Photojournalist Kaz Arai to Be Remembered in SF Japantown

BASEBALL FAN — Kazuyoshi Arai at Lefty O’Doul’s at Union Square, one of his favorite hangouts. photo courtesy of Atsuko Saito

BASEBALL FAN — Kazuyoshi Arai at Lefty O’Doul’s at Union Square, one of his favorite hangouts. photo courtesy of Atsuko Saito

A memorial gathering for Kazuyoshi Arai, former photographer for the Hokubei Mainichi, will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 19, at 5 p.m. at Toraya Restaurant, 1734 Post St. in San Francisco’s Japantown.

Arai, who worked for the Hokubei in the late 1980s and early 1990s, died on Sept. 4, 2011 in Tomakomai, Hokkaido. Oct. 20 would have been his 56th birthday. He is survived by his wife, Eriko, and daughter, Haruna.

As a photojournalist, he covered everything from professional sports to crime scenes. One of his biggest assignments was shooting the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, including collapsed buildings and a huge fire in the Marina district and the damaged Bay Bridge.

His work can be seen in a 1995 children’s book, “Konnichiwa! I Am a Japanese American Girl” by Tricia Brown, which followed Lauren Kamiya and her family as they prepared for the Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival.

Arai was involved in the Fresno-based Nisei Baseball Research Project, which held a series of events honoring players from the prewar, wartime and postwar Japanese American leagues. Chris Hirano, formerly of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California, called him “truly a fan and historian of the game.”

Masao Fujita of Fujita World Travel in San Francisco recalled playing baseball with Arai as members of the Hokubei Mainichi Tigers, part of the Northern California Nanshiki Baseball League. “He devoted his own time … taking all the pictures of the games for all the teams and covered our baseball game actions every week for our Japanese community, almost 20 years ago,” Fujita said.

After returning to Japan, Arai worked for various sports magazines and frequently returned to the Bay Area to cover major events, including Super Bowl and World Series games as well as last year’s celebration of the 150th anniversary of U.S.-Japan relations. His writings (in Japanese) and recent examples of his work can be found on his blog, http://blogs.yahoo.co.jp/kzsports00.

According to family and friends, he was hospitalized after one of his trips to the U.S. and diagnosed with stomach cancer, which subsequently spread to his lungs and finally his brain. Services were held three days after his death.

Arai’s friends who are still in the Bay Area will gather to reminisce and pay tribute to him. To RSVP, contact Atsuko Saito at alohafromako@aol.com.

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