Mrs. Etsuko Yamashita

Funeral services for Mrs. Etsuko Arikawa Yamashita, 93, Moneta, Ca.-born Nisei and long-time resident of Gardena, who passed away peacefully surrounded by her immediate family on July 15 at the Kei-Ai South Bay Healthcare Center, will be held on Thursday, July 25, at 11:30 a.m. at Gardena Buddhist Church,
1517 W. 166th St., Gardena, Ca.

She is survived by her loving family: daughter Christine “Qris” (Chris Komai) Yamashita; sons George (Julie) Yamashita and Richard (Joyce) Yamashita; grandsons Andy, Sam and Mark Yamashita; and many nieces, nephews and relatives.

Etsuko was the eldest daughter of Eikichi and Haru Arikawa. In 1938, her parents sent her to Japan to finish her education, but she could not return home because of World War II. She was denied use of her passport after she had voted in a general election in Japan in 1946, which the State Dept. claimed invalidated her U.S. citizenship.

Etsuko’s younger sister Mary helped to obtain the services of E.W. Wirin, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who filed suit on behalf of Etsuko and Miyoko Tsunashima against the Secretary of State. In 1949, a judge ruled that Etsuko and Miyoko had voted in an election to adopt the new Japanese constitution only after General Douglas MacArthur had encouraged more women to vote. The judge ruled that Etsuko and 6,000 other Nisei Kibei were entitled to return to America as U.S. citizens.

In 1951, Etsuko married Sakan Sam Yamashita and the couple had three children. In addition to working as a homemaker, she volunteered at the Gardena Buddhist Church, joining the Matrons and playing the organ for services. She also taught Japanese language and pre-school classes and actively supported her children’s activities in Scouting. Etsuko had a great love of music, which she encouraged in her children and grandchildren.

The family requests in lieu of flowers to please make donations to the Gardena Buddhist Church or to your favorite charitable organization in memory of Mrs. Etsuko Yamashita. (213) 626-0441