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My Love and Life in Sports

Robert & Alice Kikkawa with all of their children and grandchildren in 2018. (Photo courtesy of Alan Kubota)

Until my beloved wife Alice passed away suddenly last year, I considered myself the luckiest man in the world. We were happily married for 65 years and we had 4 grown children and 10 grandchildren. In perfect gender symmetry, we had two daughters and two sons, and they in turn gave us 5 granddaughters and 5 grandsons.

We did almost everything together—including watching lots of games. We first watched our daughters play JAO basketball and softball, high school archery, badminton, and basketball, and then volleyball and SCWAU basketball. We also watched our sons play CYC baseball and basketball, high school water polo and then later, NAU baseball and basketball. We watched our grandchildren play soccer, baseball, basketball, football, air riflery, and perform at dance competitions. We cheered them on as they won CIF and NAU State championships.

Robert Kikkawa coaching his son Don (#44, back row) on the Pasadena Bruins in 1974.

We often went to several games in a day and we traveled to Hawaii, San Diego, and Las Vegas to watch games. We even went to Japan on four different occasions to watch our grandchildren play as part of Yonsei Basketball. Over the years, we watched our gang play thousands of games and we enjoyed every single one of them with endless pride and devotion.

Robert and Alice Kikkawa in Japan during one of their 4 trips with Yonsei Basketball. Their grandchildren played on Yonsei 10, 14, 20, and 22.

They say that apples don’t fall far from the tree and maybe that’s true for me. In 1949, just four years after World War II ended, I lettered in baseball, basketball, football, and track at Washington Jr. High in Pasadena. At that time, junior high school was the equivalent of 7th-10th grade today.

Reprint from the Rafu Shimpo from Robert (Osami) Kikkawa's Boy of the Year award.

At 17 years old when I graduated from 10th grade, I was selected as the Pasadena area Boy of the Year. This award was presented by the Sports Editor of our local newspaper, the Pasadena Star-News, to five of the best all-around male athletes in the city. Two years later in 1951, I played halfback for Pasadena City College as we were crowned Junior College Football National Champions. I didn’t play much that year but what I could have never foreseen was that I was fostering the love of sports and building character in my future children and grandchildren.

After Alice and I were married in 1953, I continued to play NAU baseball and softball, which was my favorite sport. I won an NAU softball championship and also started bowling in my adult years. After finally hanging up my cleats and glove when I was 42 years old, I continued to bowl for many years after that. It was a great way stay connected with my friends while still keeping my love of competition and team sports alive. When I was 43 years old, I came close to bowling a perfect game at 298 and when I was 71, I bowled a 700 series (averaging more than 233 per game for 3 games). I continued bowling for a total of 60 years, finally retiring in 2010 at 78 years old. Through sports, I cultivated lifelong friendships and learned many important lessons. I believe that how you play is how your character is defined.

This has been a year like no other in our lifetime. Not only because of the pandemic and all of its devastating effects, but because my two favorite teams, the Lakers and Dodgers both won championships only two weeks apart. For a few fleeting months between August through October when the NBA and MLB seasons and playoffs overlapped, it felt as if we were watching game after game again, with that familiar feeling of devotion and endless pride. If I closed my eyes, I could still feel my wife Alice sitting beside me, quietly cheering on our beloved players and teams.

Robert and Alice Kikkawa at the Pasadena Buddhist Temple Obon in July 2018. (Photo courtesy of Brent Lew)

I still consider myself a very lucky man. I see and feel Alice’s spirit living through my children and grandchildren every time I see them. Not only are they compassionate, loving, selfless, and warm like she was, but they have also learned some of life’s most important lessons through their love of sports: the value of teamwork, the significance of friendships, the importance of goal setting, the developing of character through adversity, and the drive to never give up.

I am a lucky man indeed.


© 2020 Robert “Lefty” Kikkawa and Ken Kikkawa

Nima-kai Favorites

Each article submitted to this Nikkei Chronicles special series was eligible for selection as the community favorite. Thank you to everyone who voted!

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About this series

What makes Nikkei sports more than just a game for you? Perhaps you’d like to write about your Nikkei sports hero or the impact of Japanese athletes on your Nikkei identity. Did your parents meet through a Nikkei basketball or bowling league? Are you intrigued by an important chapter of Nikkei sports history, like the prewar Issei and Nisei baseball teams?

For the ninth edition of Nikkei Chronicles, Discover Nikkei solicited stories related to Nikkei sports from June to October of 2020. Voting closed on November 30, 2020. We received 31 stories (19 English; 6 Japanese; 7 Spanish; and 1 Portuguese), with a few submitted in multiple languages. We asked an editorial committee to pick their favorites and our Nima-kai community to vote for their favorite stories. Here are the selected favorite stories. 

Editorial Committee’s Favorites

Nima-kai Favorite:

<<Community Partner: Terasaki Budokan - Little Tokyo Service Center>>

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About the Authors

Robert “Lefty” Kikkawa is an 88-year old Nisei from Gardena, CA and has lived in Pasadena, CA for nearly 75 years. He was interned at Gila, AZ and Tule Lake, CA during World War II. He served in the U.S. Army for two years and spent his professional career in the automotive industry. For 65 years, he was married to his beloved Alice - the best wife, mother and grandmother that a man can have. They have 4 children: Debbie (Kubota), Sharon (Lee), Don and Ken. Robert and Alice co-founded the Pasadena Bruins in 1972.

Updated November 2020

Ken Kikkawa is the youngest of Robert and Alice Kikkawa’s four children. He resides in Altadena, CA and has been married to Karen (Takesako) Kikkawa for 29 years. They have a 21-year old son, Kendall, who attends UC Berkeley and a 19-year old daughter, Kyla, who attends Washington University in St. Louis.

Updated November 2020

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