Hawaii Karate Seinenkai

The following article appeared in Dragon Times, Volume 16, 2000. See Dragon Times Online. Photographs have been omitted. Copyright © Charles C. Goodin. All rights reserved.

Chojun Miyagi's 1934 Visit to Hawaii:
A Brief Update

By Charles C. Goodin

Chojun Miyagi, the founder of the Goju Ryu form of Karate, 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.

Miyagi's extended visit to Hawaii was first described in modern Karate literature by Bruce Haines 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 early 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.

Chinyei Kinjo (left) with Seichu Yamashiro and
Seisho Tokunaga. Chojun Miyagi is seated.
Photo courtesy of the family of Chinyei Kinjo.

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 Miyagi was met in Honolulu by Chinyei Kinjo and other well-wishers. 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 undoubtledly 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 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. Miyagi was assisted during his demonstrations by members of the Hawaii Karate Seinen Kai (Youth Society), headed by Seishin Uehara and Shigeru Miyashiro.

Miyagi's visit did receive some press coverage, although not the high level accorded Zuiho Mutsu and Kamesuke Higashonna 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"):


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:


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 exhibition 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.

The foregoing is just a glimpse into my ongoing research. If you have information about Miyagi Sensei's visit to Hawaii, please contact me.

Contact Charles C. Goodin

Copyright © Charles C. Goodin. All rights reserved.

Hawaii Karate Seinenkai