship with the hopes of getting his family from Granada, Colorado to Tule Lake, closer to their home in California. But instead, it got him a ticket to the Santa Fe and Crystal City internment camps.

Out of that early 1993 forum, Andy Noguchi of the Florin JACL would help honor the local resisters at their 1994 Time of Remembrance Program, and years later would spearhead the national JACL’s effort to finally recognize the courage of the Nisei Draft Resisters in their 2002 National Reconciliation Program, here in San Francisco’s Japantown.

My father’s story saved me. It instilled an unbreakable sense of pride, an unshakeable sense of principle. It put me on a road to activism, to try to preserve our collective history.

On behalf of the Bay Area Day of Remembrance Consortium, as well as the Taguma Family, I’d like to share the letter he wrote, detailing his reasons for resistance.

The letter was read by two fifth graders at the Japanese Bilingual Bicultural Program at Rosa Parks Elementary School, Isabel Tilles and Trevon Jefferson.

Noboru Taguma’s Letter:

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Remembering Noboru Taguma — A Tribute Video

On this three-year anniversary of our father’s passing, here is the Tribute Video I produced for his Memorial Service.

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Remembering Wayne Maeda…

On this one-year anniversary of his passing on Feb. 27, 2013 (his wife Lorrie passing three days later on March 2 — both from cancer), I’m posting my eulogy of Wayne Maeda, who helped to shape the future of a painfully shy kid, and helped this kid validate his father’s wartime resistance, and eventually share that story with the world… Thanks Wayne.

At the opening of the Sacramento History Museum exhibit, "Continuing Traditions: Japanese Americans - Story of a People"

At the opening of the Sacramento History Museum exhibit, “Continuing Traditions: Japanese Americans – Story of a People”

Eulogy: Remembering Wayne Maeda

By Kenji G. Taguma

March 8, 2013

I am deeply humbled to be before you today, to talk about my mentor, my longtime collaborator, the Nichi Bei Times and Nichi Bei Weekly’s longest contributing writer, my closest advisor, and mostly my dear friend, Wayne Maeda.


Wayne’s Story

You might be surprised to learn that Wayne wasn’t all that great of a student in high school — he didn’t want to study, and hated math. He initially took some business classes in college, thinking that he might help his dad’s construction business, but he declared Social Science as his major, graduating from CSUS in 1969 after spending two years at Sacramento City College.

His wife Lorrie conveyed, “He always called himself the accidental professor, because that was certainly never his goal.”

In the early days of Ethnic Studies, he was still a graduate student, teaching undergraduates near his own age. Back then, he ran down to other universities like UC Berkeley, UCLA and UC Davis to help get ideas to build the curriculum.

Around 1970-71, Wayne was the director of the Asian American segment of EOP, the Equal Opportunity Program on campus. He was in charge of about 40 to 50 peer advisors, who each were advising up to 10 students.

He received his MA in Social Science in the mid-1970s. As the Ethnic Studies Program pushed the CSUS Library to expand its collection, the Library hired Wayne to help add books. Ethnic Studies, Wayne recalled, “asserted political power to bring diversity to campus.” This included taking part in hiring faculty of color.

Wayne always sought out historical accuracy, no matter who challenged him. He sought to inspire, educate and make students reach their full potential.

Wayne the academic was always reading the latest, most up to date information, constantly educating himself.

But he was not without insecurities about his teaching. “I always thought I could have done a better job,” he said. “Maybe a better approach.” Until the end, he said he still had some insecurities about “not knowing enough.”


On Turning Waymad

So how did “Wayne Maeda” become “Waymad,” as his e-mail address suggests?

“I remember white kids calling us Japs,” Wayne told me, recalling grammar school experiences. “After you punch a few kids out, they pretty much left you alone.”

He remembers one incident at Sacramento City College, an Economics class where one professor told the Japanese American students “you aren’t going to get anything higher than a B.” This teacher, a veteran from the South, couldn’t tell the difference between Japanese from Japan and Japanese Americans.

Or maybe it was in junior high, when his teacher on December 7 would ask, “Mr. Maeda, what is today?” Being asked this on Pearl Harbor day made him feel “like the enemy,” he said. He was pissed.

Because of these experiences, it’s easy to see how historical accuracy and social justice became his calling card.


I’d like to take this time to share some perspectives of Wayne, taken from his book of “Thank You, Wayne” letters and personal comments people have made to me. He has been called at times “humble,” “generous,” “caring,” “funny,” “radical,” “prickly” and a “curmudgeon.” But there are many sides to Wayne.

To his eldest daughter Yumi, he was tough. “My father was very hard on me, but I know he always pushed me to be the best I could be,” she said. “I think he always pushed because he knew there was more I could do, more I could be. He himself never stopped learning or working, and this served as a great role model for me.”

Haruo Tamano, Wayne’s former teacher’s assistant in the early days at CSUS Asian American Studies, would become a lifelong fishing buddy, partaking in more than 400 fishing trips with Wayne over the years, including one adventure in Tomales Bay where Haruo wasn’t sure they would survive, given strong winds and a small boat.

In recent months, many have told me how they appreciated Wayne’s countless book reviews in the Nichi Bei Times and Nichi Bei Weekly over the years.

“I have benefitted tremendously from the many book reviews you have had published relative to Japanese American history, society and culture,” wrote Japanese American Studies Professor Art Hansen to Wayne. “In my opinion, you have been spot on in all of your reviews.”

UCLA Asian American Studies Professor Lane Hirabayashi said Wayne’s reviews kept him “on top of current publications.” “If you praised an author’s work, I always made note of it,” he said.

Paul Osaki, the executive director of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, remembers Wayne fondly. “Wayne was just one of those guys you could always go to when you needed help, advice or anything,” said Paul. “Wayne was also one of those guys who could get things done, didn’t like bullshit and never brought attention to himself.”

Others remembered his generosity.

“When my brother-in-law became paralyzed from waist down, Wayne promptly built a ramp at my mother-in-law’s house,” said Raymond Lee, who was an early student of Wayne’s at CSUS. “Whenever I bring up Wayne in conversation, my mother-in-law always tears up.”

Satsuki Ina recalled that Wayne would financially assist EOP students in buying books and other costs. “Students who had never been on a college campus, anxious, confused, fearful, and overwhelmed not only got help from Wayne, but really knew that he cared about them,” she said.

Longtime colleague Dr. Otis Scott called Wayne “the heart and soul of Asian American Studies,” who “remained a solid and intellectual force” within the Ethnic Studies Department and one of its “most respected teacher-scholars.”

Sacramento City College counselor  Keith Muraki mentioned his high ratings on

“I hated history until I took his class,” one student wrote. “He tells it how it is. I love this teacher. I recommend him to anyone, but you have to be willing to learn.”

“No BS with this guy,” another student wrote. “He minces no words… “

Congresswoman Doris Matsui called Wayne “one of Sacramento’s treasures” who was “loved by so many of us.” She thanked Wayne for his role in developing the Robert T. Matsui Legacy Project Website, a collection of audio and video clips, as well as documents and photographs of the late congressman.


Remembering Lorrie

But one of Wayne’s greatest accomplishments may have been finding love in his later years, with his “Wifey” Lorrie.

I believe that we should recognize Lorrie for her longtime collaborations with Wayne, first on the landmark 1992 Sacramento History Museum exhibit on the Japanese American experience. In our recent talks, Wayne called the exhibit his “greatest accomplishment,” and mentioned how one day with things in disarray, Lorrie came in to help organize a number of volunteers. She was good with people, and people responded to her.

Then, there’s Wayne’s book, “Changing Dreams and Treasured Memories: A Story of Japanese Americans in the Sacramento Region,” Wayne’s lasting legacy. Lorrie helped him put his seminal work together.

Andy Noguchi recently recalled another collaboration between Lorrie and Wayne, when they both served on the 2011 Florin JACL Manzanar Pilgrimage planning committee, which organized a tour of the wartime concentration camp.

“Wayne and Lorrie organized an Educators’ Project for that year,” Andy recalled. “They recruited, trained, and involved dozens of college professors, school teachers, and students for the three-day bus pilgrimage. We had a great trip with two tour buses and about 100 people, the most we’ve ever had. It wouldn’t have happened without Lorrie’s dedication, passion for history, and hard work with Wayne.”

The last half of 2011 was one of tragic proportions for Lorrie. Not only did Wayne discover his cancer, but Lorrie’s beloved son Matt died at age 38, and her brother in Virginia succumbed to Alzheimer’s. And, to end the year, Lorrie discovered that she herself had breast cancer.

Yet through it all, she would somehow find a way to stay positive, to find what she called her “butterflies and rainbows.”

Then, when his cancer returned late last year, Lorrie sent out e-mails to friends and colleagues soliciting “Thank You, Wayne” letters. She wanted to make sure that he knew that he was loved and respected, particularly as he reached his final days. Lorrie also wanted Wayne’s daughters to know more about how he had impacted so many people, across the country.

When Lorrie unexpectedly passed away last Saturday, it was tragic, but there’s also some underlying beauty in the way she left. She hung on long enough for her daughter Kristine to make the trek across the country from Tennessee, amidst numerous delays. And then, Lorrie quietly left us, to join her beloved Wayne, her son Matt and her brother Hal.


Letter to Wayne

Lastly, I wanted to share an excerpt of my letter to Wayne on Feb. 23. It’s a letter I’m sure that he never read, as he was too far gone by this point.

Dear Wayne,

It’s hard to imagine the mass transformation that I’ve made since wandering into your class more than 20 years ago. I wandered into your Asian American Studies class, probably on accident, still a painfully shy kid. To this day, I think I actually wanted to take an Asian Studies class, learning more about Asia. But this may have been the best “mistake” I may have made, because it led me to you, and to my destiny. And while I was “lost,” through you I would find my true calling. Through you, my eyes were truly opened, as I saw a fellow Sansei, albeit a bit older, who cared enough to document our community’s history.

You were the greatest role model at the most crucial time for me. Not only did you help me understand the importance of my father’s wartime resistance, but you also validated his experience in the eyes of history, helping me to “connect the dots,” as you would say. For years, my father had complained that “no one knows about us guys. No one knows about us resisters.” Thanks to you, he started to get his ultimate vindication.

After taking your class, I went full steam ahead in changing my major to Ethnic Studies, and in becoming what I was told the most active student on campus. In just 1.5 years, under the Ethnic Studies Student Association, this once-shy country boy would go on to help organize some two dozen events or forums. I was even able to publish three editions of an Asian American newspaper on campus, the AsiAmerican Journal. None of this, however, would have happened if you had not touched me.

You quickly taught me what my life mission was to be, to make sure that our stories were documented, in an accurate manner. You, along with my father’s experience, helped to give me a voice that I never knew I had.

Over these past few months, you have given me tremendous access to your life, your thoughts, your insecurities, your accomplishments. I’m so very grateful that you had allowed me to conduct your oral history, and to spend some cherished moments with you and Lorrie, which taught me so much about love, strength and perseverance. I’m so glad that you’ve found each other, and that you’ve been able to share in such happiness, even throughout all your struggles. Lorrie is such a strong, amazing woman, and we’re all the more better people knowing and loving her.

Everything I’ve done, and will continue to do, is a testament to and in dedication to what you taught me. I want to thank you for the incredible example and legacy that you have given me, and for helping to vindicate my father in the eyes of history. You really saved me.

With deepest respect and gratitude,


Final Message

In closing, I want to leave you with some challenges, in the spirit of Wayne. First, for those of us involved in documenting Japanese American history, we should do so with a fierce commitment to historical accuracy. We should NOT keep segments of our history marginalized, just because they don’t follow a popular or attractive narrative.

Second, for those of you in positions to lead, inspire or otherwise influence young people — whether you’re a community leader, educator, supervisor or even a parent — don’t be afraid to do so. They are, after all, our future. If someone younger reaches out to you for advice, don’t turn them away. You just never know what that young person will do someday, and what they will achieve.

Wayne, thank you for those many, many hours in your office, for serving as my mentor, and for taking a chance on me. I am determined to honor your legacy in everything I do.

Thank you.


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Remembering Sakaye Taguma (video from Memorial Service)

A video remembrance of the late Sakaye Taguma. April 20, 1931-July 16, 2013.

Music: “Nada Sou Sou” by Natsukawa Rimi
Produced by Kenji G. Taguma / Kenjammin’! Productions

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Sakaye Taguma: April 20, 1931 – July 16, 2013

Sakaye Taguma April 20, 1931 - July 16, 2013

Sakaye Taguma
April 20, 1931 – July 16, 2013

TAGUMA, SAKAYE, 82, passed away unexpectedly yet peacefully at her West Sacramento, Calif. home on July 16, 2013. The third of seven children of a pioneer missionary of the Tenrikyo Church in America, she was born on April 20, 1931 in Sacramento, Calif. to Minoru and Fusako (Katayama) Yoshizawa. She and her family returned to Japan when Sakaye was five years old.

Fiercely proud of her family’s roots in the Japan Alps of Nagano Prefecture, Sakaye and her immediate older sister Fumiko spent part of their childhood — from ages 7 to 12 — apart from the rest of their family, at a Tenrikyo Church in her hometown of Omachi, Nagano Prefecture. From age 12 to 22, she relocated to Tenri City, Nara Prefecture, with her younger sister Fujiko to initially attend school. There, she once held a job as a switchboard operator to the head of the Tenrikyo religion, the Shimbashira. Thus, from age 7 to 22, she lived apart from her parents and most of her six other siblings.

In her twenties, she was arranged to be married to Noboru Taguma, the eldest son of the late Iwakichi and Iwa Taguma in the countryside of West Sacramento, Calif. Yet despite their arranged beginnings, they grew an undeniable bond of love together that lasted for more than five decades.

For more than three decades, she would support Noboru and his brother Goichi as they farmed tomatoes in nearby Clarksburg, Yolo County, at the same time raising five kids. She said that she purposefully didn’t learn English so that her children could learn Japanese.

Sakaye and Noboru were devoted followers of the Tenrikyo Church, attending both the Tenrikyo Sacramento Church and the Tenrikyo Unity Church in Hayward, Calif. They would grow a variety of fruits, vegetables, plants and flowers around their home — including five Satsuma Mikan (tangerine) trees, a prolific lemon tree, gobo (burdock), myoga (Japanese ginger), cucumbers, Japanese eggplant, various beans, hoshigaki (dried persimmons) and the like. These were all generously given away to relatives, friends, churches and church members, their children and, at times, passersby.

As her husband Noboru’s wartime resistance behind a barbed wire concentration camp became publicly known in the 1990s — through local and national newspaper articles, books on both sides of the Pacific, a segment on NHK TV in Japan, and public ceremonies — Sakaye stood by him as he finally received recognition for his wartime stand on constitutional principles.

She lost her husband of 53 years on March 11, 2011, as the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami hit Japan.

Sakaye passed away after a long and fulfilling life nurturing many along the way with her trademark generosity and faith. She is deeply missed by her children, grandchildren, and all those who she touched.

Sakaye was predeceased by her parents Minoru and Fusako (Katayama) Yoshizawa, and sisters Shoko (Kazuhide) Furuhata and Himeyo (the late Hirato) Nishimaki.

She is survived by daughter Masako Carol Yasue of Nagoya, Japan; son Makoto Mark (Alice) Taguma of Mountain View, Calif.; daughters Mariko Sharon (Benjamin Kam) Taguma of Union City, Calif. and Machiko Gail (Andy) Irie of Torrance, Calif.; and son Kenji Glenn Taguma of San Francisco.

Surviving siblings include Fumiko (the late Ryusuke) Kasagi, Fujiko (Kaname) Nishizawa, Setsuko (Akira) Anezaki and Toshio (Toshiko) Yoshizawa. She is also survived by 10 grandchildren, numerous nieces and nephews and grandnieces/nephews, as well as a number of in-laws.

Final viewing will be held on Friday, July 26, 6 to 8 p.m., at Sacramento Memorial Lawn, 6100 Stockton Blvd. in Sacramento.

A memorial service will be held on Friday, Aug. 2, 1 p.m., at Sacramento Memorial Lawn, with burial to immediately follow. Reception afterward at the Tenrikyo Sacramento Church, 6361 25th St. (at 47th Ave.) in Sacramento.

In lieu of flowers, contributions in her memory can be made to the Nichi Bei Foundation, P.O. Box 15693, San Francisco, CA 94115.

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A ‘No Mottainai’ Incidental Environmentalist

Found an article I wrote for the 2008 Nichi Bei Times Green Issue, on how my mother reused just about everything. It was translated and reprinted in a Tenrikyo Church newsletter. Both are below, in remembrance of mom…


A ‘No Mottainai’ Incidental Environmentalist


Nichi Bei Times

I used to think that my mom was the cheapest person in the world. I cringed with embarrassment at the thought of taking greatly overused paper bags for my school lunch — you know, crinkled up to make the most abused dollar bill look crisp.

Then I started to realize that she just didn’t want to live beyond our means, a not-so-wealthy family of seven living in the countryside of West Sacramento. There were just too many mouths to feed in a single-income household, particularly when that single income depends on the seasonal harvest of tomatoes.

Perhaps her living through the scarcity of wartime Japan also informed mom’s desire to reuse just about any and everything.

All the times we had to carefully unwrap our Christmas presents, in the hopes of reusing the wrapping for yet another year. Today, to not be able to tear right into presents would spoil the fun for the three-year-olds.

Other items she saved: tofu containers, meat trays, wooden chopsticks, desiccant packages, boxes, paper bags, or the reused Clorox bottle hanging on the clothesline outside, used to store clothes pins. Also, she uses pie foil pans to hold the water for many plants.

Too many to list, much less remember.

In discussing this with staff, I’ve come to realize that a lot of things my mom does, at near age 77, allows her to do her part to reuse and thus save the environment in her own way.

She always discards eggshells in a special basket under the kitchen sink. I didn’t know what she really did with them, or the coffee grounds kept near the same area, but now I understand due to a Website that my brother Mark informed me about (

Through the Website, I learned that eggshells are 93 percent calcium carbonate and contain “about 1 percent nitrogen, about a half-percent phosphoric acid, and other trace elements that make them a practical fertilizer.”

My eldest sister Carol in Nagoya, Japan chimed in with her own eggshell tip: “I use the thin lining of the shell to put on my face to take out dirt which clogs the pores on my nose,” she wrote via e-mail. “You should see it when I peel it when it gets a little hard, there are a lot of dirty stuff on it!”

What about the coffee grinds? The same site provides some insight:

“Coffee grounds can be particularly useful in the garden, or, at the very least, added to your compost pile. Used coffee grounds contain about two percent nitrogen, about a third of a percent of phosphoric acid, and varying amounts of potash… Analysis of coffee grounds shows that they contain many minerals, including trace minerals, carbohydrates, sugars, some vitamins, and some caffeine. They are particularly useful on those plants for which you would purchase and apply an ‘acid food.’ such as blueberries, evergreens, azaleas, roses, camellias, avocados, and certain fruit trees.”

One thing that has provided my nieces and nephews hours of cheap fun are all of the kamaboko (fish cake) blocks that my mother saved. I still don’t see how we could have eaten that much kamaboko.

Nevertheless, those boards helped to build many wooden houses, and some awfully tall high-rises, which would come crashing down if one lacks engineering acumen.

According to my sister-in-law Alice in Mountain View, Calif., the kamaboko blocks even found their way to the San Jose Betsuin Japanese language school. “One year she gave us close to 200 kamaboko boards,” said Alice. “We spray-painted them shiny black, and brought them to Japanese school for all the kids to use for their cultural projects. (We used them for the base of the hina-ningyo displays and also the base of the koinobori).”

Alice recalled other reuse habits as well. “My favorite from mom — cut the top half off paper milk cartons and use the remaining as coasters for bottles,” she said.

Ah, I remember, like for the shoyu, rum and cooking oil bottles that had the propensity to dribble little streams of residue.

“She made pillow cases from rice sacks and used old newspaper to wrap veggies to give away,” Alice added.

I don’t think mom ever bought any chopsticks, really. She saves all of our chopsticks after we eat at a restaurant, and even takes the chopstick wrappers home to use as bookmarks!

“Those chopsticks she brings home (the cheaper ones) are used as kindling to start their fires,” reminded my sister Sharon. “I still collect those Styrofoam containers for mom to use for our bentos. Mom still rinses out Ziploc bags and plastic wrap to re-use, which I do too… she hangs the bags on the side of refrigerator for quick drying.”

One recent discovery added to mom’s reuse repertoire…She makes a lot of her coveted futomaki sushi every month for church, or on other occasions. Along the way, she came across a nifty packaging idea: using boxes from plastic wrap or aluminum foil to pack her beloved sushi rolls. How simple, yet ingenious! Her friends even donate their expended foil and wrap boxes.

So there you have it. My mother is no longer just the “cheap” daughter of a family of seven kids who tries to save pennies wherever she can by finding clever ways of reusing.

She has epitomized, to me, the cultural concept of not being “mottainai” (wasteful).

By coming up with ways to help reduce her carbon footprint — intentional or not — she has proven herself to be quite an environmentalist.

The above commentary appeared in the February 21-27, 2008 issue of the Nichi Bei Times.






母の溜め込んでいたかまぼこの板は、甥や姪たちに何時間もの楽しい時間を与えてくれました。それにしても僕たちは、どうやってあんなにたくさんのかまぼこを食べたのだろう? そのかまぼこ板を使ってたくさんの木の家や、上手に作らないと倒れてしまうものすごく高いビルを作ることができました。カリフォルニアのマウンテンビューに住む義姉のアリスによると、かまぼこ板たちはサンノゼ別院日本語学園でも使われたということです。「ある年にお義母さんに200個もの板をもらったのよ。それをスプレーで真っ黒に塗って子供たちの工作の雛人形やこいのぼりの台にしたの。」と教えてくれました。

アリスも母の再利用術を思い出すのに一役買ってくれました。「一番印象に残っているのは牛乳パックの下半分を使ってコースターにしたことかな。」 そうだった! しょうゆやラム酒、調理用油などたれて汚れやすいものの下に確かに敷いてあったのです。「お米の袋で枕のカバーを作ったり、古新聞で野菜を包んであげたりしたわね。」とアリスはつけ加えました。


最近母の再利用術のレパートリーが一つ増えました。母は毎月教会やその他の機会に、皆がほしがる太巻きをつくるのですが、その入れ物にラップやフォイルの入っていた箱を使うすばらしいアイデアを考えつきました。なんて簡単ですばらしいアイディアでしょう! 母の友達でさえもが使い終わったラップの箱をくれるのだそうです。



日米タイムズ 英文編集長


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