Oceanside resident Masako Kimura Streling is an accomplished author, compelling speaker and committed philanthropist.
But when you learn about her history, Masako’s achievements take on 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 great 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 difficult, 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. While her dreams were to pursue her education, as the eldest daughter in Samurai culture, her responsibility was to her family.
So for 32 years, in accordance with 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.
I was going to do anything I could to attend university
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.”
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 to succeed.
Masako and Carl established a legacy fund with The 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.”
What motivates you to give back to San Diego? Share your story in the comments below!