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Everything But Their Spirit

Maru, Keiko, Kristy and Amy Maruyama stand in front of what used to be their home. A burned-out refrigerator is in the background to the right. Masa believes that the kitchen refrigerator melted from the severe heat of the Thomas Fire. (Photo by Ken Matsui Images Photography)


On the night of December 4, the Maruyama family was forced to flee from the Thomas Fire in Ventura. Tomiichi “Maru” and Keiko are immigrants from Japan, and they have two adult daughters, Amy and Kristy.

In the early ’70s, Maru started working in restaurants and by 1980, earned the title of sushi chef. In 1991, Maru and Keiko were recruited to help run a new restaurant in Oxnard. They moved to the hills of Ventura city.

In 2006, O-Sabi Japanese Restaurant opened under their management. They cater to their guests and O-Sabi is only closed three days a year, Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The Maruyamas had a good life until the Thomas Fire ignited, eventually becoming the largest wildfire in California history.

Keiko Maruyama searches through the rubble of their family home, looking for any heirlooms and memories. She represents the spirit of the Maruyama family to start again, building a new home on this site. (Photo by Ken Matsui Images Photography)

After the fire started in Santo Paulo, they anxiously watched/listened to news reports and looked out windows. The fire struck at homes less than a mile away, then bypassed their street. But winds were gusting up to 60 mph and changing directions. At 3:30 am, flames were racing in their direction and they evacuated.

They believed that they would return to their home. While watching a news broadcast that was taped in front of their address, they could see the backyard. Their home was gone.

They left behind memories, important documents, Maru’s nice jacket, a brand-new sofa set, but they agreed that they have all the important things. No one was hurt. The pets were saved. They have positive attitudes. They found a rental and have a roof over their heads.

The Maruyama’s plan to build a new home on the same site. It could two years or more. Gambatte — never giving up and always doing your best. They may have “lost everything” but they still have their spirit for life.

(Photo by MICKEY KOMAI/Rafu Shimpo)


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