World War II
Brick #886 Wall Location Column: 17 Row: 16
George was a descendant of the Takeda clan, noteworthy in 16th century Japanese history. The clan was soundly defeated by the Takegawa clan led by warlord Ieyasu. Using a surrogate for warlord Shingen Takeda was a strategy documented in the 1980 Kurasawa Akira film "Kagemusha - Shadow Warrior." This history is also recorded in the official Yamada family scroll which is housed in Tokyo.
The Japanese symbols on Shingen Takeda's banners alluded to his battle plan. 'Wind' (swift as) to represent the horsemen, 'Forest' (quiet as) to represent the lancers, 'Fire' (fierce as) to represent the cavalry and 'Mountain' (immovable as) to represent the warlord were displayed.
Because he was steadfast and imoveable in battle, Shingen Takeda had been known as 'the mountain' (Yama). Yamada means "mountain garden." Takeda survior, Shingen sumi Shimada, changed the family name to Yamada following the clan's slaughter.
George is the 11th descendant following the name change to Yamada. The Yamada property in Tokyo has been owned by the Yamada family since approximately 1600. Although family property usually remains with families via the oldest son, Asano Yamada, George's mother was the true Yamada descendant. George's father, Kenzo Iwama, legally changed his name to Yamada.
For a few years, Asano and Kenzo lived in Sacramento, CA. George was born on June 6, 1920 and was the couple's oldest son. His name, Yozo, indicates his status as the first born son. Their second son, Ben, was born a few years later. When George was 5 years old, the family returned to Japan. George and Ben graduated from high school in Japan.
George returned to California in approximately 1937. Because he lived out his lifetime in the US, the Japan of his memory was suspended in time. His attitudes, values and expectations for social structure reflected those of Japan in the 1930s. They were traditional and relevant to a society that was isolated from other cultures by geography and political design.
As a young immigrant, George made his way by working odd jobs such as serving as a house boy. After the US entered World War II, George was drafted into the US Army. He served within the US borders.
George's children are unsure why he made his way to Colorado after World War II unless he had already met his future wife, Haruko Abe, and they made the move together. George and Haruko met in a dry cleaning store where she was employed. He was working as a house boy who delivered and picked up laundry for his employer.
George and Haruko were married on August 25, 1943. At this time they lived in a hotel in downtown Denver. George may have worked as a house boy and supplemented their income by playing pool. His pool cue is beautifully decorated with hand painted designs.
To Japanese, George is known as Kibei (return or come back). Because George was born in California but raised and educated in Japan, he had difficulty with the English language. Haruko was bilingual in English and Japanese. She taught George to read, write and speak English.
In 1948, George graduated from the University of Denver with a BS Degree in Business Administration. This was a significant achievement for the couple. Lingering traces of inhospitality toward Japanese Americans made securing a job difficult. George and Haruko were mild humble people who were uncomfortable counteracting spite. Chinese friends of George owned a Chinese restaurant where he had worked as a waiter since 1947. George decided to continue to work as a waiter where he remained until 1986. In the restaurant he was gregarious and popular with the customers.
George had a soft spot for animals and shared an enjoyment of pets with his children. Among the pets were a black and grey striped American Shorthair named Peppermint Twist and a lovebird that he called Bird or The Bird. Pepper was found by the children at the bottom of a pile of dead littermates. She was named for the funny little walk she had as a kitten.
Bird followed her instincts by shredding paper to fashion a nest. She was cantankerous and George was the only person who could handle and control her. She would often be found perched on his shoulder or on top of his head. She liked George to feed her from a spoon.
George and Haruko raised their children with an eye toward the future. They made considerable personal sacrifice to ensure that their children would have better lives than they had experienced. They emphasized independence and self reliance. There are 6 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.
Before his death on March 24, 1986, George had responsibility for the Yamada property in Tokyo, Japan. He willed it to his youngest brother who was born and raised in Japan. Following Hiroshi's death, the property passed to his son, Kenzo Yamada. George's ashes are preserved in the family shrine in Tokyo.