Thomas Sakakihara

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Thomas Tameichi Sakakihara (榊原為一, Sakakihara Tameichi?, 1900–1989),[1][2] referred to locally as Tommy Sakakihara in person and in print,[3][4] was a Japanese American politician from Hawaii, interned due to his ancestry during World War II.

Political career[edit]

Sakakihara joined the Republican Party and first ran for political office in 1926.[5] He was elected to the legislature of the Territory of Hawaii in 1932, and served continuously then on for several terms.[6]

In 1941, Sakakihara was one of six Americans of Japanese ancestry serving in the territorial legislature. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he was made a deputy sheriff of Hilo, but was later discharged from that position.[6] The intersection of Sakakihara's ancestry and rise to prominence set him up for negative attention from the US Army's Hawaii sub-command. He had earlier been listed on the Plan of Initial Seizure of Orange Nationals drawn up by George S. Patton between 1935 and 1937, among 127 other Japanese American community leaders.[7] Then on February 26, 1942, Sakakihara and roughly thirty other prominent Japanese "enemy aliens or suspected sympathisers" were arrested by the Army.[8] He was held at the Honouliuli Internment Camp until 1943; his release was conditional on a signed pledge not to sue the U.S. government for damages related to the internment.[6]

Unlike fellow legislator and Honouliuli internee Sanji Abe, Sakakihara returned to politics after the end of World War II; he and five other Japanese Americans were elected to the Hawaii territorial House of Representatives for 1947.[9] He was re-elected in 1948, along with fellow Japanese Americans Takao Yamauchi and Joe Itagaki.[10] He also served as one of the vice-presidents of the 1950 Hawaii State Constitutional Convention.[11] He found a strong political base among small sugar-growers.[12] Eventually, his long service and political support earned him a position as chairman of the legislature's Finance Committee. He was also instrumental in getting increased funding for the Hawaii Vocational College (later the Hilo branch of the University of Hawaii).[3] However, he and other Asian American Republicans lost their legislative seats in the Hawaii Democratic Revolution of 1954; Sakakihara himself was accused in a full-page ad in the Hilo Tribune-Herald by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union of taking salary kickbacks from his legislative workers.[5][13]

Personal life and other activities[edit]

Sakakihara was born on July 17, 1900 in Hilo, Hawaii to parents Shinzo and Hisa (née Hagihara).[14] He gained familiarity with the law by working in the office of a local lawyer.[5] His law career culminated in 14 years of service as District Judge for the Big Island of Hawaii.[7] On April 15, 1933, he married Aileen Sadako Arizumi, with whom he had two children.[12][14] Of small stature and build, he affected a dapper image, walking with a cane he admitted he did not actually need. His friends described him as aggressive and feisty.[3] He was said to be fond of Black & White whisky, and served it during his frequent parties at the Young Hotel.[4]

As late as 1970, Sakakihara was listed as a field representative for the office of Senator Hiram Fong.[15] He did not speak out publicly about his internment until February 1976, when the Honolulu Star-Bulletin interviewed a number of former Honouliuli internees for a front-page story about President Gerald Ford's rescindment of Executive Order 9066.[9] He died on February 22, 1989.[2]


  1. ^ Kawazoe 1968, p. 319
  2. ^ a b "Thomas T. Sakakihara, 1989", Social Security Death Index, FamilySearch, retrieved 2012-10-24 
  3. ^ a b c Inouye & Kormondy 2001, p. 43
  4. ^ a b "Political Sidelights" (PDF), Honolulu Record, 3 (41), p. 3, 1951-05-10, retrieved 2009-12-23 
  5. ^ a b c Whitehead 2004, p. 194
  6. ^ a b c Whitehead 2004, p. 79
  7. ^ a b Buckingham, Dorothea Dee (2009-02-23), "General Patton's Hawaiian 'Internment List'", Hawaii Reporter, retrieved 2009-12-23 
  8. ^ "Japanese Arrested on Island of Hawaii: Army Holds 30 as Enemy Aliens or 'Suspected Sympathizers'", The New York Times, 1942-02-26, retrieved 2009-12-13 
  9. ^ a b Whitehead 2004, p. 83
  10. ^ Aguiar 1997, p. 274
  11. ^ Whitehead 2004, p. 191
  12. ^ a b Inouye & Kormondy 2001, p. 44
  13. ^ Inouye & Kormondy 2001, p. 45
  14. ^ a b Kestenbaum 2009
  15. ^ US Senate 1970, p. 36


  • Kawazoe Zen'ichi/川添善市 (1968), 移民百年の年輪「移植樹の花開く」 [100 years of immigration: The blooming of transplanted trees], Honolulu: 移民百年の年輪刊行会, OCLC 51503153 
  • Report of the Secretary of the Senate, Office of the Secretary, United States Senate, January–July 1970 
  • Aguiar, Gary George (1997), Party Mobilization, Class, and Ethnicity: The Case of Hawaii, 1930 to 1964, Universal Publishers, ISBN 978-0-9658564-3-0 
  • Inouye, Frank T.; Kormondy, Edward John (2001), The University of Hawai'i-Hilo: a college in the making, University of Hawaii Press, ISBN 978-0-8248-2495-2 
  • Whitehead, John S. (2004), Completing the union: Alaska, Hawai'i, and the battle for statehood, American Histories of the Frontier Series, UNM Press, ISBN 978-0-8263-3637-8 
  • Kestenbaum, Larry (2009), "Index to Politicians: Saintclaire to Salmo", The Political Graveyard, retrieved 2009-12-23