In Memory of Hats Aizawa

Hats_AizawaOur dear friend Hatsuro “Hats” Aizawa passed away on October 20, 2013. Hats was a founding board member of the San Francisco Japantown Foundation. Hats and his wife Amey were among the original major donors that helped establish the Japantown Foundation.

We express our deepest and heartfelt condolences to Amey and the Aizawa family. Hats will be sorely missed.

Hats was born in 1924 on Post Street between Laguna and Buchanan Streets and lived there until he was 17. He and Amey have spent a lifetime serving Japantown and the Japanese American community through his leadership of numerous organizations.

As President of Aizawa Associates and later Aizawa & Furuta, Hats ran his own advertising and graphic art business for over 45 years. He served 25 years on the Japan Society of Northern California Board of Directors, and was also a board member and vice president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California, and a member of the San Francisco-Osaka Sister City Committee.

He was a Commissioner and later Trustee of the Asian Art Museum from 1988 to 2008.

In recognition of Mr. Aizawa’s many contributions, the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco presented him with the Foreign Minister’s Commendation in 2008.

In 2011, the Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco conferred on Hats the Order of Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, one of the Japanese government’s highest honors.

UPDATE NOV. 3, 2013 – The following text is from an obituary published by the Nichi Bei Weekly and reproduced here by permission.

S.F. Japantown community leader Hats Aizawa dies

Nichi Bei Weekly Report
October 31, 2013

Longtime San Francisco Japanese American community leader and philanthropist Hatsuro “Hats” Aizawa passed away Oct. 20. He was 89.

Aizawa was born Aug. 26, 1924, and raised in San Francisco’s Japantown, according to the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California.

Aizawa was a student at Lowell High School, when he and his family were incarcerated at the Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno, Calif. and the Topaz (Central Utah) concentration camp during World War II.

He later earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from University of California at Berkeley.

Aizawa later opened Aizawa & Furuta, an advertising company.

He held numerous community leadership positions, serving on the boards of the Japan Society of Northern California, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce of Northern California and the San Francisco-Osaka Sister City Association.

Aizawa served as a co-chair of the Japantown Centennial steering committee, which planned events to celebrate the 100th anniversary of San Francisco’s Japantown in 2006.

Aizawa was a founding member of the San Francisco Japantown Foundation, and along with his wife Amey, were among the original major donors that helped establish it.

“Many of the Nisei generation helped build the community we now live in but they normally did it in a very quiet manner. Hats Aizawa was no exception but he did in a very visible way,” Allen Okamoto, who served on the San Francisco Japantown Foundation board with Aizawa, said in an e-mail.

“Hats contributed not only his time and talent but was a major contributor to many community organizations. He volunteered with a smile and great passion. He was also (among) the most friendly and popular persons I have known,” said Okamoto, who, along with Aizawa, were among the co-chairs of the San Francisco-Osaka Sister City Association.

Aizawa also served as honorary co-chair of the Nihonmachi Little Friends capital campaign.

“Hats left a wonderful legacy to the community and will always be remembered for his dignified leadership and philanthropy. His shoes will certainly be hard to fill, but he will remain a role model at the highest level for all of us to try to follow,” NLF Executive Director Cathy Inamasu said in an e-mail.

“NLF feels so blessed to have had him as an honorary co-chair of our first capital campaign, and to have had his encouragement, advice and generous support through the years. Hats felt that the children are the future of our community, and we will maintain that vision as we continue our work with families,” she added.

Aizawa was a member of the city’s Asian Art Commission and later a trustee of the Asian Art Museum from 1988 to 2008.

The Consulate General of Japan in San Francisco presented him with the Foreign Minister’s Commendation in 2008, and the Order of Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, one of the Japanese government’s highest honors, in 2011.

Aizawa’s role in establishing the San Francisco Japantown Foundation “illustrates that Hats had one foot firmly rooted in the Japanese American community and humble beginnings, and the other foot firmly planted to the future and his legacy to preserve San Francisco Japantown for years to come,” president Donald K. Tamaki said in an updated version of the remarks he shared Dec. 11, 2011 at then Consul General of Japan in San Francisco Hiroshi Inomata’s residence, when Aizawa was presented with a kunsho.

According to the JCCCNC, Aizawa is survived by his wife Amey, brother Seiji (Vivian) and sister Kashiwa (George) Hatamiya as well as nieces, nephews and grandnieces and grandnephews.

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