Oceanside resident Masako Kimura Streling is an accomplished author, compelling speaker and committed philanthropist.
But when you learn about her history, Masako’s achievements have much more meaning.
In fact, as one of the last surviving descendants of the Satsuma Samurai, Masako’s success and life path is an outlier even in her own family history.
Born in 1931 in modern-day Okinawa, Japan, Masako experienced significant hardship as a child. Growing up during World War II meant her family never went a day with three meals, and proper housing and healthcare were hard to come by.
To make matters even more complicated, Japanese culture at the time was very male-dominant, and Masako lived through countless injustices as a result.
Even after the War, life was a struggle.
“I was 17 years old after the War,” remembered Masako. “As the oldest daughter, my duty was to help my parents raise their nine children, which meant I was forced to give up my dream of going to college and instead serve my family.”
So for 32 years, following the Samurai’s Bushido code, she forfeited her own education and personal goals to serve her parents.
A Will to Succeed
Many people would look at these life challenges and consider them insurmountable. But to Masako, they were simply early chapters in her lifelong story of success.
Her drive to succeed never ended, and after more than three decades of supporting her family, Masako started college at the age of 52.
“As a young child, my mother always instilled in me that there was nothing I couldn’t do,” explained Masako. “Higher education was always important to me, and I knew all along that I was going to do anything I could to attend university.”
Starting a Legacy of Giving Back
The Samurai Bushido code teaches a life of service to others. Early on, this meant Masako supported her family.
Today, Masako carries on those same Samurai values through her willingness to give back to her community.
Alongside her husband, Carl Streling, Masako dedicates her time to sharing her gifts with the community. She recognizes that many young people right here in San Diego face similar life challenges early on, but they still have a passion for success.
Masako and Carl established a legacy fund with San Diego Foundation to help San Diegans overcome obstacles and improve their quality of life. The gift will benefit future generations in the region through an endowment that grows in perpetuity.
As Masako described her philanthropy, “Even though God challenged me throughout my life, he was also very generous. I am blessed with many gifts, and I believe that when I pass away, those gifts should be returned to the community.”