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South Salt Lake Journal

Nisei senior league continues over 50 years of bowling tradition

Dec 04, 2019 10:31AM ● By Nichole Duffy

Players from different teams gather together for practice. (Nichole Duffy/City Journals)

By Nichole Duffy | [email protected]

Stroll into Bonwood Bowl (2500 S. Main St.) on a Wednesday morning to bowl and you might be surprised to find all the lanes are filled with bowlers ready to compete. The longtime Nisei league is here. 

“The Nisei senior league is a continuation of the Nisei Tuesday night league that use to play way back,” said Shigeko Fukushima, emphasizing the “way back.”   

“I started when I was in my late 20s and now I’m 91,” Wilma Kimura added, as she finished polishing her ball. 

Amongst the clattering of pins, the Nisei league shared some history of how they came to love this game. 

“I have been bowling since it was 33 cents a game, and they had actual pin boys. Back then there were a lot more alleys around,” said Yuri Uyeda. 

When asked why they all have been playing so long, the universal answer was, “for fun.” 

The Nisei league was started back in the 1940s as a way for Nisei, or second-generation Japanese Americans, to come together in a time that held high contentions around the valley. And the tradition stuck. 

“I came here in 1969 and knew the Okumura family, they were a big bowling family, and that’s why I joined,” said Fukushima. That seems to be the case with many of the bowlers, who find it especially important now as they have gotten older.  

“It’s really the social part of it. All of the people are so nice, bowling might be frustrating at times, but the people are positive and it’s good to get out,” said Sandy Matsushita. 

The average age of the Nisei league is 80 years old. 

Meg Kiriyama impressively picks up a spare. She is 98 years old. Everyone on the lane claps for Kiriyama, while she strolls back to her spot on the bench with a smile. 

The league is competitive as well. There’s cash prizes and bragging rights to the top two teams in the league, most improved bowler and highest overall score for men and women bowlers. 

“Too bad they don’t give out a booby prize, I’d get first place!” joked Kimura. 

When asked if they thought bowling was the secret to youth, many laughed or shrugged. Being part of a community is what helps keep you young, they say. 

“Really, socializing when you get older like us is important,” said Sadie Yoshimura. “It’s nice because we get together and then go to lunch at different places afterward.” 

One place they frequent is Koyo Restaurant, a traditional Japanese restaurant in Millcreek, where they continue the laughter and conversations. 

The Nisei league bowls for 28 weeks between September and April, every Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. The league is comprised of 13 teams of four members ages 55 and older. 

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