Yamada was born in Sunnyside, Utah, but was raised in Japan. In 1941, he returned to the United States to rejoin his father in Seattle, Washington. A year later, he was imprisoned with other Americans of Japanese descent at the Minidoka Relocation Center in Idaho. Yamada graduated from Franklin High School in Seattle and later, the University of Washington.
Yamada was a member of the Seattle Dojo and was one of the key people in spreading judo around the United States. Yamada obtained his 8th degree black belt in judo. Yamada died on April 18, 2014.
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