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.It took them almost seven long months to claim the first fruit of their labors. On March 8, 1902, on the shore of Omori in Tokyo Bay, Hajime Nakazawa, a professed Shinto priest, was baptized, confirmed, and ordained an elder. This event was symbolic indeed. For one thing, Nakazawa was presumably affiliated with a religious sect whose roots went back to the ancient indigenous religion of Japan. For another, more interestingly, the name Hajime signifies “beginning” or “first” in Japanese.
Although the baptism of Hajime Nakazawa undoubtedly is the first of the missionary fruits to be claimed in Japan, it hardly represents the first fruit of the Church among the Japanese. Frequent contacts between the Japanese and the Mormons prior to the opening of the mission in Japan in 1901 are well documented. Following the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, Ogden, Utah, became an important railroad junction, where just about every Japanese traveler stopped on his way to much of the United States and Europe.Some even stayed in Utah and its surrounding regions. Contacts were also made in Hawaii, where, following the beginning of large-scale Japanese emigration in 1885, frequent contacts were reported in Laie and other places. Some of the Japanese people so contacted affiliated themselves with the Mormons well before 1901.
This paper will tell the stories of two such people, Tomizo Katsunuma (1863–1950) and Tokujiro Sato (ca. 1851–1919). Both were born in Japan during the final days of the Tokugawa or Edo period (1603–1868)and came in the latter half of the nineteenth century to what is now part of the United States. Tomizo received the best education available in Japan, became a veterinarian, came to the United States in part to pursue further studies in veterinary science, and spent most of his life as a United States immigration officer, veterinarian, and prominent citizen in Hawaii. In contrast, Tokujiro had little formal education, came to Hawaii at a young age as a contractual immigrant worker, married a native Hawaiian, and earned his living as a carpenter, butcher, cook, and taro farmer. The purpose of this article is to cast their lives against the economic, political, and social conditions of their day and to appreciate their struggles as pioneers in a strange land.
In 1937, Edward L. Clissoldbegan his summary of notable events in the ministry of the Church among the Japanese people of Hawaii in these words:
Any story of the Japanese members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Hawaiian Islands should begin with the arrival in Hawaii in 1898 of Dr. T. Katsunuma, a then recent graduate of the Utah State Agricultural College [sic], and a member of the Church holding the office of a priest in the Aaronic Priesthood.
Tomizo Katsunuma was a prominent and respected man of some influence in the Japanese and non-Japanese communities of Hawaii during the first half of the twentieth century, when the Japanese constituted about 40 percent of the total population.
Tomizo, who was a veterinarian by training and practice, worked for the United States government as an immigration inspector in Honolulu from 1898 to 1924. Because of this role and because he was responsible for initiating the emigration of Japanese to Hawaii from his home prefecture of Fukushima, he was honored as the Father of Immigrants. Among Mormons in Hawaii, he was respected as one of the Church’s first documented members of Japanese ancestry.
Early Years in Japan. Tomizo Katsunuma was born on October 6 in the third year of Bunkyu (or November 16, 1863)in the castle town of Miharu, Banshu (now Fukushima Prefecture). He was the third son (and fourth child) of Naochika Katogi, a samurai of the Miharu clan, and his wife Yo (or Yoko). After studying the Chinese classics at the clan school, he entered an elementary school in Miharu, where he was in the first graduating class under the new educational system of the Meiji period (1868–1912). He then went on to study Chinese books and Western learning at a newly opened middle school in Miharu until 1878, when at the age of fifteen he was enrolled in the Sendai Foreign Language School in the principal city of Sendai, where he studied English reading and writing.
In 1880, Tomizo moved to Tokyo and entered the Preparatory School of the University of Tokyo in Hitotsubashi. There he completed three years of study in liberal arts.However, he gave up the idea of pursuing a higher education because of a lack of funds. After returning home, he took a job for meager pay at a silk-reeling factory, then as the principal of an elementary school in the village of Michiwatashi for a monthly wage of ten yen. When a middle school was opened in the village of Tatsuta, he was appointed as assistant professor to teach English.
This area of the country (Tamura County) was a breeding center for horses, and a need was felt to train a resident veterinarian with county funds. In 1885, Tomizo was requested by the county commissioner to attend the Tokyo School of Veterinary Sciencefor a monthly allowance of fifteen yen. He subsequently transferred to the department of veterinary science at the Imperial College of Agriculture in Komaba and, upon graduation in 1888, was appointed assistant researcher at the school.
Arrival in the United States. In the late 1880s, there was a sort of emigration fervor in Japan. In part, this reflected the depressed state of the economy. Following the Satsuma Rebellion (armed uprisings carried out by former samurai of the Satsuma clan) of 1877 and the inflationary consequence of financing the war, the Meiji government began to pursue a deflationary policy in the early 1880s under the leadership of Finance Minister Masayoshi Matsukata. The agrarian distress created by the deflationary policy of the 1880s was so severe that the government changed its previously cautious attitude towards emigration and instituted a program of supervised emigration to Hawaii in 1885.At the same time, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which halted the immigration of Chinese laborers, had created a demand for Japanese workers in the United States. In this atmosphere, Tomizo determined to look for a chance to emigrate.
The chance came rather quickly. Upon hearing that one of his elder brothers, Shigenori, was going to the United States to survey the electric power industry, Tomizo decided to go along. On April 25, 1889, the two dream-filled brothers departed in a steamboat for America, leaving behind a Meiji Japan agitated over the establishment of the National Diet. Tomizo was twenty-five years old and had been married to Mine Endofor less then a month, the wedding having taken place on March 30. According to his biographer, Mine nevertheless encouraged his decision, allowing her husband to move ahead in pursuit of his purpose and dream.
On May 10, 1889, the two brothers arrived in San Francisco. After staying with Tomizo for several days, Shigenori traveled on the transcontinental railroad to observe electricity-related enterprises in the East and remained in the United States until January 1890.Being left alone, Tomizo stayed in the vicinity of San Francisco, visiting the ranches in the surrounding communities with the help of Sutemi Chinda, the Japanese Consul in San Francisco. He subsequently engaged in raising sheep and cattle at a large-scale vineyard managed by a Japanese man by the name of Nagasawa in Santa Rosa, California.
In those days, there was an association of Japanese in San Francisco called the Patriotic League, whose principal members included the founder, Yoshizo Kasuya (later the speaker of the House of Representatives), and others who would also become prominent in Japanese politics. In the 1880s, Japan was swept by a nationwide popular political movement called the Popular Rights Movement, in which certain dissatisfied elements of society were demanding a reform of the Meiji government along Western democratic lines. The government dealt forcefully with the movement, imprisoning many of its leaders and executing a few. The Patriotic League was initially organized in January 1888 by dissident leaders who had fled the country, although it is not clear how much of that political zeal remained once the Meiji constitution (with a nominal democracy) was promulgated in 1889. Under these circumstances, Tomizo was invited to join the League, became involved in its work, and participated in political discussions with his compatriots.
Encounter with the Mormons. Tomizo’s introduction to Mormonism came as a direct consequence of his connection with the Patriotic League. In the early 1890s, members of the League established the business of providing mail handling, remittance, translation, letter writing, and other services to Japanese immigrant workers.The first subcontractor was a man by the name of Tadashichi Tanaka, who set up his office in 1891 in Nampa, Idaho, and staffed it with student laborers from San Francisco. One of the student laborers supplied by the Patriotic League, Tomizo worked in Tanaka’s Idaho office as his right-hand man. As Tanaka had earlier managed a house of ill repute in the railroad town of Ogden, Utah, it is possible that Tomizo first went to Utah in 1890 before moving to Nampa in 1891.
Tomizo’s business and other activities in the early 1890s must have taken him to places in Idaho, Utah, and other Western states and territories. In 1891, another brother, Shutaro, came to the United States to study dairy farming at the Agricultural College of Utah (now Utah State University). During his studies, Shutaro made trips to Salt Lake City to conduct experiments in sericulture,almost certainly accompanied by Tomizo. Although it is not known how Tomizo ended up in Logan, Utah (where he would be baptized into the Church), it is likely that his departure from Idaho was triggered by Tanaka’s dismissal as the field agent in spring 1893, on charges that wages withheld from the workers on the Oregon Short Line were mishandled. The decision to relocate in Logan may have been a joint decision with his brother. Shutaro stayed in the Idaho-Utah area from 1891 to about 1895.
While in Logan, Tomizo first entered Brigham Young College, a Mormon academy, and completed a course in “theology,” probably religious education. His enrollment at Brigham Young College may have been inspired by his desire to study Mormonism or may have been only a precursor (in terms of mastering the English language) to his studies in veterinary medicine at the Agricultural College. The registrar’s office at Utah State University has records of Tomizo’s enrollment for the academic years 1895 and 1896. It is not clear, therefore, if he actually graduated from a degree-granting program. According to his biographer, however, he completed the course of study in agriculture in three years, upon which he became an assistant for a Dr. Fischer, a German professor in veterinary science.
While in Logan, Tomizo naturally had frequent contacts with Mormons, prominent among whom was Carl Christian Amussen, a wealthy Danish convert to the Church and the father, with his third wife, Barbara McIsaac Smith, of Flora Amussen, the wife of Ezra Taft Benson, the thirteenth President of the Church. After retiring from his successful jewelry business in Salt Lake City, Amussen was living in a two-story, French-style villa in Logan, with “marble fireplaces, a great winding stairway in solid mahogany with turned balustrades, two grand porticos, one facing each street, a steam heating plant, and modern plumbing.”His initial contact with Tomizo was likely related to the fact that Amussen was a horseman who was proud of his white Arabian horses. It may be recalled that, even before coming to Logan, Tomizo was a veterinarian skilled in the handling of horses.
As Amussen was a wealthy man, he spent his winters in Santa Barbara or the Monterey Peninsula in California. During those winter months, according to the Amussen family historian, “he entrusted his house to a Japanese student by the name of Katsunuma. Before he left Logan, the Japanese friend had been converted to the Church, typifying and exemplifying the missionary zeal which characterized the entire life of Carl Christian Amussen from the time of his conversion until the day of his death.”Tomizo was baptized by Guy W. Thatcher and confirmed a member of the Church by Joseph E. Lewis on August 8, 1895. He was subsequently ordained a deacon by R. M. Lewis on January 25, 1896. It was also during his Logan years that Tomizo became a naturalized U.S. citizen—citizenship was possibly granted in recognition of his service in the Utah National Guard —and in 1896 cast his first vote, for Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan.
Relocation in Hawaii. In 1894, the Japanese government terminated its program of supervised emigration to Hawaii.In response, there was a rise of private emigration companies that recruited laborers for profits. In 1898, for example, there were nine such companies, which shipped 12,293 laborers abroad, mostly to sugar plantations in Hawaii. While in Utah, Tomizo was recruited by one of those companies, the Hiroshima Emigration Company. The Hiroshima Emigration Company had had a long-standing relationship with the Patriotic League and hired some of the League members as its executives. Tsutau Sugawara, a prominent member of the Patriotic League, was one of them, and he had set up an office in Honolulu in 1895. The recruitment of Tomizo may have been initiated more directly by Tatsusaburo Matsuoka, Tomizo’s office mate in Nampa, who also became an executive of the Hiroshima Emigration Company upon his return to Japan in 1897. Accepting the Hiroshima company’s offer, Tomizo left Utah for the Pacific and arrived in Honolulu on January 15, 1898.
However, Tomizo’s involvement with the Hiroshima Emigration Company was apparently brief because, in the early spring of the same year, he made his first trip home under contract with the Kumamoto Emigration Company.Until that time, most of the immigrants to Hawaii had come from the regions in western Japan, including Kumamoto, Fukuoka, Yamaguchi, and Hiroshima. The Kumamoto Emigration Company was the first of the major emigration companies to pay attention to the Tohoku region, and the charge given to Tomizo was to recruit immigrants from that region, including from his home prefecture of Fukushima. Upon his return home, he gave stirring speeches in his Tohoku accent and inspired many to emigrate to Hawaii. Tomizo returned to Hawaii on July 26, 1898, accompanied by a group of about one hundred Fukushima immigrants.
Obviously, the highlight of his first trip home was the reunion with his wife, Mine, whom he had not seen for almost ten years. He had not even seen their son, Katsumi, who was born in Miharu following Tomizo’s departure for the United States. For a few months in the first half of 1898, they lived in a detached room in the eastern part of the Endo house in their hometown of Miharu. Thus Tomizo indisputably became the first Japanese Mormon to live in Japan.Their union was not to be disrupted again by a long absence. Soon after the birth of the second child, Kiyomi (in January 1899), the family traveled to Hawaii to be with Tomizo.
Life in Hawaii. Upon his permanent settlement in Hawaii, Tomizo became an immigration officer of the U.S. government. Given his earlier connections with Japanese emigration companies, his U.S. citizenship and his ability to speak English (though not without a strong accent) must have been important factors in this appointment, as Hawaii was being annexed to the United States at the time of his appointment (the process of annexation was completed in August 1898) and was to become a full territory of the United States in June 1900. With this changed status of Hawaii, the period of contractual immigration ended, only to be succeeded by a period of free immigration. A flood of Japanese immigrants continued to come, and the U.S. government needed someone of Tomizo’s background to handle the arrival of those immigrants, which averaged about sixty per ship.
Whenever a group of Japanese immigrants arrived, as an immigration inspector for the U.S. government Tomizo took a launch with customs officers to the ship, which was temporarily anchored awaiting their arrival. The team would then make a preliminary check of passengers as the ship was being docked along the pier. Things would generally move smoothly for the first-class passengers. Immigrants and other third-class passengers would be housed in the Immigration Department in order to go through the necessary investigation. Tomizo worked in this capacity until June 30, 1924, the day before the Johnson-Reid Immigration Act, which barred from entry all aliens ineligible for citizenship, took effect.
During that period, hardly a single Japanese immigrant landed in Hawaii without being inspected by Tomizo. Because of that status, he was well respected in the Japanese community, and many, including those who arrived as picture brides (in other words, women whose marriages to resident immigrants were arranged across the Pacific through the exchange of photographs), came seeking his advice even on personal matters.He was called “Doctor Katsunuma” or sometimes simply “Doctor” in the Japanese community, not because he had a doctorate (which he did not), but out of respect for his professional training in veterinary medicine, which he continued to practice and which he continued to regard as his true vocation in life.
He was known for his sharp wit, humor, and jovial personality. According to historian Yukiko Kimura, he was “unconventional, unpretentious, and had an open and direct way of doing things. . . . Japanese residents of Hawaii, rural and urban, accepted him with affection and respect because of these characteristics.”Yasutaro Soga, a friend and a prominent figure in the Japanese community of Hawaii, wrote:
Dr. Katsunuma, who was always called “Roko”among us and “Dr. Party” among the people, was a popular figure in the society circles of Honolulu. This was true not only among us the Japanese, but also among the White, Chinese, Kanaka (native Hawaiian), and Portuguese peoples. Regardless of race, religion, social status or age, he would talk to any acquaintance he might meet on the streets of Honolulu with the same familiarity. Whenever I was with him, his conversation with an acquaintance would become so long that I was sometimes distressed. . . .
Like myself, he did not drink much. At parties, however, he was famous for his Japanese limerick, which went something like “it is human to have facial pits, horses don’t have them.” At Rotary Club socials and other functions, he would make people burst into laughter by imitating a cock crow or a horse laughter. In this manner, Dr. Katsunuma was a unique personality among us, his associates in Hawaii.
Arriving immigrants were sometimes dumbfounded by the words that came out of Tomizo’s mouth, which were spoken with a Tohoku accent and were full of humor and wit. Towards the immigrants from Fukushima Prefecture, his paternalistic feelings were sometimes manifested violently, particularly when he was young. His biographer cites one eyewitness account:
It [The man] was a Matsumoto or something like that from Adachi County. When we arrived at Honolulu harbor, Mr. Katsunuma told us to gather together, so we all went upon the deck. This man came up considerably late. He was wearing an unlined summer kimono with splashed patterns, and walked up pattering his wooden clogs of medium height, with a tobacco case hanging down from his waist. Even we could tell that he was in trouble. Furious with anger, Mr. Katsunuma ran up to that man, kicked him with the shoe, trampled on him two or three times when he fell, yelling, “Where do you think you are? You are a disgrace to Fukushima.”
The biographer interpreted Tomizo’s behavior as reflecting “his constant passion for the improvement of younger immigrants.”
A Community Leader. With no propensity for smoking or drinking, Tomizo had as a favorite pastime reading and writing. In 1907, when the old and deteriorating Japanese Consulate building (purchased by the first consul in 1886) was put on sale, Tomizo purchased the building, moved it to Metcalf Street, and, upon renovation, called it Bashoan after his pen name, Basho.He was often found reading a book in a wisteria chair on the verandah of the house. His writings reveal that he was an avid reader, knowledgeable about many things, both East and West, old and new. For example, he wrote on such diverse subjects as the Japanese beetle, tattoos, and the contemporary Japanese haiku poet Meisetsu Naito.
Writing almost became his profession. With the printing press and movable types that he had shipped from his brother in Tokyo, he upgraded the Yamato Shinbun (a mimeographed newspaper with which he was associated from the earliest days) to a printed daily paper. In 1906, Yasutaro Soga (originally of Tokyo) was invited to become the president and editor-in-chief, and the title was changed to the Nippu Jiji (later the name would change again, to the Hawaii Times). Tomizo supported the newspaper company by serving as vice president and by frequently writing columns that enjoyed wide readership and commanded considerable influence among the Japanese-reading public. Tomizo obviously loved the newspaper business because he was engaged in it until just before his death.
In describing Tomizo’s writing style, Soga expressed himself in these words: “[Dr. Katsunuma] had an inquisitive mind, had passion for newspapers, and had a first class style of his own when it came to writing. His ‘Tohoku’ accent even manifested itself in writing. Because ‘e’ and ‘i’ were reversed, we were always troubled.”
A collection of Tomizo’s essays that appeared regularly in the Sunday columns of the Nippu Jiji from April 1922 to June 1924 was later published as a book under the title of Kansho no Shiborikasu (Strained Lees of Sugarcanes), with ten thousand copies printed by the Nippu Jiji Company. This three-hundred-page book not only is revealing of Tomizo’s witty character but is also a great source of information on the social history of Japanese immigrants in Hawaii.
Tomizo often acted as an arbitrator in public or private disputes. In 1900, when a number of Chinese workers were killed in a major collision, the Japanese offenders were sentenced to death. Tomizo resolutely stood up in their defense and eventually succeeded in reducing the sentence. From this time on, Tomizo became a great advocate of the Japanese community in Hawaii. In 1909, Tomizo and his newspaper repeatedly demanded that the working conditions of Japanese plantation workers be improved, and they supported the strike of seven thousand plantation workers. When an incident of serious consequence occurred in the Japanese community, Tomizo was often called to intervene and find a peaceful settlement.
For many years, Tomizo was a confidant of Japanese consuls stationed in Honolulu. When a Japanese consul was preparing for the festivities of the first emperor’s birthday (to be held on November 3, 1900) after Hawaii had become a U.S. territory, he recognized the need to be sensitive and requested that Tomizo become a member of the planning committee. Tomizo was also a charter (and the first non-Caucasian) member of the Rotary Club of Honolulu. He was involved in many community functions and activities, including the management of the Japanese hospital; the March 26, 1922, reunion of the first Japanese immigrants (called gan-nen-mono) and their descendants; and the festivities held on February 8, 1935, in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the commencement of the government-supervised program of emigration. He had a close association with both Christian and Buddhist leaders of the Japanese community, and Japanese dignitaries visiting Hawaii often called on him.
As a leader of the Japanese community in Hawaii, Tomizo twice represented the community in attending the imperial coronation ceremonies in Japan. The first time was in September 1915 when Tomizo made his third trip home,leading a group of about fifty people. Before traveling west to Kyoto to attend the coronation of Emperor Taisho, the group was invited by Marquis Shigenobu Okuma, then prime minister of Japan, to his residence in Tokyo, where Tomizo is said to have “mystified Marquis Okuma by giving a formal reply which was both relevant and witty.” The second occasion was in 1928, when he made his fourth and last trip home to attend the coronation of Emperor Showa (or Hirohito), which was held on November 13.
Early Association with the Church. Writing in 1937, Clissold explained that when Tomizo first arrived in Hawaii almost forty years earlier, he “attended services regularly at Auwaiolimu (in Honolulu) for several months. As the services were held entirely in Hawaiian, however, he became discouraged and for many years attended church only at conference time. During these periods of inactivity, he continued to claim membership and never hesitated to admit that he was a Mormon.”The festivities of the fiftieth anniversary celebration of the Hawaiian Mission, which were held in December 1900, might have been one of those occasions when Tomizo attended church. A picture taken on that occasion features Tomizo with George Q. Cannon, one of the first missionaries to Hawaii, who returned to represent the First Presidency.
According to Clissold, Tomizo also met with Heber J. Grant, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve:
When President Heber J. Grant passed through Hawaii on his way to preside over the Japanese Mission, Dr. Katsunuma met him and offered his services as missionary. For some reason he was not called to the mission field and continued to live in Hawaii as the only Japanese member.
The statement that Elder Grant passed through Hawaii on his way to Japan is obviously incorrect, as the Empress of India, which carried the first missionaries to Japan in August 1901, did not visit Honolulu.The timing of Tomizo’s meeting with Elder Grant must have been in March 1902, when the Apostle did visit the Hawaiian Mission on his way back from Japan to attend the April general conference. Whether Tomizo at that time was the only Japanese member in Hawaii, as Clissold says in his statement, is also subject to question.
Apparently, Elder Grant and his companions knew about Tomizo from the earliest days of their mission in Japan. It is possible that they had heard about him from George Q. Cannon while they were still in Utah. Alma O. Taylor, one of the first missionaries to Japan, writes that on August 19, 1901, they received at their boarding house in Yokohama a man by the name of Ushida, “who at one time went to school for about 4 months in the L.D.S. College . . . and was well acquainted with Thomaz [sic] Katsunuma who now lives in Honolulu, H.I. and is a member of the Church.” On the same day, the missionaries received a letter from “Mr. Katogi the Brother of T. Katsunuma . . . [who] had been in Salt Lake City and appreciated the kindness of the Mormons in helping him in the raising of silk.”Shutaro Katogi, who must have found out about the arrival of the Mormon missionaries by reading newspaper accounts, invited Elder Grant to come to see him in Tokyo and offered some assistance to the Church. On August 25, the editors of the Tokyo newspaper Shakai Shimpo came to interview the missionaries in Yokohama, as recorded in Taylor’s journal:
They brought with them a letter of introduction from Mr. Katogi with whom Bro. Grant had become acquainted while in Tokio a few days ago. . . . These gentlemen told us that . . . if we would go to Tokio that they wanted to call a large meeting and give us the opportunity of addressing through an interpreter, the Japanese people. They also said that the proprietor of their paper Mr. Oda told them that he would take great delight in introducing us to the people of his country. They also were the bearers of a message from Mr. Matsuoka, . . . telling us that he would furnish us a house without charging rent if we would only come to Tokio.
During his second trip home in 1904, Tomizo himself sought out and visited the mission home in Tokyo. Taylor describes the visit:
Learned upon returning to headquarters that Bro. Katsunuma from Hawaii had visited Prest. E[nsign] on Monday the 4th [of April 1904]. Bro. Katsunuma is the first Japanese to join the Church in all the world. He was converted in Utah many years ago. He has become an American citizen and is now in the civil service at Hawaii. He having received a month’s furlough, is in Japan visiting friends & relatives. He sought “Mormons” out the first thing and seemed pleased with what they had accomplished & were doing. He was glad to see some Latter-day Saint Hymns in his native language and gave the sect. of the Mission ¥[yen] 10.00 towards further translation.
A Japanese Mormon in Hawaii. During the early years in Hawaii, in addition to the language difficulty, his wife’s attitude toward religion may also have played a part in Tomizo’s general inactivity in the Church. She was a staunch Methodist and did not think much of the Mormons.The rest of the family apparently attended the Methodist Church. As English increasingly became a dominant language in Hawaii, however, Tomizo must have become a more active participant in Mormon services. Certainly by the early 1920s, Tomizo was an active participant. In a Sunday newspaper column published on November 6, 1921, he talks about the visit of an English professor from Utah and mentions that they became acquainted with each other because of their association in the Church.
In the early 1930s, Tomizo was instrumental in the organization of a Japanese Sunday School class in the Kalihi (Honolulu) Branch in May 1934 and the subsequent establishment of the Japanese Mission in Hawaii. In the critical meeting of key individuals held in the Hawaiian Mission home on April 6, 1934, Tomizo was present, along with Castle H. Murphy (mission president) and Edward L. Clissold, and offered the opening prayer.In connection with the First Presidency visit in Hawaii in the summer of 1935, J. Reuben Clark Jr. writes that “among the Japanese Saints in Honolulu [is] . . . Dr. Tomizo Katsunuma, who at one time attended college in Utah.” In Clark’s account, Tomizo was undoubtedly a member of the group of Japanese Saints who “gave to President Grant and his group a delicious dinner and afterward a delightful entertainment of song, dance, instrumental music and recitation.”
Writing in 1939 about the establishment of the Japanese Mission in Hawaii in February 1937, John A. Widtsoe mentions Tomizo as one of the seventeen Church members of Japanese ancestry found by Hilton A. Robertson, the incoming mission president.On October 1, 1939, following the establishment of the Japanese Mission, Tomizo was ordained an elder by Robertson. Widtsoe describes Tomizo as “a student of Brigham Young College and the Utah State Agricultural College [sic], and the first Japanese baptized into the Church” and as “active in the service of the mission in Honolulu.” He goes on to say that there is “much friendliness among the Japanese for our work” and that the “Japanese daily, Nippu Jiji of Honolulu, under the able leadership of Mr. Yasutaro Soga . . . made frequent timely references to the work of the Latter-day Saints among the Japanese.” This is to be expected. Soga was one of Tomizo’s closest friends, and Tomizo himself was involved in the editorial work of the Nippu Jiji.
After retiring from the Immigration Department in 1924, Tomizo returned to his real vocation as a veterinarian and continued the pleasant pastime of writing. Such retirement days were quietly spent until the summer of 1950, when he was hospitalized at Kuakini Hospital. He gradually weakened because of advancing age and, on September 11, closed his colorful life of almost eighty-seven years. Mine and other close relatives were at his bedside. The funeral was solemnly held on September 13 at the Church’s large tabernacle on Beretania Street, with Edward L. Clissold conducting. The tabernacle was filled with flowers, and many dignitaries were in attendance. The memorial addresses were given by Yasutaro Soga and Chomatsu Tsukiyama (president of the Senate). It was said to be the largest funeral held there in many years, with no room left even to stand.An obituary appeared in the English-language Honolulu Advertiser, under the large headline “Dr. Katsunuma, first Japanese Mormon, Dies.”
Tokujiro Sato, also known in Hawaii as Toko, Toku, or Sasaki,is another person who has a claim to being the first Japanese Mormon. Unlike Tomizo Katsunuma, however, very little is known, let alone written, about him. However, the contrast with Tomizo goes beyond the availability of reliable information. In all likelihood, Tokujiro was a person of humble means and little education.
An Eyewitness Account. The best place to begin is the only published eyewitness account of him, which describes the 1919 encounter of Tokujiro or Toko with Elias Wesley Smith, the son of Joseph F. Smith and president of the Hawaiian Mission:
During my recent visit, through the different conferences on the Islands of Maui and Hawaii, I had the privilege of meeting the first Japanese convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who is now living at Kukuihaele, Hawaii. We held an interesting meeting in his home and spent the night there.
Becoming interested in Brother Toko, I learned that he was born in Tokio, Japan, in the year 1849 [sic]. At the age of seventeen [sic] he worked his way to Hawaii, arriving here in 1866 [sic]. In 1879 [sic] he married a Hawaiian by the name of Kalala, and they have happily passed their ruby anniversary. He joined the Church in 1892 [sic], and has been and is still a faithful member.
He related to me many interesting incidents that took place here many years ago, among which was the Walter Murray Gibson trouble, and how he witnessed Gibson’s unlawful rise to power, and his dishonorable failure. . . .
Brother Toko is now seventy [sic] years of age, hale and hearty, and able to work six days a week raising Kalo (a Hawaiian vegetable used in making poi) for the market. In this way he earns an honest living. He has a large family of bright children.
Smith’s statement is extremely valuable as a starting reference, not because it is entirely correct (which it is not), but because it raises so many questions. For one thing, the arrival date of 1866 means that Tokujiro left Japan when the country was still under Tokugawa rule. Could he have left then? Very likely the dates of both his birth and arrival, if not anything else, are incorrect.Moreover, even if we take those dates at face value, how is it possible for someone who arrived in Hawaii in 1866 and joined the Church in 1892 to witness the Walter Murray Gibson trouble of 1861–64, if the statement refers to Gibson’s unlawful administration of Lanai, the gathering place for the Hawaiian Saints? Maybe Smith was putting his own words into Tokujiro’s mouth, when Tokujiro was thinking of something else.
Smith’s statement, however, convincingly demonstrates that in Kukuihaele on the island of Hawaii there was a Japanese man who claimed to have arrived in Hawaii long before the government-supervised program of emigration began in 1885 and whom a Church leader regarded as belonging to the Church, the man having been baptized before the opening of missionary work in Japan in 1901. Furthermore, Smith’s encounter with Tokujiro is entirely probable. Smith arrived in Honolulu on June 25, 1919, replacing Samuel Edwin Woolley, who had served as mission president for twenty-four years from 1895 to 1919.Thus, the new president was in need of quickly acquainting himself with the conditions prevailing in various parts of the islands. Because Smith was born in Laie during his father’s exile (1885–87) and had himself filled a mission to Hawaii from 1907 to 1910, he spoke Hawaiian fluently, as did Tokujiro (albeit with a Japanese accent). So the conversations, which must have taken place between June 25 and October 22 (when the report was filed), were undoubtedly conducted in that language.
Gan-nen-mono. As previously mentioned, organized immigration of Japanese workers to Hawaii did not begin until early 1885, when the Japanese government initiated a supervised program of emigration under a provisional agreement with the Kingdom of Hawaii. The first group of 948 Japanese immigrants arrived in Hawaii aboard the City of Tokyo on February 8, 1885, to work mostly on sugar plantations. Tokujiro Sato’s arrival in Hawaii predates the first group of government immigrants by almost twenty years, because he came in 1868 (not 1866, as stated by E. Wesley Smith) as a member of the only group of immigrants who left Japan before the commencement of government emigration.As the year 1868 was the first year of Meiji, this group came to be called collectively “first year men,” or gan-nen-mono in Japanese.
With declining populationand the emergence of sugar, pineapple, and other agricultural industries, Hawaii was anxious, at least from the early 1850s, to receive foreign workers to cover the shortfall of labor. Desiring to secure Japanese workers and knowing Japan was opening to international intercourse in the late 1850s, the Hawaiian authorities approached the Tokugawa shogunate about the matter in 1865 by appointing Eugene M. Van Reed, a Dutch-American businessman living in Yokohama, as Hawaii’s consul in Japan. No formal agreement could be secured because the shogunate objected not only to the idea of emigration itself but also to a businessman acting in a diplomatic capacity. However, on April 22, 1868, Van Reed was finally successful in obtaining the permission of the shogunate to recruit up to 350 Japanese immigrants to work on sugar plantations in Hawaii for three years.
Van Reed contracted with Japanese agents to recruit immigrant workers on the streets of Edo (present-day Tokyo) and Yokohama. The recruitees were mainly city dwellers, who had little experience in farming. Perhaps about half of the group were vagabonds, coolies, gamblers, drunkards, and other troublemakers who infected the urban streets of Japan during that period of great political and social unrest. Some were the second and third sons of small merchant houses, struggling in the economic depression of the time. Others were carpenters, plasterers, and other construction workers who had been employed in the rapidly developing open-treaty port of Yokohama. An overwhelming majority of them were young, over two-thirds of them being in their late teens and twenties.
Their contract was for three years (counting from the date of arrival in Hawaii), during which time they would be required to work twenty-six days a month for four dollars (or three dollars in the case of women). Transportation, food, lodging, and medical care would be provided by the employers, free of charge. The recruitees responded to these terms, thinking that they would be rich when they returned home in three years. Uneducated as they were, they had no idea what Hawaii meant, let alone where the country was located. They called the place tenjiku, the ancient name for India, or simply a faraway place.
The fourth year of Keio (1868) was the year during which political power was transferred from the Tokugawa shogunate to the new imperial government of Emperor Meiji. The transfer of power was far from peaceful, however. Early in the year, following the declaration of imperial rule at the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, a civil war broke out. Strengthened by their victories in earlier battles, the imperial (now government) forces were marching towards Edo just about the time the immigrants were being recruited on the streets. Unfortunately for Van Reed and his party of immigrants, the Meiji government completely took over the political control of the port of Yokohama on May 9, 1868,just about the time the chartered British ship Scioto was preparing to leave with the immigrants on board. On May 6, the immigrants had already begun boarding, upon the satisfactory completion of a medical examination.
The new authorities stationed in Yokohama disapproved the shogunate’s earlier agreement to allow its subjects to emigrate to Hawaii as contractual workers. Van Reed protested, saying that it would be a breach of diplomatic protocol not to honor the international agreement of a previous regime. On their part, the Meiji authorities argued that Hawaii was not a commercial treaty partner. Furthermore, they did not think that the terms of the contract were satisfactory and objected to the credentials of Van Reed as Hawaiian consul. They were also aware of the prevailing public opinion that the immigrant workers would be made slaves once they reached Hawaii.
Seeing the intransigence of the Japanese authorities, Van Reed appealed to the last resort measure. On the early morning of May 17, 1868,with customs clearance from the British (but not Japanese) authorities, he allowed the Scioto, carrying 150 Japanese immigrants (144 men and 6 women), to leave Yokohama harbor under the cover of darkness. As the ship slowly moved out to the open sea, there was much rejoicing among the passengers because they were finally freed from the lingering fear that they would be arrested and punished by the government authorities. The immigrants had generally been ignorant of the intricacy of either politics or diplomacy but understood only that their departure was in question and their lives were possibly in danger.
The ship arrived in Honolulu on June 19. On the following day, the 149 immigrants (one had died at sea) were allowed to go ashore. While on board, all the men, except for two who would do so later, had had their characteristic topknots chopped off on board as a token of gratitude for having survived the voyage across rough seas and also possibly as a symbol of their severance from their old world. After two weeks of vacation in Honolulu, the immigrants were assigned to different employers, who were required to pay seventy dollars per immigrant to the government and to make an advance of ten dollars in cash to each immigrant, which would then be deducted from monthly wages.
In the meantime, the unauthorized departure of the Scioto had become a diplomatic embarrassment for the newly established government. To restore national dignity, the government tried in vain to work with the resident diplomatic community to explore ways of punishing Van Reed and to secure the return of the immigrants. Just at that time, complaints of mistreatment, poor diet, and other hardships began to surface among the immigrants in Hawaii. For one thing, the immigrants were city dwellers unaccustomed to a rural lifestyle, let alone farming. Besides, their working conditions were severe, as they were made to work twelve straight hours a day under the heat of sun. There were at least two natural deaths and one suicide. There were also complaints of inadequate pay, particularly when half the wages were withheld for deferred payment upon their return home. These and other problems were undoubtedly compounded by language difficulties. The plight of the Japanese immigrants reached the Japanese consul in San Francisco, and several letters arrived from Tomisaburo Makino, the leader of the immigrants in Hawaii, requesting the Japanese government to intervene on their behalf.
In consequence, the Japanese government decided to send twenty-five-year-old Kagenori Ueno as special envoy to Hawaii. Traveling by way of San Francisco, Ambassador Ueno arrived in Honolulu on December 27, 1869,and immediately began to investigate the situation and to negotiate with the Hawaiian authorities. Ueno proposed two alternatives. One was that all immigrants be returned to Japan immediately at the expense of the Japanese government. The other was that only those wishing to return immediately be returned at the expense of the Japanese government but the remainder be returned at the end of the three-year contract period at the expense of the Hawaiian government. On January 10, 1870, the Hawaiian government accepted the second of the two proposals, subject to the condition that the agreement was “limited by the general law of all nations and of this country [and] by the fact that should any desire to remain the Hawaiian Government has no authority to compel them to go.” In the event, forty-two immigrants returned to Japan, and the rest (including two women) remained. The working conditions and general treatment of the remaining immigrants were also improved so that no more serious complaints were reported during the rest of the initial contract period.
Life in Japan. Because the unauthorized departure of the Scioto in 1868 was a major diplomatic incident, there exist several government and semiofficial records that detail the names, ages, and, in some cases, occupations of the immigrants. The trouble, however, is that much discrepancy exists across different records, owing not only to poor record keeping but more importantly to the fact that the immigrants (with the exception of four or possibly five) were commoners without surnames. During the Tokugawa period, there was a definite hierarchical ordering of society based on occupational categories consisting of samurai (including aristocrats and clergymen), peasants, artisans, merchants, and undercaste people. To have a surname was a privilege reserved for samurai, some landed farmers, and favored townspeople, including artisans and merchants of wealth and distinction. Only four of the 150 gan-nen-mono had surnames, and the rest frequently changed their names after arriving in Hawaii, making it difficult to trace individual immigrants through time.
The various records show that there were two immigrants by the name of Tokujiro (with no surname). The statement of E. Wesley Smith, however, establishes that the Tokujiro we seek is listed as eighteen years old when he boarded the ship, the other Tokujiro being listed as twenty-seven years old.In the old Japanese way of counting age, this means that he was born during the fourth year of Kaei (or the twelve-month period from February 1, 1851, to January 29, 1852, and not 1849 as Smith claims) and that he was sixteen or seventeen years old in terms of Western counting when he came to Hawaii, depending on the exact date of his birth. It is almost certain that Tokujiro was not of the samurai class, despite the claim of the family oral history to the contrary. For one thing, he did not have a surname, or at least it is not recorded that he did. For another, Tatami-machi (or Tatami-cho), which is believed to have been his place of residence, was in the Kyobashi section of Edo, a small area southeast of Edo Castle, and was where artisans specializing in the making of tatami (mat extensively used in the furnishing of Japanese-style houses) were concentrated. Given the definite demarcation that existed between the sections for samurai and townsmen, no samurai could have possibly lived in that part of town.
By the time he left home at the age of sixteen or seventeen, Tokujiro may well have already been an accomplished tatami maker in his own right. Family oral history has it that he was skilled in carpentry and helped build houses in the Waipio Valley on the northeastern coast of the island of Hawaii.That he was a skilled carpenter cannot be disputed, as the house which he built for himself some one hundred years ago still stands today. These carpentry skills could have been acquired as part of his apprenticeship in tatami making, which involves mastering the use of carpentry tools. His supposed samurai status, undoubtedly of his own or his family’s concoction, may be traced to the possible contractual relationship that his shop had with one of the hatamoto (Tokugawa retainer) families. Tatami-machi was linked by a bridge over the outer moat to the cluster of large hatamoto houses, which faced the inner moat of the castle. Tatami makers were placed in that precise location for the very purpose of serving the needs of those households and even the Tokugawa household itself.
In 1868 the town that Tokujiro was leaving behind was in the state of economic and social chaos. With the opening of Japan to international trade in the late 1850s, the relative prices of basic commodities began to change, resulting in a sharp redistribution of wealth. With trade came a rise in the relative prices of exportables such as silk and tea, while those of importables such as sugar and cotton fell. The wholesale merchants of Edo were particularly hard hit, as the flow of commodities was diverted to Yokohama and new merchants emerged to exploit the new business opportunities created by the opening of trade. To make matters worse, the Tokugawa shogunate began to stockpile rice and other essential commodities in preparation for the impending showdown with the antishogunate forces. With shortage and inflation, poverty was rampant.The Keio period (1865–68) was a period of great social unrest, during which there were at least five major riots in Edo.
In spring 1868, it was under these economic and social conditions that the townspeople of Edo heard that the imperial forces were coming to destroy the city. Although Edo Castle was handed over to the imperial forces on May 3in a peaceful settlement and the city was spared from being burned, the people in general were not fully informed of these developments. For some time, the streets remained filled with people carrying household effects in their attempt to flee the city. For Tokujiro and the other newly recruited immigrants from Edo, the call for laborers to work in Hawaii was not only an opportunity for life in a new land but also an opportunity to escape from economic depression and possible death in the old land. This sense of terror and urgency to escape is captured by the following quote from the (not-so-reliable) family oral history of Tokujiro:
Tokujiro and thirteen other [sic] of his fellow samurai [were told that] if they were caught by the Imperial forces they would be beheaded. Seeing that they could not escape death if they remained in Japan, their leader suggested them to find a way to run away to some far away country. Until Tokujiro and his fellow guards could find a way to escape they had to stay in hiding to prevent being captured by the Imperial forces.
What is remarkable about this story, which Tokujiro must have told his family members in one form or another, is its seeming resemblance to the well-known story of a group of immigrants from Edo called Imado-gumi, headed by Komekichi Sakuma. The Imado-gumi group of twenty-five immigrants left the street of Imado in the Asakusa section of Edo on May 7for their thirty-mile journey towards Yokohama. Heading south, they walked through the chaotic downtown streets of Edo and came to Takanawa, when they saw a large army of government soldiers marching into town. Caught by terror, they suddenly stopped and hid themselves in a grove of trees upon a hill in Shinagawa and remained there until the last of the soldiers was seen walking up north to the central part of Edo. Other than the samurai reference, the resemblance between the two stories is so striking that one wonders whether Tokujiro was a member of Imado-gumi, with Komekichi being the leader. Or perhaps, the Imado-gumi story is only representative of a similar scene experienced by all of the forty or so immigrants from Edo.
Life in Hawaii. The records filed by the gan-nen-mono chief Makino indicate that, when the time came to allocate the 148 immigrants (excluding one infant) among different employers, 51 were sent to Oahu, 71 to Maui (of this, 51 went to Haiku Sugar Company alone), 20 to Kauai, and 4 to Lanai (under the employ of W. M. Gibson).E. Wesley Smith’s statement that Tokujiro witnessed the Walter Murray Gibson trouble may well mean, if taken literally, that he was one of the four immigrants assigned to Lanai in the employ of Gibson. By 1868, the Gibson trouble had been long over, but Gibson still lived in Lanai. We know from a different source that, of the four assigned to Lanai, three (including a married couple) returned home in connection with the visit of Ambassador Ueno in early 1870. The fourth immigrant assigned to Lanai might have been Tokujiro.
Or just as easily, Tokujiro could have been sent to Maui. After all, almost half the people were sent there. Lanai, particularly the valley of Palawai, where Gibson likely lived, was only a short distance from Lahaina, Maui, across the channel. As Lanai lacked most amenities of life, Gibson must have frequented Maui to purchase basic supplies. Even in Maui, Tokujiro and others could easily have had opportunities to see Gibson from time to time. In fact, the family oral history states that Tokujiro was first sent to Maui. Yet again, it is also possible that he first went to Lanai but moved to Maui in conjunction with the promise of the Hawaiian government, made with Ambassador Ueno, to improve the working conditions of the Japanese immigrants. He would not have stayed in Lanai if the conditions there had been so bad that three out of the four initial immigrants decided to leave.
Interestingly, the list of gan-nen-mono filed on May 21, 1871, by Makino with the Hawaiian government designates “Toku Jilo” as desiring to go to the United States after the conclusion of the initial three-year contract period.In early 1871, in response to an inquiry by Makino, the Japanese government authorized the remaining one hundred or so immigrants to return home, remain in Hawaii, or go to the United States without penalty. Judging from what we know about his later life experiences as well as his generally limited ability to speak English, however, it is almost certain that Tokujiro did not go to the United States when the contract was fulfilled in June 1871. As he was prepared to leave whatever place he was in, he may well have left for the island of Hawaii at that time.
With the enactment in Japan of the Household Register Law in 1871, it may have been around this time that Tokujiro took the surname Sato. Initially, when he arrived in Hawaii, he chose to be called Toku or Toko. Shortening of Japanese names to adapt to the Hawaiian manner of speech was an extremely common practice in those days.When the time came to pick a surname, he could have easily adopted the name chosen by his family in Tokyo. When we recognize that he claimed that he was from Tatachi-machi, Kyobashi-ku, Tokyo, and that the Kyobashi section of Tokyo became a city ward (ku) only in November 1878, we can be reasonably sure that he maintained some contact with his family at least until some time after that date. Alternatively, the fact that he also used the surname Sasaki at least for a while may indicate that he chose the name Sasaki first, only to find out later that his family had adopted a different name.
Whether by choice or by assignment, Tokujiro’s years in Maui were followed by a permanent move to the island of Hawaii. According to one source, Tokujiro went to Waipio on the northeastern coast to work as a butcher and to farm taro.On the other hand, the family oral history states that he went to Waimea (on the highland about ten miles south of Waipio) to work for Samuel Parker at his ranch as a carpenter and a cook and that the two developed a friendship that lasted a lifetime. Samuel Parker (1852–1920) was the flamboyant grandson of John Palmer Parker (1790–1868), who jumped ship in Hawaii, befriended King Kamehameha I, and built a large and prosperous ranch on the Waimea plain. Whether Tokujiro first went to Waipio or Waimea, he finally ended up in Kukuihaele (about five miles south of Waipio along the Pacific coast), where he built his own home and spent his final years. Information is so scanty that we cannot possibly reconstruct the sequence of his life in Hawaii. One thing we know for sure is that his entire life on the island of Hawaii was spent in a relatively small triangular region connecting Waimea, Waipio, and Kukuihaele. His life in the three principal locations may well have been overlapping and not necessarily sequential.
Sometime after arriving on the island of Hawaii, Tokujiro married Kalala Keliihananui Kamekona, a Hawaiian with mixed Irish and Chinese lineage. According to family sources, Kalala Keliihananui Kamekona was the daughter of Kamekona (from the Waipio Valley) and Kaiahua (from the neighboring Waimanu Valley).She is said to have been born in Mana or Waipio circa 1851, but this date cannot be correct because it would make her fifty-five or fifty-six years old when the last child, Kaniela, was born in February 1907. According to E. Wesley Smith’s account, Tokujiro and Kalala were married in 1879 and had “happily passed their ruby anniversary” by 1919. The reference to the ruby anniversary must be Smith’s creation and not Tokujiro’s comment because it is difficult (though not impossible) to believe that she did not have children for almost ten years after marriage (until the latter half of the 1880s) when she was fertile enough to give birth to ten children during her lifetime. These considerations seem to suggest that Tokujiro’s marriage to Kalala took place in the middle of the 1880s and that Tokujiro was then in his early thirties and Kalala in her early twenties (having been born around 1862).
Kalala’s possible birthplace of Mana is interesting because, in all likelihood, it refers to Mana Hale (in Hawaiian, House of the Spirit), the house built by John Palmer Parker outside of Waimea on the lower slope of 13,796-foot-high Mauna Kea. Undoubtedly, Mana later began to mean the whole compound of the Parker home or even the whole community of ranchers, workers, and their families working on Parker Ranch.Samuel Parker and his royal wife, Harriet Panana Napela, had a lavish lifestyle, alternating their residence between Mana and the king’s palace in Honolulu. They were part of Hawaii’s high society and regularly entertained “world travelers and socialities.” Their parties are said to have “rivalled even those of King Kalakaua, a close friend of theirs.” Kalakaua was on the throne from 1874 to 1891. During 1878–87, the king’s close confidant and advisor was Walter Murray Gibson, who, after being excommunicated from the Church in 1864, tried his hand in Hawaiian politics and served as the premier and minister of foreign affairs before being forced to flee the country for a life of exile in California. No doubt, Gibson was one of those distinguished guests at Parker’s home in Mana, and Tokujiro had plenty of opportunities in his capacity as the family chef to get to know Gibson. In this light, Tokujiro’s presumed witness of Gibson’s rise and fall takes on a new meaning.
Given Tokujiro’s work and Kalala’s family connection in Mana, it is possible that the two met and were married in Mana. Tokujiro may have obtained work as a cook at Parker Ranch because of his previous experience as a butcher in Waipio. Or his Parker Ranch job may have been his first in Hawaii. At any rate, after being married, the couple must have spent much of their married life in Waipio,where Tokujiro raised taro, built homes as a carpenter, and after 1885, when Japanese immigrants began to arrive in Hawaii, helped them with the Hawaiian language and Hawaiian culture. A story is told of Sentaro Kawashima, a young Japanese immigrant, who was taught by Tokujiro to speak Hawaiian and English, farm taro, and make poi and okolehau (homemade Hawaiian whiskey). Tokujiro had become fluent in the Hawaiian language so that sometimes he was asked by a court of law to act as an interpreter. Such an assignment was not unusual for the gan-nen-mono who stayed in the Hawaiian islands, because, with very few or even no other Japanese around, they had to assimilate into the Hawaiian community.
It is said that when Tokujiro moved to Kukuihaele and built a house for his own family he carried lumber from the Waipio Valley on an ox wagon.Kukuihaele is only a short distance from Waipio, but it is located at least a few hundred feet above the valley. To carry the lumber up the steep hill must have been a strenuous and arduous task, a task that cannot possibly be carried out by someone in his old age. Thus when the house was built in Kukuihaele, he was perhaps in his late thirties or early forties (in other words, the house was probably built sometime during the 1890s). It is almost certain that the house was built by 1901, because Tokujiro was there when Kawashima arrived at the Kukuihaele plantation during that year. In Kukuihaele, Tokujiro raised taro (as he had done or possibly continued to do in Waipio) on an irrigated farm adjacent to the back of his house. The farm was about half an acre in size and stretched out on a moderate slope overlooking the Pacific ocean. For a time, the couple had a store, selling poi or taro and beef. The beef might have been procured through his old connection with Samuel Parker, indicating that Tomizo’s association with him was a long one.
Association with the Church. According to E. Wesley Smith’s statement, Tokujiro supposedly joined the Church in 1892 and had been and was still a faithful member of the Church when they met in 1919. Tokujiro may well have joined the Church, but there is no record to support the claim that his baptism took place in 1892. It is difficult to have faith in the validity of that date, when every other date in Smith’s statement has turned out to be incorrect. Moreover, even the descendants of Tokujiro generally are skeptical of the claim that he was a member of the LDS Church, although they do not deny the possibility.However, a handful of Church records do exist to establish his association, if not affiliation, with the Church.
The membership records of the Waipio Branch in the Northern Hawaii District do list Tokujiro (as Toko Sr. born circa 1845), although no baptism information is given. His wife, Kalala, is also listed (as Clara Toko baptized in Mana), although no date is given for either birth or baptism. The children’s baptisms, when they did occur, are more accurately recorded. The records show that at least six of the nine children were baptized: Mary Melelaulani and Hana on December 7, 1902; John (listed as Toko Jr.) on December 9, 1902; Pula on March 6, 1904; Willard Matsu (Kanuka) on November 1913; and Kaniela on April 17, 1919. No records exist, however, for the other three children, Ohumukini, Emily, and Fukui.
Given the very fact that membership records exist for Tokujiro, that almost all of his children were baptized, and that the visiting mission authority considered him a faithful member, the weight of the evidence seems to suggest that Tokujiro was a baptized member of the Mormon Church.Considering that, when the first three of the children were baptized in December 1902, the oldest child (Mary) was fifteen years old, there is a reasonable basis for believing that Tokujiro was baptized prior to her eighth birthday, namely, August 29, 1895, if he was baptized at all. Otherwise, Tokujiro and Mary (then over eight years old) would have been baptized at the same time. On the other hand, to believe that he was baptized after Mary is difficult (though not impossible) because then the baptism would have more likely been recorded, given the better record-keeping practice in later years. This conjecture provides some credibility to E. Wesley Smith’s statement that Tokujiro was baptized in 1892. If Tokujiro’s baptism was during the latter part of the period preceding Mary’s eighth birthday, it was remarkably close to Tomizo Katsunuma’s baptism date of August 8, 1895. It may be that Tokujiro was baptized along with the eldest daughter Ohumukini, whose baptism information is not available but who is considered to have been a member.
The Tokujiro Sato family, however, was far from being the typical Mormon family of contemporary America. Their religious understanding and practice were constrained both by the cultural settings of the day and by the different expectations that the Church had of its members. The descendants remember Kalala as fond of drinking okolehau and as being “cranky” most of the time, possibly because of her drinking habit.In his later years, perhaps with the increasing population of Japanese, Tokujiro came to emphasize his Japanese identity. Although he exclusively spoke Hawaiian to his children, he spoke Japanese to some of the grandchildren as they developed proficiency in that language; he also apparently encouraged at least one of his daughters to marry a Japanese and gave up one of his sons for adoption to a Japanese family.
For one reason or another, none of the children took the name Sato, although John and John’s son Albert carried it as their middle name. After all, Sato was a name foreign to Tokujiro. John took the name Toko, Willard (who was given up for adoption) carried the name Yamamoto, and the two youngest sons decided to use their mother’s honored Hawaiian name of Kamekona. Whatever shortcomings Tokujiro and Kalala might have had as Mormon parents, a host of practicing Latter-day Saints are found among their descendants today, particularly those who have come through the Ohumukini, Fukui, and Kaniela lines.
Tokujiro died in his home shortly after his meeting with E. Wesley Smith in 1919,and after a funeral held presumably at a Latter-day Saint chapel, he was buried in a cemetery located on the Pacific shore. His grave no longer exists because it was washed away in a tidal wave. His house, however, still stands today on the same spot, and the legacy of hard work and perseverance that he exhibited throughout his life continues.
Tomizo Katsunuma and Tokujiro Sato each has a legitimate claim to being the first Japanese Mormon. Both happened to be at the crossroads of some major historical transformations making their conversion possible. First, with the western frontiers secured, the United States was becoming a Pacific military and economic power, eventually annexing the peaceful and independent kingdom of Hawaii. Second, following the opening of the country to international intercourse, Japan itself was rapidly developing into a modern nation-state, and a host of adventurous Japanese were venturing out of the country to explore opportunities abroad. Finally, against these major transpacific political developments in the background, the Mormons were trying to solidify their base in the Intermountain West and were engaged in an aggressive proselyting program. Without the changes created by these currents in the surrounding power and opportunity structures, neither Tomizo nor Tokujiro would have been freed from the shackles of tradition to embrace a new religion in a new land and to be Mormon pioneers of Japanese ancestry.
Some may challenge the use of the term “pioneer” to describe these early members, at least in the usual sense in which the term is understood. After all, they never walked the plains for a thousand miles. They were never harassed or molested for their religious beliefs. They never helped, at least in a major way, the institutional establishment of the Church in their community, let alone in their native land. They held no leadership positions in the Church to speak of. In some ways, they were marginal affiliates of Mormonism.
Perhaps they can more appropriately be called path breakers, a special type of pioneers separated from the binding root of a certain cultural tradition and serving as a bridge between the real pioneers (who are to come) and their old world.Indeed, neither Tomizo nor Tokujiro may have been stalwart converts in the full sense of the word; they may have been marginal affiliates of the Church. However, path breakers they were—even pioneers in their internal struggle to reconcile the tenets of Mormonism with the demands of Japanese culture, the same struggle that has continued to this day among their fellow Mormons of Japanese ancestry.
Children of Tomizo and Tokujiro
Children of Tomizo and Mine
Katsumi, son, born on May 12, 1890, Miharu, Fukushima.
Kiyomi, daughter, born on January 24, 1899, Miharu, Fukushima.
Takeo, son, born on February 20, 1902, Honolulu.
Yasuko, daughter, born on May 13, 1904, Honolulu.
Yoshiko, daughter, born on September 8, 1906, Tokyo.
Woodrow, son, born on March 9, 1913, Honolulu.
Children of Tokujiro and Kalala
Ohumukini, daughter, birthdate unknown, Hawaii.
Mary Melelaulani, daughter, born in 1887, Hawaii.
Hana, daughter, born in 1889, Waipio, Hawaii.
John, son, born in 1892, Waipio, Hawaii.
Pula, son, born in 1895, Waipio, Hawaii.
Emily, daughter, birthdate unknown, Hawaii.
Fukui, son, born in 1901, Hawaii.
Willard Matsu (Kanuka), son, born in 1904, Waipio, Hawaii.
Kaniela (Daniel), son, born in 1907, Waipio, Hawaii.