Arthur Isamu Shibayama
June 6, 1930-July 31, 2018
Resident of San Jose
Art Shibayama's radiant smile and warm, trustworthy manner made him a perfect fit as the owner of a neighborhood business that depended on loyal customers. It also made him the ideal companion for his wife of 63 years, Betty, and a perfect role model for his children, Bekki and Brian. Shibayama passed away on July 31 in San Jose after a short illness, surrounded by his beloved family.
A longtime resident of the South Bay, family and friends would describe him as a sports lover who was an exceptional softball pitcher and bowler. His hobbies covered a surprising variety of interests, including ballroom dancing, singing Japanese songs, hunting for matsutake mushrooms, making hoshigaki (Japanese dried persimmons) and golfing. He loved travels to Hawaii and Las Vegas. Always, he welcomed the company of visitors at his home.
As content as his later years looked, Shibayama had a tumultuous adolescence that changed the course of his life at age 13 in Lima, Peru. The forced removal of his family and other Japanese Peruvians from their home and country during World War II led to Shibayama's enduring legacy: his activism in seeking justice for his family and the thousands of others who were seized from their homes and livelihoods in Latin America. They were detained in their homeland, then deported and imprisoned in internment camps in the U.S, intended to be used in prisoner of war exchanges with Japan.
Art Shibayama was one of the leaders in the movement to shed light on the human rights violations that were sanctioned by the U.S. almost 75 years ago at a time when racism was directed at anyone of Japanese descent. Shibayama was at first a quiet supporter of a movement demanding that this dark chapter in American history be properly recorded as part of an education curriculum and seeking reparations, similar to what was received by surviving Japanese-American internees. In later years, he became a passionate activist, was featured in the documentary "Hidden Internment: The Art Shibayama Story" and was recognized for his work with numerous awards, including the 2006 Dr. Clifford Uyeda Peace and Humanitarian Award.
In 2017, Shibayama headed to Washington, D.C. to testify before an international human rights commission and publicly spoke at several South Bay events. He was determined that the injustices that the Japanese Latin Americans endured not be forgotten, especially with a new wave of intolerance and increasing concern for racial profiling of others in the U.S.
While the public saw his fiery stand for justice, privately Shibayama was a soft-spoken and gentle man. He was a loving husband and father and a respected mechanic and businessman who was the face behind Shiba's Shell Service in San Jose for 16 years. He retired in 1988, but was delighted that former customers still recognized him when he was out and about in Willow Glen.
Shibayama met the former Betty Morita at the Bowlium in Chicago in 1949. They became engaged in 1952, just before he was sent overseas to serve in the U.S. Army. Upon his return, they were married in a candlelight service at a Presbyterian church in Chicago in 1955. Shibayama is survived by Betty and their children, Bekki and Brian and his brothers, Ken, Tac and George and his sister, Rose Nishimura. He was preceded in death by his parents, Yuzo and Tatsue Shibayama and his sisters, Fusa Sumimoto, Susan Hikida and Kazuko Shibayama.
A Celebration of Life will be held at Wesley United Methodist Church of San Jose on Saturday, August 25th at 2:00pm. Casual attire of favorite golf shirt or Hawaiian shirt is encouraged. View the online memorial for Arthur Isamu Shibayama