Sayoko Tomiyama - BWA Member Highlight

Daughter, Wife and Mother

Sayoko Tomiyama was born in Pierce Colorado on May 5, 1918.  She describes Pierce as a “one horse” town which was located between Denver and Cheyenne.  She attended Japanese School (Kishuku Gakko) in Fort Lupton Colorado where she and her siblings lived in the summer to maintain and advance in the Japanese language.  After 2 years attending this Japanese School, her father found a student at the University of Boulder who taught them Japanese near Pierce. This made life much easier for the family and especially for the children.

 One of her most trying memories was her experience as the only Japanese American child in her first grade class.  It was a difficult year for her since she spoke no English and was assigned a seat in the back of the classroom!!  She sadly recalls only learning 3 letter English words during that first year in school.  Fortunately she had a much more dedicated and caring teacher in 2nd grade when, during recess, her teacher took time to teach her to read and write in English.  Through the recitation of poetry, she was able to learn to speak English.  Due to this dedicated 2nd grade teacher, her experience in elementary school from that time on was so much better.  She continued on to go to Junior High school in Pierce and then moved to Greeley, Colorado where she attended High School.

Sayoko has survived six siblings.  Her parents were devoutly religious and would recite the Shoshinge every Sunday evening.  In his later years, her father also made home-made Obutsudans. Every morning and night, her father and mother would light the candle and have incense burning in these cherished hand-made treasures.  The Japanese traditions were very strong in her family as she grew up in Colorado. 

In 1937, Sayoko was married in San Diego and not long after, she joined the Buddhist Temple of San Diego where her husband was a member.  In March 1942, shortly after President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, she and her husband and daughter, Ann, voluntarily evacuated to Colorado. The people in Colorado welcomed the evacuees from California and there was no problem for them during this time.  They stayed in Colorado for 4 years and then returned to their home in San Diego.  In Colorado she had given birth to two children, Alan and Susan.  Then in San Diego, she gave birth to Steven and then decided to go to work outside of the home as the children grew.  For several years, she worked in a dermatology office.  A surprise pregnancy brought Bruce into the family and with five children in the household at varying ages, Sayoko decided to become a stay-at-home mom to raise her growing family.

The children grew up in San Diego and became active members of the Buddhist Temple of San Diego.  At that time, there were many children attending the Temple.  Her husband worked as a gardener while Sayoko took care of the five active children.  The children attended Balboa Elementary School and eventually went on to attend San Diego State University, University of California at San Diego and the California State University in Los Angeles.  In 1957, her parents moved to San Diego and lived with her becoming members of the Buddhist Temple in San Diego.  Sayoko devoted her life in taking care of her children, her parents, and her husband.

Sayoko now has ten grandchildren and ten great grandchildren.  Her family and friends keep in close contact with Sayoko who now lives independently in Chula Vista.  She is an active member of the BWA and devout and gracious member of the Temple. Through her life story encircled in Amida Buddha’s compassion, this daughter, wife and mother has shared with us her story of dedication, perseverance and devotion not only to her family and friends, but to all Sangha members.  We will always be grateful for this.