Goju Ryu Karate’s
1934 Visit to Hawaii
By Charles C. Goodin
Chojun Miyagi was one of Okinawa’s greatest modern karate masters. In fact, today everyone knows the name Miyagi. Miyagi sensei is considered by many of those who study Okinawan karate as the master who had the most technical skill. He was an innovator and is credited with naming Okinawa’s first style of karate as Goju Ryu Karate Do. Miyagi became a legend in his own time and made many contributions to the art of karate. However, he also had a dream for the future. He could see that karate would spread worldwide and become international in scope. During his lifetime he traveled to Mainland Japan, Kyushu Island and Hawaii to spread its teachings. The remainder of this article focuses on Miyagi sensei’s visit to Hawaii in 1934 and is an historical account of that sojourn as researched and written by Charles Goodin. The Fighting Spirit
Miyagi sensei arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii on Thursday, May 3, 1934 aboard the NYK steamship, Tatsuta Maru. He had celebrated his 46th birthday while in transit and was to stay in Hawaii for eight months, until January or February of the next year.
[tatsuta1-500.jpg From the author’s collection] Bruce Haines first described Miyagi’s extended visit to Hawaii in modern Karate literature in his 1962 University of Hawaii master’s thesis. Haines later wrote Karate’s History and Traditions (1968), which includes a section on Hawaii. More recently, Morio Higaonna added a great deal of information about the visit in his monumental The History of Karate (1996). I have been conducting field research in connection with a book I am writing about the roots of Karate in Hawaii. This article provides a small portion of new information discovered concerning Miyagi’s visit. It is not my intent to repeat here information already covered by Haines and Higashionna.
Miyagi was invited to Hawaii by Chinyei Kinjo of the Yoen Jiho Sha, a Japanese language newspaper located in Koloa, Kauai, but also read on Oahu and other islands. It was the major Okinawan newspaper of the time. The two major Japanese language newspapers in Honolulu, The Hawaii Hochi and The Nippu Jiji, were Japanese owned. Chinyei Kinjo, like his father, Chinzen Kinjo — one of the first 26 Okinawan immigrants to arrive in Hawaii in 1900 — was a Karate student in Okinawa. The Kinjos were from Naha, leading to speculation that the elder Kinjo may have studied with Kanryo Higashionna, Miyagi’s teacher.
It appears that Chinyei Kinjo and other well wishers met Miyagi in Honolulu. He stayed on Oahu until the 14th of May, at which time he departed for an approximately one- month tour of Kaui. During his 11 days on Oahu, Miyagi was undoubtedly shown the sights of Honolulu and driven to other parts of the island. A party was held for him on Thursday the 10th at the Pan Pacific Club on the corner of Hotel and Richards Streets.
That weekend, he gave two demonstrations, which were sponsored jointly by the Naha Shinjin Kai, Hawaii Karate Seinen Kai, Yoen Jiho Sha, Honolulu Japanese Newspaper, and the Honolulu Judo Yudansha Kai. On Saturday he gave the first demonstration at the Y.M.B.A. (Young Men’s Buddhist Association) Hall (or Bussei Hall), in downtown Honolulu. On Sunday afternoon he gave a demonstration at the Japanese Social Club. Members of the Hawaii Karate Seinen Kai (Youth Society) headed by Seishin Uehara and Shigeru Miyashiro assisted Miyagi during his demonstrations.
Miyagi’s visit did receive some press coverage, although not the high level accorded Mizuho Mutsu and Kamesuke Higashionna the year earlier. The reason for the sparse coverage was that Miyagi’s visit – like Kentsu Yabu’s in 1927 – was culturally oriented, not commercial. Miyagi taught at church and civic facilities, as well as private homes. In contrast, Mutsu and Higashionna performed at the Honolulu Civic Auditorium (the venue for professional boxing and wrestling) and the Oahu Theatre.
On Thusday, May 10th, an advertisement appeared in The Hawaii Hochi describing the upcoming demonstration at the Y.M.B.A. It described Miyagi as the best authority on “Kenpo Karate” and added that he would give a demonstration of “Goju Ryu Karate.” It stated that the fee was a mere 25 cents.
The next day, a small article appeared in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin (it incorrectly stated Miyagi’s name as “Miyoki”):
“KARATE EXPERT WILL CONDUCT CLASSES HERE
Chojun Miyoki, Japan’s leading expert in karate, a form of self defense, is a visitor in Honolulu and plans to remain in the islands about six months. Miyoki, who is chief instructor in karate for the police department at Naha, Japan, plans to leave for Kauai Monday and will return to Honolulu in about a month. During his stay in the islands Miyoki will conduct classes in karate. He will give an exhibition at the local Y. M. B. A. at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.”
A similar article appeared in The Hawaii Hochi that same day. This time Miyagi’s name was misstated as “Miyaki.”
“Karate Expert to Give Exhibition Tomorrow Night
Chojun Miyaki, one of Japan’s greatest Karate experts, will give an exhibition tomorrow night at 7:30 o’clock at the Y.M.B.A. hall on upper Fort Street. He will spend about three months in the Territory, showing in exhibitions and giving lectures.
Miyaki is chief instructor for the Police Department of Naba (southern Japan) and for the Karate department of the Japanese Athletic association. He leaves for Kaui next Monday night for a four-week tour.”
Over 200 people, including members of the Board of Education of Oahu, attended the demonstration at the Y.M.B.A. It was reported that they were deeply impressed. If only we could go back in time and record Miyagi Sensei’s demonstration!
Miyagi left for Kauai on Monday, the 14th, accompanied by Kinjo. The next week, an article appeared in The Garden Island, the English language newspaper on Kauai:
“KARATE EXPERT FROM JAPAN TO GIVE SERIES OF EXHIBITIONS HERE
Chojun Miyaki, Japan’s leading expert in karate, a form of self defense, is a visitor on Kauai and plans to remain here for a month. He is a guest of the Yoen Jiho Sha of Koloa. Miyaki will give lectures and exhibitions on karate in the various communities over the island under the auspices of the Eleele Butokukai, Koloa Yoobukan, Kalaheo Seibukan, Lihue YMBA Judo team and the Okinawa Rengokai.
Miyaki, before coming to the islands has been chief instructor in karate for the police department at Naha Japan. In 1927 he was called by the Kyoto Imperial University to act as instructor for this form of self-defense. After two years he was transferred to the Osaka Kansai University where he was chief instructor before going to the police department at Naha.
During his stay here Miyaki will conduct a series of exhibitions and lectures. The program is as follows: Tuesday, Wahiawa; Wednesday, Kapaa; Thursday, Makaweli Camp 4; Friday, Kalaheo; Saturday, Koloa; Sunday, Kekaha; Monday, Waimea. Starting time will be 8:00 p. m. The program for other communities has not been completed as yet but every community will have a chance to see Miyaki in exhibition. Admission charges will be 25 cents in order to help the local sponsors defray expenses.”
There is a well-established rumor among Karate researchers that Miyagi was filmed during his stay on Kauai. If such a film exists, I have not found it… yet. I did speak to an oldtimer who remembered an Okinawan cameraman who lived in Kekaha, Kauai, one of the areas visited by Miyagi. The cameraman reportedly moved back to Okinawa before the war – perhaps the film returned with him!
It is not clear when Miyagi returned to Oahu, but on Sunday, July 29th, a gathering was held for him at the Waipahu Hongwanji. The accompanying photo may be the only one existing of Miyagi in Hawaii. Unfortunately, issues of the Yoen Jiho Sha during that time period were lost and never microfilmed. Photos taken by the newspaper appear to have been lost as well. [miyagi.jpg Photo courtesy of the family of Dr. Ryoon Uesato.] The foregoing is just a glimpse into my ongoing research. If you have information about Miyagi Sensei’s visit to Hawaii, please call me at (808) 488-5773, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to me at 98-211 Pali Momi Street #640, Aiea, Hawaii 96701.
About the author: Charles C. Goodin is an instructor of Matsubayashi-Ryu (www.matsubayashi-ryu.com) at the Hikari Dojo (www.tanega.com/dojo/) in Honolulu, Hawaii. He is a member of the International Ryukyu Karate Research Society.