Yoko Savage, a long-time resident of Coarsegold and former proprietor of Oakhurst’s Kyoto Kafe — a Japanese “home-cooking” restaurant open from 2000 to 2007 — passed away on Thursday, June 20, 2019.
She was a lovely, generous spirit who enjoyed sharing her delicious meals along with a hefty helping of Japanese hospitality and culture to her beloved customers.
Yoko was born in Kyoto, Japan in 1947 and spent her childhood in Komame, a small fishing village on the Japanese island of Shikoku, and her adult years primarily in Osaka.
She met and later married Navy Chief Petty Officer Ben Savage in 1973. Ben was divorced and had two children, Lisa and Bob. Daughter Monica was born in Yokosuka, Japan in 1974 and the family later that year left Japan for the United States, initially settling in Yosemite National Park.
While in Yosemite, Yoko worked for the Yosemite Parks & Curry Company as a tour guide for Japanese tourists, leading tours on the open-air tour trams around the valley and bus tours to Glacier Point. She was also a floor supervisor in the Village Store, and the Wawona gift shop manager.
She was a wonderful singer and shared her gift to her Kyoto Kafe customers during special dinner shows, and was a much sought-after singer at Japanese festivals, fundraisers and cultural shows throughout California, including the Cherry Blossom festival in San Francisco.
She specialized in the Enka style, which is a form of singing often described as Japanese country music featuring songs usually written around the themes of love and loss, loneliness and enduring hardships, and persevering in the face of difficulties. The songs often had a talking part between verses. Her last performance was at the annual Kendo Fundraiser held in Fresno in 2018.
Yoko was a passionate animal lover who rescued cats, dogs, and bottle-fed and raised a number of baby sheep at their home and ranch in Coarsegold. She also enjoyed gardening, maintaining her koi and goldfish ponds, as well as raising chickens and doves.
Yoko is survived by husband Ben, daughters Lisa Kao (Brian) and Monica Wilson (Jon), son Bob Savage (Dominique), beloved grandchildren Sebastian, Isabella, Alexander and Jasper along with nephews Hiroaki and Yoshihiko.
Yoko’s funeral services will be held on Thursday, June 27 at 10 a.m. at Stephens and Bean Funeral Chapel on 202 N. Teilman Ave., Fresno 93706, burial at Belmont Memorial Gardens and open house to follow at 841 E. Fairmont Ave., Fresno 93704.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent in Yoko’s honor to H.O.P.E. Animal Foundation, a non-profit, low-cost spay & neuter and wellness clinic at 5490 W. Spruce Ave., Fresno, CA 93722.