Yoshitaro Sakamaki

May 5, 1877 - October 12, 1940

Uncovering the identity of the person buried in Row 1, Plot 1 of the Auburn cemetery was a bit of a puzzle. When translator Yoshiko Kato visited the cemetery in 2009, she made notes in Japanese on a photocopy of the Terada transcript that we had provided to her for this purpose. She worked on her notes and translations for a couple of weeks before returning a beautifully organized chart listing, in English, the family name, the given name, and the date of death from each stone (at least to the extent that the stones remained legible). Curiously, for Row 1, Plot 1 she had left the family name blank and provided the given name "Yoshitaro" and a death date of October 12, 1940. "Curiously" because the Terada transcript clearly identified the family name associated with that grave as "Imagari." We speculated that she had probably left that information blank because the condition of the stone might have prevented her from confirming the family name.

Since Yoshiko wasn't immediately available to consult, we instead checked the usual sorts of available genealogical records and soon discovered that there was no record for anyone with the name "Imagari" in the United States prior to the 1940 date of death. That being the case, we then went to the back issues of the Auburn Globe-Republican Newspaper. Although it was rare for the newspaper to cover news from the Japanese community—even reports of their deaths—we were gratified to discover an obituary for a "Yashutara Sakamaki" in the October 18 edition from 1940. And, by consulting a 1940 calendar, we were able to determine that this gentleman had, in fact, died on October 12 of that year. We also found him in the Washington State Death Index (as "Yashurtar Sakamoki"), and in the 1920 Federal Census for Carbon County, Montana (he was enumerated there as "Yosh Sakamaki) where he had worked as a section laborer on the railroad. It would not be an exaggeration to say that, due to the government's indifference in accurately recording Japanese names in official documents, Mr. Sakamaki's memory was nearly lost to history. Instead we have this scant snapshot of his life as published in the Auburn newspaper on October 18, 1940:

Sakamaki--Funeral services for Yashutara Sakamaki, 63, were held at the chapel of Lemar's Funeral Home Tuesday afternoon with interment following in the Faucett cemetery. Death occurred Saturday at a Tacoma hospital after an illness of two months. He was born in Japan on May 5, 1877, and had lived in this country for 40 years. For the past seven years he had resided at route 1, box 181, Sumner. There are no relatives in this country.

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