Kimi Yokota was born in 1921 in Tokyo, Japan where she lived until her mid-thirties. After agreeing to an arranged marriage with an older Japanese gentleman living in the U.S. she traveled to Chicago and there lived until her death following sudden and tragic complications from a stroke in 1995.
Kimi's husband had long since passed away by the time I met her as a college student in 1986. Through my friendship with Japanese students, I soon became a regular at Kimi's home. She gave me my first Japanese language primer which I continue to use to this day and was a primary catalyst in my decision to delve into Japanese culture. (I watched my first Japanese movie at her home.) She taught me how to make maki-zushi. Everyone, including the other little Japanese women, envied her skill at making Saba nigiri zushi (the taste of which I still remember). With her I watched my first Kohaku. She told me vivid stories of her childhood memories of the firebombs falling on Tokyo "like fireworks". Through her I was introduced to core portions of Chicago's Japanese community -- ties I still keep.
Kimi was cremated and buried alongside her husband in Montrose Cemetery on the north side of Chicago. Angels looking down probably see it like this.
I was one of the 5 people including the clergy present at her burial. I literally buried her with the shovel in my hand. I laid her to rest.
Kimi left behind no immediate family, no children -- only a very deep and lasting impression on the lives of those who knew her. She left me a few cassette tapes and a couple albums of captionless photos which seem to speak volumes to me, albeit silently. Perhaps they will speak to you too.
Next time you are in Chicago, I'm sure she would appreciate your visit. Just please bow very deeply.
Kimiko Yokota (born 1921 in Tokyo Japan; died 1995 in Chicago)
You will not fade from our memory. And yes, we miss you greatly.