The band’s formation in 1953 was during a transitional time for many Japanese Americans, for they were reestablishing their lives after spending the wartime years in internment camps.
According to Masayo Arii, one of two original singers who still perform with the band, several Japanese American community leaders including Kanjiro Shiraki, Mitsuzo Daita, Jitsuo Yamamoto, Hideiki Okida, and Harry Yonemura, decided to form a band to provide Japanese music for the Issei, first-generation Japanese Americans. The leaders themselves did not perform in the band but asked people who either sang or played a musical instrument to form one. Many of the people they asked participated in musical groups in the internment camps. Arii was recruited because Daita knew her as a singer in a mandolin band at Gila River Relocation Center.
Previous experience in a musical group was not a requirement. Kay Tani, an original singer of the band, was asked by Shiraki to come to a meeting to discuss the formation of the band after Shiraki heard him sing at a party. Tani did not know anyone at the meeting, and he had never participated in a musical group. He just liked to sing.
According to Arii, a band like the San Jose Chidori Band probably would have formed after the war because there were several Japanese American bands before the war. Without the community leaders and their emphasis on serving the Issei, the band probably would have had different goals.