AACI Celebrates the Life and Memory of Paul Shigeichi Sakamoto

AACI Celebrates the Life and Memory of Paul Shigeichi Sakamoto

Paul Shigeichi Sakamoto Obituary from The Mercury News:

Paul Shigeichi Sakamoto, educator, artist and horticulturist, passed October 27th, 2023 at age of 89 in his hometown of San Jose‚ after a valiant battle with Parkinson’s Disease. Paul was the last of eleven children, born on February 3,1934 in a boarding house at 5th and Jackson in San Jose‚ Japantown. His father was a farmer, and his mother helped with farming, as did the children during harvest time.

During World War II, the Sakamoto family was uprooted and incarcerated at Jerome, Arkansas, one of the ten American Concentration Camps that imprisoned 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, the majority of them American-born citizens. After the war, the Sakamoto family returned to San Jose‚ and worked in strawberry farming. Paul attended public schools, and then San Jose‚ State College where he was a student leader and earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. At Michigan State University he received his Ph.D. in Educational Administration. Returning to his roots, Paul was a teacher at Sunnyvale High School, then the principal, and eventually, superintendent of the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District. Throughout his career as a prominent educator, he was a mentor to many future civic leaders, influential in the development of Asian American Studies at San Jose State and an activist on equal opportunity and civil rights. Paul was a founding member of Asian Americans for Community Involvement (AACI), which was established in 1973, and he remained involved with the organization throughout his entire life.

Paul was one of the kindest and most thoughtful, gentle souls you will ever know. People with whom he interacted throughout his career as an administrator, gardener, and artist, continually sought after him. To countless students, Mr. Sakamoto was the teacher who influenced them the most to be the best they could be. He was an amazing man who led an extraordinary life with a powerful impact on those around him. You always had to be careful not to admire any of his art or plants too much, lest he would gift them to you. He also admired the creativity in others, as he was an avid collector, particularly of ceramics, and supported local artists. After retiring from the Mountain View school district as superintendent in 1990, Paul followed his passion in life plants and art. He established Sakamoto Plants in Los Gatos and created countless original works of art, including his signature pen and ink drawings, many of which he donated to charitable causes and organizations in Japantown. His style changed over time due to Parkinson’s, however he never stopped creating beautiful drawings for all to see. When he closed his nursery, he donated precious plants and many cherry blossom trees to Hakone Gardens in Saratoga. He had impeccable taste and attention to detail, whether it was picking a restaurant or positioning a tree in just the right spot. Paul was a gift to all who knew him. And to those who did not, they will experience his generosity of spirit when they visit a place where he donated trees, plants and artwork, adding a sense of enchantment to any garden or room. As put by longtime friend and Historian Connie Young Yu, “Everywhere Paul went, he changed the landscape”.

A celebration of Paul’s life will take place on May 4, 2024 at 10:00a.m. in Heinlenville Park on 6th Street between Jackson and Taylor in San Jose Japantown.


This is an open event for the friends and family of Paul Sakamoto, who passed away on October 27, 2023. The Celebration of Life event will be held outdoors in the historic Heinlenville Park, located in San Jose Japantown.

Please RSVP to psakamotoclc@gmail.com so planners know how many people to expect, but an RSVP is not required to attend.