When the SF Japantown Foundation first announced its matching fund campaign to raise funds to help Japantown nonprofit organizations overcome the financial hardship they are facing because of the COVID19 crisis, one of the first donors to come to the rescue was Yuichi Yamakawa, President of Kintetsu Enterprises Co. of America. Mr. Yamakawa remains our largest donor of this campaign.
Now residing in Southern California, Mr. Yamakawa was transferred to San Francisco from his head office in Japan and served as Kintetsu’s Controller here from 1982-1988. Even though it has been over 32 years since his transfer to SF, he continues to hold fond memories of his experience here and thus generously wrote a personal check of $20,000 without any hesitation.
“When I worked in San Francisco, I lived on 6th Avenue in the Sunset District, and my daughter was born there in 1986. At that time, the interest rates were very high and the unions were very strong so running the hotel was quite a challenge. However, our company made a commitment in the 1950s to make an investment in San Francisco even though we were not able to make a profit for the first 30 years here and therefore we had to do the best we could have given the external circumstances that we faced.
I was born during the baby boomer era where we learned about the Flower Power movement in San Francisco so I was excited about my transfer to SF.
During my time there, I met many Taisho born people [persons born between 1912-1925] including Jack Hirose, one of the founding members of the SF Japantown Foundation. It was a great experience getting to know them and working with them. My grandfather was a teacher so I think I learned about Japanese Americans and their history before moving to the US but to actually have an opportunity to work with them and attend their events was something that I will always remember and look fondly upon.
Japantown was very active at that time with many activities. All of my weekends were filled with Japantown related events. There was Sakura Matsuri; activities planned by the Japantown Merchants Association; summer and fall festivals, and the yearly mochi pounding at New Years where I was named the “man of physical labor” because I was the youngest staff member and was often required to participate in manual labor work. I even remember that I had to wear a Santa Claus suit throughout the entire month of December in 1983!
I want to see SF Japantown continue to exist for the future. Even though our company no longer has property in Japantown, I believe it is still important to support it and I thank the community for the wonderful memories and experiences it has provided me.”
Thank you Mr. Yamakawa, both for your generous support and your wonderful reflections on your experience in Japantown and how it is important for us to keep our community alive!