Yoshie Iwasaki, who stood against eminent domain, dies at 103

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Yoshie Iwasaki, who stood against the city’s eminent domain for several years, died on Oct. 4, 2012 at her West Sacramento home. She was 103.

Even in her advanced age, in recent months she was able to partake in family milestones such as a granddaughter’s mid-September wedding in Southern California, a family member told the Nichi Bei Weekly.

“She was going to a lot of events, even in her last months,” said daughter Jane Kosakura, who added that Iwasaki attended her great-granddaughter’s graduation from Lotus Preschool in San Jose’s Japantown in August. “She had dimples and she smiled a lot.”

In a 2009 article in the Nichi Bei Times, Rev. Bob Oshita, rinban of the Buddhist Church of Sacramento Betsuin, mentioned her “humility,” her ability to “endure,” and her “resilience of character.”

“Mrs. Iwasaki is one of those people everyone is happy to see,” said Oshita in the 2009 article. “When you see her, you smile. You want to go over and hug her. She is always positive, never complains. She is just a role model. Someone who has lived through the changes and challenges of life. I like to say that she is unassumingly elegant. She never seeks any attention. But she carries herself with such elegance.”

In that same article, Iwasaki, who was born on April 15, 1909, reflected upon her life at the century point.

“How long will I live?” she laughed. “I don’t know. I think I am ready to go. I have had a full, wonderful life.”

Her parents Kumagoro and Machi Takagi met in Hawai‘i and settled in Alameda, Calif., where they were founding members of the Buddhist Temple of Alameda. Kumagoro earned a living as a gardener.

She married Moichi “Nathan” Iwasaki, a farmer’s son who grew up in Freeport, Calif., in 1939. The family, including their son Richard, was uprooted from their Clarksburg, Yolo County farm and sent to the Tule Lake concentration camp near the California-Oregon border.

The West Sacramento school district, looking for a new high school site in 1992, threatened to take the Iwasaki land along Jefferson Boulevard — as well as that of nearby property owners — by eminent domain. But the then-83-year-old widow, who had previously been forcibly relocated during World War II, refused.

“She held out against them,” daughter Jane Kosakura said. “She had a strong determination.”

The school district came back, however, in 2002. Iwasaki and her half-dozen neighbors this time reluctantly gave in. She sold her 47 acres, but drew the line when it came to her own home. She was allowed to stay, and the new River City High School was built around her small slice of remaining property.

Iwasaki was predeceased by husband Nathan and son Richard. She is survived by daughters Phyllis Iwasaki and Jane (Morris) Kosakura, and daughter-in-law Gwen Iwasaki; grandchildren Ryan (Cheryl) Kosakura, Keith (Grace) Kosakura, Julie (Tony) Wang and Lisa Iwasaki; and great-granddaughters Kelli, Emi, and Miya Kosakura.

A memorial service honoring Iwasaki will be held on Sunday, Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. at the Sacramento Buddhist Church Betsuin, 2401 Riverside Blvd.

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