From the Yamato Colony to ‘Mr. YMCA’



As told to Doug Nakashima, edited by Craig Altschul ed. (Chicago: Marshall Jones, 2010, 67 pp., $24.95, paperback)

This must be the season for memoirs, and “Pearls: The Fred Y. Hoshiyama Story” is another wonderful addition to “telling” the story of Nisei accomplishments that are often muted or understated out of modesty.

Hoshiyama’s story begins with his birth at the Yamato Colony in Livingston, Calif. that was started by Nichi Bei Shimbun Publisher Kyutaro Abiko and other Issei who formed the first Japanese YMCA in San Francisco. He relates how he lost his father at the age of 8 while his mother tried to farm, feed, and take care of the six children without a man in the house.

Eventually, Fred and his family moved to San Francisco in 1929 with generous help from the Abikos and others. There, he is introduced to the YMCA and all its activities, and this led to a lifelong commitment to the organization and its movement.

Hoshiyama achieved an associate’s degree from San Francisco City College and graduated with honors from the University of California, Berkeley. He then applied to and was accepted in the master’s program for social work and was told by the dean, “Fred, there is no job out there for Japanese Americans with master’s and you will be wasting your time.” On the eve of World War II, he was offered the job as Boys Work Secretary at the Japanese YMCA, which he took.

Hoshiyama’s World War II experiences began with his forced removal to the Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno, Calif. and then on to the Topaz (Central Utah) concentration camp. Hoshiyama immediately began thinking about how he could be of service to his fellow inmates. He and others began what eventually turned into a full-service YMCA at Tanforan, and he continued to serve his fellow inmates after arriving at Topaz. He then applied to the National Nisei Student Relocation Project and ended up at Springfield College to finish his master’s degree.

But even with a master’s degree in hand, Hoshiyama faced denial after denial in searching for a job. He decided to take a detour to Yale Divinity School for a year when he received a job offer in Hawai‘i. Hoshiyama jumped at the chance of serving again and a paying job.

Hawai‘i was a wonderful opportunity for him; however, he gets a desperate letter asking him to set up a Japanese YMCA in San Francisco. After much thought, he returned “home” in 1947 to help open the Japantown branch. He realized that the old neighborhood had changed, with a large population of African Americans in the area. Ahead of his time, he decided that a community-based YMCA was needed and not just a Japanese YMCA.

Hoshiyama’s dedication and highly effective executive style landed him even more YMCAs in San Francisco to either open, manage, and/or consolidate branches. His talents vaulted him first to the regional and ultimately to the national level of the YMCA.

This is wonderful story of a Nisei born at the Yamato Colony with its roots in young Issei YMCAers of San Francisco to become, decades later, “Mr. YMCA,” spreading the philosophy of his “Pearls of Learning” all across the United States.

One hundred percent of the book sale proceeds go to the Fred Y. Hoshiyama Scholarship Fund.

One response to “From the Yamato Colony to ‘Mr. YMCA’”

  1. Stanley Furuta Avatar
    Stanley Furuta

    When am I going to receive “Pearls: The Fred Hoshiyama Story”? I ordered this book on 8/20/2011 at 2:24 PM. My Confirmation Number is 20101784E713. I was already charged for this book.
    Reference # VTHE7CD92D14

    I will be awaiting your reply.

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