OBITUARY: Emiko Shinagawa

Emiko Shinagawa

SHINAGAWA, EMIKO, entered into Nirvana at home on Sunday, February 25, 2018 at the age of 88 with her family by her side. “Emi” was born January 7, 1930 in Berkeley, California to parents Shizuo and Kimiyo Sasaki (from Japan), and grew up with older brother Ichiro and younger sister Sachiko. The Sasaki family’s life was interrupted December 7, 1941 when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. As a community leader, Shizuo Sasaki was arrested by the FBI in February 1942 and transferred to Bismarck, North Dakota. In May 1942, Kimiyo and her three children were evacuated to the Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno, CA, and four months later transferred by train to the Topaz War Relocation Center in Topaz, UT where they were interned until their release to San Francisco in October 1945. Five months after the war ended, Shizuo remained imprisoned for “administrative reasons” until he was released to join his family in February 1946.

After the war Emi worked as a school girl in San Francisco, while continuing her education at Balboa High School. She graduated cum laude with an Associate of Arts degree from Lux College for Women (San Francisco), and began working as a secretary at the Irwin Memorial Blood Bank (IMBB) in 1950. Emi met her future husband in February 1951 at a Young Buddhist Association dance in San Jose, CA. On November 23, 1952, she married John Tetsuomi Shinagawa at the Berkeley Higashi Honganji Temple, where she remained a life-long member. During their near-50-year marriage, Emi and John raised four children in Richmond, CA, and were active volunteers in civic and social justice organizations, including the Japanese American Citizens League—Contra Costa Chapter (Lifetime Members), Sakura-Kai Senior Center, Japanese American Services of the East Bay (now J-SEI), and the San Francisco Nikkei Lions Club.

Emi retired as Administrative Director in 1982 after 32 years with IMBB, and established Emi Enterprises, selling hand-crafted calligraphy, greeting cards and Washi Ningyo. In January 2002 John and Emi moved to Hercules, CA, where Emi stayed following John’s June 2002 death. She volunteered with Opportunity West, managing personal finances of seniors unable to do so themselves, and served as co-Trustee of the Bernice M. Hemphill Charitable Trust awarding grants to San Francisco Bay Area agencies serving needy aged. Emi moved to Milpitas, CA in 2010 to be closer to her 3 sons in San Jose, and joined Yu-Ai Kai Japanese-American Community Senior Service, attending educational forums and taking Taiko, Hula and Memoir Writing classes. Emi loved to travel, enjoyed Mahjong, puzzles, playing Bingo and penny slots at the casinos and pinochle with her sister Sachi and brother-in-law Hiro, and spending time with her beloved dog Mitzy, whom she adopted in October 2015.

Emi is survived by her children Robert, Susan (Rob Norberg), Arthur (Robin), and James; grandchildren Richard, Austin, Courtney, Michael, Galadriel and Claire; great grandsons Joel and Cooper; sister Sachiko (Hiro) Ando, and many nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband John, grandson Thomas, and brother and sister-in-law Ichiro and Fumiko Sasaki.

Emi’s memorial service was held at the San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin on March 8, 2018. Her ashes will be interred next to her husband, John, at the Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, CA on April 14th. In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations be made in Emi’s memory to Yu-Ai Kai Japanese-American Community Senior Service, 588 N. 4th Street, San Jose, CA 95112-5311, http://yuaikai.org.

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