Book review by David Fukumoto, president and founder Fuku-Bonsai
I begin with a disclaimer and/or state my conflict of interest. Having being privileged to know and work closely with Ted for over 50 years, there's just no way that I can be totally impartial! I came to know him due to our common bonsai interests, but with a 20 year age difference, he is also one of my main bridges to the extraordinary Hawaii Japanese Nisei generation that forever changed Hawaii.
This is the story of that generation and Ted's standing within that generation provides a unique perspective to understand how and why modern Hawaii evolved. Prior to World War II, Hawaii was economically and politically dominated by the sugar and pineapple plantations and business interests. Most Japanese came as labor for the plantations and there was strict racial stratification. In contrast, Ted's family were educated Christian merchants who lived in a mixed neighborhood free of such prejudices. The book is divided into four parts and Part 1 - The Early Years told of his family, how he grew up, his "English Standard" schooling and attending the University of Hawaii.
Part 2 - The War Years. Ted was a child of destiny and a junior at the University of Hawaii in the Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) program when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The ROTC unit was mobilized, armed, and deployed to defend the city as the Hawaii Territorial Guard. A few weeks later, all Japanese were branded "enemy aliens" and discharged. Ted was one of the leaders who formed the Varsity Victory Volunteers to help the war effort as a labor battalion and this led to the formation of the all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team that went on to become the most highly decorated unit. Ted was drafted out of the 442nd into the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) and served as a translator of intercepted Japanese communications. From ROTC to his discharge, Ted served in six little known units that proved the loyalty of the Japanese-Americans!
Part 3 - The Postwar Years shared the transition as the war veterans earned educational opportunities under the GI Bill. Ted was the first Japanese to graduate from Yale Law School and like other returning veterans, their successes in creating a supportive family life and getting established in their careers culminated in the Hawaii political Democratic take-over in 1954. Hawaii rapidly changed. Ted's narrative added significant insights to the published narratives of the other leaders of his generation!
Part 4 - A Lawyer's life tells of his initiation into the legal community, as a government attorney, working as an associate and evolving into private practice. By temperament and preference, he created a distinguished legal career in arbitration-mediation. He has had the most published decisions with none ever being over-turned on appeal. Ted's fact-finding and writing skills positioned him to serve as a community archival historian. The Nisei veterans are notoriously quiet and don't talk about their war experiences even to family members. Ted was able to bring to the public the amazing heroic World War II accomplishments of the Nisei military units. He organized informational archives for future historians and was often called upon as a public speaker or for written articles.
Ted Tsukiyama's MY LIFE'S JOURNEY; A MEMOIR is a must-read for those interested in the extraordinary Hawaii Nisei generation. The 6"x9" soft cover contains 160 pages including a number of black and white photos. $17.95 with author royalties of this book to support Nisei veteran organizations. The Watermark Publishing order link: https://www.bookshawaii.net/tsukiyama-memoir.html
Ted has rightfully received many honors for his community and legal work which most will recognize as his major life contributions. "Bonsai" gets just a few pages in which he greatly under-states his role. Like his other bashful or humble veterans who don't talk about their war experiences, Ted includes only minimum information about his bonsai contributions. I respectfully disagree. There is a much more detailed accounting beginning at www.fukubonsai.com/5a21.html with other links.
Ted is one of just six individuals recognized in the Fuku-Bonsai International Honor Role named in 1990. He received the Japanese Imperial Award primarily due to creating American and Japanese friendships through bonsai. The Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center is dedicated to the Hawaii Nisei generation, and also including the entire World War II generation as former enemies created "International Bonsai" as a bridge to international friendship and peace. Ted's story is of a life well lived and I thank Ted for eloquently sharing it with us!