Remembering Rich Saito

Rich Saito. file photo

Rich Saito, a respected San Jose Japantown community member and retired San Jose Police Department lieutenant, passed away March 14.

“Rich is gone too soon and is being missed by everyone in Japantown,” Pam Yoshida, Japantown Community Congress of San Jose co-president, wrote in an e-mail to the Nichi Bei News.

The JCCsj shared in a Facebook post that, “It is with a heavy heart and tears, that (we) share the passing of Rich Saito. Rich (was) a JCCsj board member and the founder of the Japantown Prepared! program as well as a JAMsj volunteer and much more. Rich came to us as a retired SJPD officer and gave us skills to help make SJ Japantown safe.”

In the post, Saito’s son Paul Saito, said the “family of Rich Saito wanted to let you all know that Rich passed away peacefully last night. We’d like to thank everyone in the community for the friendship and fellowship that I know Rich experienced with all of you. We will hold services for Rich soon and we’ll be in touch once we have those details. Thank you all once again for being a part of Rich’s life.”

Yu-Ai-Kai Japanese American Senior Service of San Jose, which held its 50th anniversary gala March 16, honored Saito with a slideshow and remarks from Jane Kawasaki, the organization’s board president.

“Rich was ‘Mr. Japantown,’ someone who truly exemplified community spirit. He was at every event, bringing the old school San Jose Police Department squad car,” Kawasaki remarked.

Kawasaki mentioned Saito “organized CPR classes for local organizations,” and he was “the community’s bridge to the San Jose Police Department for many years.” She added that following the spikes of anti-Asian hate that arose earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, he “quickly recruited and organized safety patrols to give seniors and the community a peace of mind.”

Tamiko Rast, the Japantown Business Association president, wrote in an e-mail to the Nichi Bei News that Saito’s “contribution to the community was simply immeasurable and it’ll take some time before we fully process his absence. He was here for every event and occasion, and so many days in between, with his warm smile and encouraging disposition. He brought positive energy with him and a proactive attitude to every issue we faced.”

“We can only continue caring for the Japantown and the greater San Jose community in the same way he did to honor his remarkable legacy,” Rast wrote.

The Association of Retired San Jose Police Officers & Firefighters will hold a celebration of life for Saito May 5 from 3 to 5 p.m. at the San Jose Police Officers Association Hall at 1151 N 4th St. in San Jose. For more information, visit

Tomo Hirai contributed to this article.

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