Tomoji Nishikawa (1983)

Tomoji Nishikawa, Ph.D. (aka Tomoji Ishi), our dear friend, colleague, husband, father, son, and a co-founder of Japan Pacific Resource Network, died at home on Tuesday, 26 August 2003, following his courageous ten-year battle with brain tumor.

Tomoji was born in 1946 in Shiga Prefecture in Japan, the only child of Mrs. Kiyoko Nishikawa and the late Mr. Tomokazu Nishikawa. Tomoji and his wife Virginia Louie moved to San Francisco in 1978. He became an active member of the Japanese American community, volunteering at Nobiru-kai Japanese Immigrant Services in San Francisco, and was employed with Asian Manpower Services in Oakland. Soon after they moved to Los Angeles as Tomoji entered a master's program at UCLA to study Asian American Studies in 1980. He went on to receive a Ph.D. degree in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley in 1995.

Tomoji graduated from prestigious Tokyo University majoring in Sociology in 1971. He refused, however, to follow the expected path which would have led him to the Japanese power elite. Instead, he eventually left Japan to become a world traveler. Experiencing multi-cultural societies abroad, he came to develop a critical perspective on Japan, and published a number of articles in Japanese. Along with the activities with the Japan Pacific Resource Network (JPRN), Tomoji devoted himself to educational activities focusing on American multicultural society, and the corporate social accountability of Japanese corporations.

Tomoji co-founded the Japan Pacific Resource Network in 1985. JPRN is a public interest and educational nonprofit organization promoting civil rights, corporate social responsibility and community empowerment in the context of U.S.-Japan relations. Along with United Methodist Church ministers, he also co-founded in 1990, the African/Asian American Roundtable (AAART), an interracial support group fostering dialogue between African American and Asian American communities in the San Francisco Bay Area. He taught Asian American Studies and Sociology at the City College of San Francisco from 1996 until May of this year.

Tomoji's areas of teaching and research expertise included: political sociology, race and ethnic relations and international migration, modernization and development, sociology of contemporary Japan, Asian American Studies, community economic development, globalization, sociological methods, and social problems, business and society. His doctoral dissertation, submitted to the Sociology Department at U.C. Berkeley, was entitled, Diversifying the State: American Grassroots Groups and Japanese Companies. This project investigated the unexplored relationships between American grassroots groups and Japanese multinationals in the U.S., and revealed how such groups were able to make gains within the American political process.

In 1992 his brain tumor was discovered, and thus started Tomoji's long, courageous battle with the condition. Throughout the course of his ten-year struggle, Tomoji continued to play an active role as a community activist, educator, lecturer, researcher and writer. He never failed to make his family laugh, even at times of great difficulty. He passed away peacefully at home surrounded by his family.

Tomoji is survived by his wife Virginia, his daughter Emi, his son Ken, and his mother Kiyoko. After cremation, Tomoji's remains are scattered in the Pacific waters between the United States and Japan. Tomoji's family requests that contributions be made to the National Brain Tumor Foundation (http://www.braintumor.org/contribute/) or the Wellness Community of the East Bay (http://www.twc-bayarea.org/donations.htm) in his honor. We would like to thank all of the staff of the Kaiser Hospice Care program and the members of the Wellness Community Brain Tumor Support Group for their help and support.

A number of papers and articles by Tomoji in both English and Japanese can be found at http://tomoji.home.igc.org/. During the two and a half months that Tomoji was under hospice care, his friends and colleagues formed a support group via e-mail (tomoji-ml@jcan.net). Contributions of shared memories are welcomed.

There are many special qualities by which we remember Tomoji, but the very first thing many of us recall is his smile. We pray for Tomoji that his soul may rest in peace, and believe that his dream for racial equality and international social justice shall be remembered. We thank Tomoji for his courage, smile and love for all of us. Tomoji's spirit and dream will live on.

~ Family and friends of Tomoji

Dissertation Title: 
Diversifying the State: Grass Roots Challenges to Japanese Companies in America