Hiroshi Yamaguchi, who served as president of Japanese Community Pioneer Center in Los Angeles and was active in many other community organizations, passed away due to an aortic aneurysm on Dec. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Panorama City. He was 95.

Services will be private. A public celebration of life will be held after the coronavirus pandemic passes.

Born in 1925 in Visalia, Calif., Yamaguchi was sent by his parents to live with his aunt in the family hometown of Kagoshima, Japan. He stayed there from the ages of 8 to 23, which overlapped with World War II. After returning to the U.S., he later graduated from Stanford University and was employed as an engineer in the aerospace industry. He mentored many technicians who came from Japan and facilitated the development of various types of advanced technology in Japan.

Hiroshi Yamaguchi

In 1966, he helped to establish Homecast, a radio broadcast company. It was the first Japanese-language media company in the U.S., and he became the company’s representative director and vice president. The company provided news and entertainment to the Japanese community, and later developed into a television broadcast company, contributing to the growth of Japanese community media.

In 1992, Yamaguchi was involved in the establishment of Fax Mainichi, a U.S. subsidiary of Mainichi Newspaper, and served as its president and CEO until 2001. At the time, it took days for newspapers to be delivered from Japan and the Internet was not yet in widespread use, so the fax machine ensured the timely transmission of news from Japan.

After retirement, he devoted his time to a multitude of community activities, serving as president of Nanka Kagoshima Kenjin Kai, vice president of Nanka Kenjin Kai Kyogi Kai, and vice chair of the Southern California Japanese Chamber of Commerce, among other positions.

At the Pioneer Center, which provides social services to senior citizens in Little Tokyo, he became vice president in 2004 and president from 2006 to 2009. In response to such challenges as the aging of the community and the worsening U.S. economy, his efforts in fundraising and corporate giving had a major impact on the welfare of Japanese and Japanese American seniors.

Yamaguchi was also a student of Japanese culture and head of the Southern California branch of the Ogasawara-ryu school of tea ceremony.

A mild-mannered but influential man, Yamaguchi focused on teaching younger generations and stressed the importance of education. For the educational advancement of the children of Kagoshima Kenjin Kai members, he led the Kagoshima Foundation and substantially funded a scholarship for annual youth trips to Kagoshima.

In 2009, for his dedication and tireless work on behalf of seniors, Yamaguchi received the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Rays, from the Japanese government.

Pioneer Center President Haruo Takehana said, “The board received his advice at every meeting. He contributed greatly to the development of the Pioneer Center and the Nikkei community. He and his wife Yoshiko were such a happily married couple. He had a kind and considerate personality, and was an example to us all.”

Yamaguchi is survived by his wife Yoshiko and two children, Ken and June.

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  1. As a son in law, Hiroshi always brought his gentle, and peaceful demeanor to every family event I was part of for over 20 years. He and his wonderful wife, and “my mom” came up to Bellevue, WA just weeks after their daughter, my wife at the time, gave birth to twin sons, Hiroshi and Yoshiko’s Grandchildren #3 and #4. Hiroshi was SO smart and very soft spoken. I know he had MANY experiences in Japan, and also mixed in were many challenges he faced and endured being here in the U. S. with the many camps the government created. Still, this man never showed any sign of anger, resentment or hatred. I remember the 1st time I knocked on the door to pick up my date, June. Hiroshi came to the door while holding the outstretched leash attached to a giant 120 pound Malamute. Wow, I said while stepping backward, not knowing if I’d fall at the edge of the step! He introduced himself with a warm and welcome presence, “hello, I am June’s father”. Still a bit of adrenaline running though me, I shook his hand and bowed. Being a student of Ryu Kyu Kempo and it’s culture for many years, I was not “new” to showing respect. Hiroshi always silently demanded respect. Wasn’t optional, it was earned even unsaid. Knowing this family since 1987, I learned the true meaning of giving, even though the kitchen refrigerator overwhelmingly smelled of mackerel or herring! :/. Even though many painful years have gone by for me, away from this family, I KNOW our beautiful twin boys are in “loving arms”, and they are definitely around some of the most intelligent people our creator blessed us all with.
    To Hiroshis loved ones, I am deeply sorry for the loss of your patriarch. He did so much for every single person he knew and didn’t know. He has been and will continue being missed by this man, Michael Mark… Father of Dylan and Ryan, former husband of Junko, my true best and loyal friend I miss dearly.
    May God Keep and continue Blessing you and us all while we celebrate Hiroshi’s life as he has passed onto his next chapter. Peace be with you always.
    My love to you all…. ALL.
    With sincere grief, sadness, and LOVE,
    Michael/ Dad/Son