July 4, 1929 - June 9, 2020
On June 9, 2020, Akio Fujinaga passed away peacefully at his home in Albany, California in the company of family. He was a few weeks away from his 91st birthday.
Akio's life was historical from the beginning. As the nation celebrated its birthday on July 4, 1929, he was born to Sansuke and Masano Fujinaga in San Francisco, California. After living the first 9 years of his life in the California Bay Area, he was taken to Yanai, Japan and adopted by his uncle and aunt, Mr. and Mrs. Sonoshin Kunishige. Shortly after, World War II began and he spent the remainder of his childhood in wartime Japan, witnessing the first atomic weapon used in Hiroshima.
After World War II, he returned to the United States, where he enrolled in school and later enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving during the Korean War. Akio was fortunate enough to be stationed in Tokyo, Japan, where he served under General MacArthur. Akio would go on to join the U.S. Army Reserves and would eventually work his way up to the rank of Master Sergeant. Akio was tremendously proud of his military service. While in the U.S. Army Reserves, he received a degree in Economics from Armstrong College, after which he worked for the Federal Government at Oakland Army Base. He retired at 65.
In retirement, Akio remained a pillar of his community. He served as the President of the Yamaguchi Kenjinkai, a Bay Area social club of people originally from Yamaguchi Prefecture in Japan. He also enjoyed generously giving to everyone around him. One of his favorite activities was giving bread to anyone with whom he came into contact, from neighbors to friends to family. He was also an active member of Sakura-Kai and would bring Japanese newspapers for senior citizens who could not get the newspaper on their own.
Akio was known for his friendliness and humor. He would often meet strangers and, within minutes, they would be good friends. He loved to make jokes and tell funny stories. He will always be remembered for his ability to give everyone a good laugh.
Akio also enjoyed a number of hobbies and passions. He loved attending activities at the North Berkeley Nikkei Senior Center. He developed a passion for ballroom dancing and enjoyed going bowling every Friday with his friend, Norbert. Later in life, Akio traveled the world with his wife, children, and grandchildren, including many cruises and visits to Alaska, Hawaii, Mexico, Canada, and Europe. But his favorite place to visit was always Japan, which he often referred to as "the most beautiful place in the world". When at home, he enjoyed reading the newspaper, watching samurai movies, and tuning in to Sumo tournaments on television. He never passed an opportunity to enjoy a good hamburger and fries or a snack of ice cream or potato chips. Above all, he cherished the moments that he spent with his family.
Akio was a beloved husband, father, and grandfather. Family meant everything to him. In December of 1959, he married his wife, Chiyoko, in Japan. They settled in Albany, CA where they raised their three children. They were married 60 years. He taught his children the value of education and instilled in them a work ethic that called for putting their all into every endeavor. His grandchildren, who called him "Jichan" ("Grandfather" in Japanese), adored him. Some of his fondest memories were from family trips to Tahoe and Santa Cruz where he spent time playing cards with his grandchildren and enjoying family meals and outings.
Akio is survived by his loving wife of 60 years, Chiyoko, who misses him dearly. He is lovingly remembered by his children Jimmy, Tommy, and Marjorie and their spouses Joanne, Eva, and Hiro as well as his 6 grandchildren Jason, Josh, Devin, Peyton, Justin, and Evan.
Ji-chan, we miss you and your stories and the laughter you brought us. You will forever live with us in our hearts.
A memorial service will be held on July 3, 2020 at 2pm at Sunset Mausoleum 101 Colusa Avenue at Fairmont, El Cerrito, CA 94530. View the online memorial for Akio Fujinaga