The Nisei Week Foundation is celebrating the 79th Annual Nisei Week Japanese Festival Aug 10-18 in Southern California. San Jose State University alumnus and long-time judo coach Yoshihiro Uchida, ’47 Biological Sciences, will be recognized as a Pioneer Spirit during the festivities on Aug. 14.
Uchida was nominated by the Orange County Nikkei Coordinating Council for his dedication to the Japanese American community and his long-time support of judo.
Uchida brought the sport of judo to SJSU in the 1940s when he was a chemical engineering student. He coached police students on how to use the martial art, a sport in which he had competed since he was a 10-year-old in Garden Grove, Calif.
Before completing his degree, Uchida was drafted into the U.S. military during World War II while his family members were incarcerated in internment camps in Poston and Tule Lake. The former men’s gymnasium in the then-Spartan Complex West building was used as a registration center for Santa Clara County Japanese Americans before they were sent to internment camps during World War II. The building was renamed in his honor in 1997. It was rededicated in 2014 following a renovation of the building and a plaque was placed outside the gymnasium to denote its historic significance.
When Uchida returned to campus after World War II, he re-enrolled at SJSU and graduated with a degree in biological sciences in 1947. He continued to teach judo and was instrumental in creating a judo program on campus as well as bringing the sport to national and international attention. Uchida helped to establish a weight class system for judo that allowed it to be practiced by anyone, providing a framework for the sport’s expansion throughout collegiate circles. He also worked to establish judo as a sport in the Amateur Athletic Union.
The first National AAU championships were hosted by San José State in 1953. Uchida was the tournament director. On an international level, he was able to qualify judo as an Olympic event and was the first Olympic judo coach for the United States, which resulted in his traveling to the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo. In 2016, he attended his 11th summer Olympics in Brazil to watch SJSU’s Marti Malloy and Colton Brown compete.
In addition, Uchida has been involved in the Japanese American community. In 1996, he founded the Japanese American Chamber of Commerce of Silicon Valley (JACCSV) and currently serves as chairman of the advisory board. He has been the chairman emeritus of the board of trustees of the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), and the chairman of the JACL advisory board. He started the San Jose Nihonmachi Corp, which worked on the Miraido Village project or Road to the Future, focused on the revitalization of the city’s Japantown.
He was inducted into the SJSU Hall of Fame in 1999 and into the SJSU “Legends Hall of Fame” in 2012, to name a few of the honors and awards bestowed on him through the years.
In 2018, Uchida was recognized at SJSU’s Faculty Service and Recognition Awards for 70 years of service to the university community. He continues to attend judo practice in Uchida Hall’s dojo.