Shigemaru Miyao


Name Shigemaru Miyao
Born April 15 1903
Died August 5 1993
Birth Location Hiba-Gun, Hiroshima-ken, Japan
Generational Identifier

Issei

Shigemaru Miyao (1903-1993) was a Shintō priest in Hawai'i whom authorities had incarcerated during World War II. He headed the Izumo Taisha Mission in Honolulu, one of the few Shintō shrines in the United States.

Background

Shigemaru Miyao was born in Hiba-Gun, Hiroshima-ken, Japan, to a family of Izumo Taishakyo Shintō priests. When he was two years old, the Izumo Taishakyo headquarters sent his father, mother, and older sister to Hawai'i. Miyao was left behind in the care of relatives and he eventually graduated from Kokugakuin University in 1927. That same year he joined the priesthood and in 1930, he married Yukiko Shikishima of Nagasaki-ken. In 1932, he arrived in Honolulu to assist his father who had been in Hawai'i since 1906 at the Izumo Taisha Shrine in Pālama that had been completed in November 1922 at a cost of $35,000 that members had raised.[1]

World War II Experiences

When his father Katsuyoshi passed away in 1935, Miyao became the head priest and board chairman of Hawaii Izumo Taisha. Due to his prominent role in the Shintō religion that authorities feared promoted loyalty to Japan, Miyao and his wife were incarcerated during World War II.[2] However, many in the Japanese community, including the inmates themselves wondered why authorities had also arrested Miyao's wife as she did not fit any of the criteria used to justify incarceration. Authorities incarcerated Yukiko Miyao because they mistakenly believed her to be her mother-in-law, as both of them signed their names "Y. Miyaoh."[3] Both were incarcerated while the rest of the family was left to raise Miyao's three infant children—Richard, Masanori, and daughter Florence—the oldest of whom was only five years old. Although Yukiko Miyao testified at military hearings that she was merely a housewife and was not involved in any church activities, she was not allowed to return home. Authorities first held Miyao at Sand Island and then sent him to a series of camps on the Mainland. According to son Richard, "our family was all broken up. For some reason there was a misunderstanding. My father went to Sand Island and Angel Island, Calif. Then he went to Louisiana, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and then Texas. My mother was taken to a different camp in Angel Island as well as other internment camps. We (the children) went to North Carolina."[4] Miyao finally ended up in Crystal City, Texas, where he was reunited with his family.

Postwar Activities

After being incarcerated for four years, Miyao was finally allowed to return to Hawai'i in December 1945 but he had very little to return to. The government had dissolved the Izumo Mission and its property was being held by the city. The shrine itself had been vandalized and looted. His son recalled that, "you know, it was unusual but my father wasn't bitter about things. He just looked forward because his main idea was to reestablish the church."[5]. While staying at the home of a former shrine member, Miyao began holding services again and petitioned for the return of the shrine that was being held by the city. Miyao and his supporters were encouraged by the victory of the Kotohira Jinsha shrine in 1949 whose case established that the government could not arbitrarily seize lands of non-state Shintō organizations as they were not inherently un-American. After hearings with the Board of Supervisors of Honolulu beginning in 1952 where Miyao presented a petition signed by over 10,000 supporters, he took court action and he finally won the return of the property in 1961.[6] Miyao relocated the shrine about 1,000 yards to its present site at Kukui Street next to Nu'uanu Stream and the shrine was finally restored in 1969. Throughout the years, Miyao performed countless prayers, weddings, and blessings for numerous businesses, homes, and individuals. Even still today, thousands of families come to the shrine for traditional New Year's blessings that Miyao had reinstituted. In 1975, the Japanese government recognized Miyao's efforts to promote Shintoism and Japanese culture in the Islands and awarded him The Order of the Sacred Treasure, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon. In 1993, Miyao passed away in Honolulu.[7]

Authored by Kelli Y. Nakamura, University of Hawai'i

Footnotes

  1. Kei Suzuki, "Shigemaru Miyao," Hawaii Herald, October 5, 2007, B-12.
  2. Miyao was also mentioned as a possible "hostage" a secret plan that General George S. Patton prepared as chief of U.S. Army intelligence in Hawai'i between 1935 and 1937. Michael Slackman, "The Orange Race: George S. Patton, Jr.'s Japanese-American Hostage Plan," Biography 7.1 (Winter 1984): 11.
  3. "Furuya, Suikei (translation) Haisho Ten-Ten," Japanese Internment and Relocation: The Hawaii Experience, University of Hawai'i, Hamilton Library, Special Collections, Item 257, 5.
  4. Mark Santoki, "Izumo Taisha Kyo," Hawai'i Herald, October 4, 1996, A-1, A-9.
  5. Santoki, "Izumo Taisha Kyo," A9.
  6. Mary Adamski, "Blessings Abound," Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Sept. 16, 2006, accessed on April 12, 2016 at http://archives.starbulletin.com/2006/09/16/features/story02.html.
  7. Yvette Fernandez, "Shinto Bishop Shigemaru Miyao, 90," Honolulu Advertiser, August 10, 1993, A-7.