OBITUARY: Kazuko Tsuchiya

Kazuko Tsuchiya

Sept. 23, 1934 – April 13, 2021

TSUCHIYA, KAZUKO passed away on April 23, 2021 at the age of 86. She was born in Japan and completed her undergraduate study in economics at Aoyama Gakuen University in Tokyo. She came to the U.S. in 1957 with a plan to extend her study in Maryland for one year. Her English tutor in Japan introduced her to her brother, Takenori (Tak) Tsuchiya, who met her when she arrived in San Francisco. They fell in love and married after she completed her study. They were blessed with three daughters in quick succession. As Tak’s family operated a large rose growing nursery in San Leandro and although she was unaccustomed to labor, she worked hard in the field with her husband and hired workers.

She, along with Tak, became activists in rebuilding of the Japanese American community after the devastation of the forced internment of Japanese Americans during the World War II. Kazuko also advocated on behalf of the Japanese war brides, who were often rejected by both American and Japanese American communities. She helped establish a self-help Japanese women’s group, including the war brides, in 1971, naming it Himawarikai (Sunflower Association). The hope was that the group would not only survive, but also prosper like sunflowers in the adopted new country. She served as its president for many years and guided the group not only to be support to each other, but also to extend helping hands to elderly Japanese and other Japanese American groups. She also served on the board of the International Institute of East Bay, the sponsor organization for the newcomer group and a leading advocacy organization for immigrants in distress.

When her marriage ended in divorce and following the sale of the family nursery, she faced adversity with courage and resourcefulness. She worked in a variety of businesses, including jewelry sales, foreign student exchange support, Japanese language instruction and international real estate. In addition, Kazuko had a wide-ranging interest and hobbies. She took up car racing, flying lessons to obtain a pilot license, ballroom dancing, Haiku and Japanese essay writing, Sumie painting, jewelry making, and worked out regularly at the gym. She did it all with grace and style. Her enthusiasm for life was an inspiration for us all who worked with and knew her. We deeply mourn her passing. Kazuko is survived by her daughters, Anita Yuri Tsuchiya, Elena Nori Tsuchiya and Lisa Mari Tsuchiya, and a grandson, Jasper Takenori Tsuchiya Cook. A celebration of her life is being planned at a later time. In lieu of flowers, donation can be made to Himawarikai at P O Box 6428, Albany, CA 94706.

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