Tomizo and Tokujiro: The First Japanese Mormons

In August 1901, Heber J. Grant and his companions arrived in Japan to open the first permanent mission in Asia and begin their difficult proselyting labors among the Japanese. However, frequent contacts between the Mormons and the Japanese prior to the official opening of the mission are well documented. As early as 1869, following the completion of the transcontinental railroad in Ogden, Utah, an influx of Japanese travelers would meet at the crossroads on their way to Europe or across the United States and would therefore come in contact with the Church. Contacts were also made in Hawaii, where, following the beginning of a large-scale Japanese emigration in 1885, frequent Mormon missionary contacts with the Japanese were reported. Two Japanese men in particular found that their emigration to Hawaii and subsequent introduction to the Church would change their lives forever. They would be marked as the first Japanese Latter-day Saints, well before 1901. The stories of Tomizo Katsunuma, a well educated veterinarian, and Tokujiro Sato, a contractual immigrant worker, contrast two very different lives led to one identical faith.

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