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Peter K. Okada

Chicago, 1944

Born 1919 in Los Angeles, Okada was an employee of the Los Angeles City Parks & Recreation Department until evacuation with his widowed mother and three brothers in 1942, first to the Santa Anita Assembly Center in Arcadia and then to the Amache Relocation Center; Lamar, Colorado. From Amache he accepted a position at Boy's Town in Nebraska from its head, Father Flanagan, who had offered jobs to three single Nisei and four married couple evacueees at his institution. After serving for one year -- setting up the first experimental cannery in Boy's Town among other tasks -- he enlisted in 1943 and wound up at the Military Intelligence Service Language School, Ft. Snelling. He took his infantry basic at Ft. McClellan, Alabama.

Upon graduation, Okada was first sent to Manila in August 1945 and then to Japan in October for Occupation duties. He served briefly with the 2nd Division Marines in Kyushu, and then was transferred to the 108th Military Government Team in Osaka, initially in the Education Section, a circumstance which led to his becoming known as the Father of American Football in Japan, as described in his presentation. He declined a field commission in favor of equivalent ranking as a civilian and continued to serve in various administrative capacities until the team's deactivation in 1951. It was during this period that he was able to repay in part his benefactor from Nebraska when Father Flanagan arrived in Japan at the invitation of General MacArthur. Okada had a wonderful reunion with the founder of Boy's Town accompanying him as interpreter in visits to various youth care institutions.

Okada returned to Los Angeles in 1951 to complete his education, attending Woodbury University and graduating magna cum laude with a BBA in foreign trade. He went back to Japan in February 1954 as a professional buyer and vice president of Pacific Wood Products Company, one of the major plywood importers selling across the United States. After serving 10 years, he resigned to establish his own company, PWP Japan, Inc., headquartered in Tokyo with branch offices in Manila and Rabaul, New Guinea. His firm imported hardwood logs on a shipload basis from many countries in the South Pacific. Later; the company represented several lumber mills producing high grade jumbo squares in the Pacific Northwest. He also founded and served as CEO of Alpac Foods, Inc., a company dealing in marine products.

After residing for over three decades in Japan, Okada returned to the U.S. in 1980 to retire. Peter and Mutsuko M. Ikari Okada, currently living in Kirkland, Washington, have five children and eleven grandchildren. An ardent fisherman, golfer, and gardener, Okada continues to promote American football in Japan, most recently arranging for an August 1994 visit of a delegation of 10 football players and their coaches from two Osaka high schools together with the director of the Football Officials Association to participate in preseason practice sessions of a local high school team.