MUTSUKO IKUTA, 97, died December 8, 2022. She was a Nisei born in Fresno, California to the late Torakichi and Ume (Negishi) Ikuta who emigrated from Japan in 1899 and 1906, respectively, the latter just days before the great San Francisco earthquake.
She was the youngest of eight children, Shizuko “Pearl” (Toshio Yamashita), Fumiko “Ruby,” Shinichiro “George” (Shigeko “Louise” Sakamoto), Seijiro “Frank” (Yoshiko Kajita), Saburo “Jack” (Aiko Sasaki), Alice (Fredrick Scholz), and Teruko, all by whom she was predeceased. She was also predeceased by nephew and niece Ruichi (Alice Kawamura) and Tamiko Yamashita.
Like many Nisei, she lived between the traditional Japanese values of her immigrant parents and the more Western values of 20th century America.
The course of her life was forever altered by World War II. At age 17, after graduating in a special ceremony for the Japanese students , she rushed to the train to join her family as they were forcibly evacuated from their home in Reedley, CA and sent to a concentration camp in Poston, AZ while her brothers “Frank” and “Jack” served in the US Army.
On July 4, 1943, along with her parents, Alice, and Teruko, she resettled in Cleveland, where she and her parents worked as domestic servants for Dr. James Gardner, considered the “grandfather of neurosurgery in Ohio,” and his family in Cleveland Heights. After the war, “Pearl” and “Jack” returned to Reedley, while “Frank” joined the Cleveland branch of the family.
She graduated from Cleveland College, now part of Case Western, where she majored in business. She dedicated her professional life to managing the office for the Russel V. Faulks company.
Like her sister and many other Nisei of her era who remained in the Midwestern diaspora, she never married or had children. She traveled with her sister to Hawai’i, Alaska, Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Maine, Washington, DC, Boston, New York, and San Francisco, and made many visits to see her family in California.
In California, she is survived by nieces Satoko (Harry Kim) and Keiko Yamashita (Mac Nishimoto), nephews George (Aileen Nakamura), Dennis (Denice Dugan), and Frank (Susie Perez); great-nieces and nephews Laurie (Matt Monarres), Danielle (Wilbur Hightower), Deric (Brooke Bennett), Denae (George Rodriguez), and Jaclyn, Joseph, Luke, and Allie Ikuta. She is also survived by great-grand nephews and nieces Monte, Kenny, Jerry, and Victoria Kim; Janice (Henry Kuwahara), Paul, and Karen Yamashita; Shannon Kim; Nicki Rodriguez; Vance, Amber, and Angela Kim; Connor, Rory, and Emilia Rodriguez; Alexandra, Gideon, and Hana Hightower; Evelyn Ikuta; and Xavier and Norah Monarres; and great-great-grandnieces and nephews Christopher Yamashita; Gabriel Rodriguez; Ethan and Kai Kim; Chris and Alani Tellez; and great-great-great-grandnephew Thomas Tellez. In the Midwest and East, she is survived by grand-nephew Duane (Mie Komatsu) and great-grandniece Ava Kazumi Yamashita; and niece, nephew, and grand-nephew and niece C. Nozomi Ikuta (James Watson), Peter (Alexandra Sakatos), and Hannah Watson, for whom she cared many years after her retirement, and great grand-niece Zoe Watson.
In the last four years and a half years of her life, she enjoyed the caring support of the Eliza Jennings’ day program.
Friends and family are invited to gather at The Emperor’s Palace, 2136 Rockwell Ave, in Cleveland.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Japanese American Museum of San Jose, 535 N. 5th Street, San Jose, CA 95112, or via their website at http://www.jamsj.org/japanese-american-history-museum-san-jose/donate.