Henry Hifumi Fujiura 1919-2005

Henry Fujiura, born on May 31st, 1919, was the first child of Itashiro and Osano Fujiura, who had arrived as farmer-immigrants; Itashiro in 1899 and Osano a few years later.  At the time of Henry’s birth, Itashiro was a dairy farmer in Calexico, a small town on the border of California and Mexicali.  Two sisters were born soon after, Kikue and Chiyoko. 

Henry was drafted for military service from Poston and entered counterintelligence training (MIS). He left for Japan from Seattle on the USS General Pope in February of 1946 and arrived in Yokohama two weeks later as Special Agent 4639 of the 441st Counter Intelligence Corps Detachment of the United States Army Forces, Pacific, part of the intelligence infrastructure for the occupation of Japan.  

Married to Gladys Otsuka before his posting in Japan, they settled into the Hyde Park neighborhood after discharge.  He worked in auto repair shops and in the early 1950s he and Gladys began their own business, Superior Auto Service, on Chicago’s south side.  In their first year of operation, the net profit was $1,517.95.

Natsumatsuri 1999

Deeply committed to the growing Japanese-American community in Chicago, he devoted himself to the Buddhist Temple of Chicago and other key Nisei organizations in the Chicago area, in particular the American Legion Nisei Post No. 1183, JASC and the JACL.  Through the decades he served many different roles, from Post Commander to Committee Chairs to Association Presidents. 

American Legion Nisei Post 1183 meeting at BTC 1960s

He was a horrible public speaker but loved to do lay talks at BTC Sunday services. One of his talks about a 1971 fishing trip typlified Henry. On this trip Henry arranged to stay an extra day after his friend returned to Chicago.  As he was preparing his boat an elderly woman approached him and asked if he were going out on the lake alone, and if so, could her husband join him.  The elderly man could not do it himself, and he had no one to go with. Henry was happy to.  According to Henry, as soon as they dropped anchor, the old man caught a large Northern Pike and in the next moment, Henry got one as well.  In short order the two of them had caught their limit of 10.  Heading back for lunch, the two of them caused a great deal of excitement at the resort because no one was catching anything, anywhere. The old man was so happy that the resort owner winked and suggested that the warden would somehow overlook the limit. Henry and the old man went out a second time and then a third time that day and caught over 30 large Northern Pikes, about 175 pounds of fish.  The old man said it was one of the finest days of his life.  In telling that story, Henry referred to a Buddhist saying — “if we speak or act with a pure thought, happiness will follow like a shadow that never leaves us.”  He always referred to this fish story and the simple act of sharing his boat as, “a shadow that never left him.”  That was Henry. He left thousands of shadows that will never leave us.