Pat Morita

Name Noriyuki "Pat" Morita
Born June 28 1932
Died November 24 2005
Birth Location Isleton, California
Generational Identifier


Actor best known as "Mr. Miyagi" in The Karate Kid (1984) and three sequels. Noriyuki "Pat" Morita (1932–2005) was born in Isleton, California, the son of Issei farm workers. Struck by spinal tuberculosis at age two, Morita spent much of his childhood in a body cast in a sanitarium, where a priest gave him the western name "Patrick." A series of surgeries restored his ability to walk when he was eleven just in time for him to join his family in American concentration camps at Gila River and Tule Lake . After leaving camp, he graduated high school in Fairfield, California, and worked in his family's Chinese restaurant in Sacramento, where he first performed comedy for its patrons. After getting married and having a child, he found steadier work as a data processor for the Department of Motor Vehicles and with Aerojet General Corporation, before deciding to take the full plunge into show business at age thirty.

He succeeding at finding steady work for his nightclub act in the 1960s. Billing himself as "The Hip Nip," he played headlined shows around the country and became a frequent TV guest star and movie supporting player. In the 1970s, he became a regular on the hit shows "Sanford and Son," as Ah Chew and "Happy Days," playing Arnold. The latter role led to his starring in his own show, the short lived "Mr. T. and Tina" in 1976. His breakthrough role came in the 1984 hit movie The Karate Kid, playing Mr. Miyagi. Morita pushed to include more of his character's back story, which involved his fighting in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team while his wife and child were in a concentration camp. He was nominated for an Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for that role, ironically losing out to another Asian American actor, Haing S. Ngor, for his role in The Killing Fields .

Morita subsequently worked steadily, getting another shot at a starring TV role in the detective show "Ohara" (1987), in addition to numerous movies, including sequels to The Karate Kid and voice roles in Disney's Mulan (1998) and its sequel. He supported efforts to make the story of Japanese American wartime incarceration and military service better known, speaking at the first Day of Remembrance in Seattle in 1978, playing a character based on photographer Toyo Miyatake in the landmark TV movie Farewell to Manzanar (1976), and appearing in several documentaries on Japanese American soldiers or wartime incarceration. He passed away in Las Vegas on November 24, 2005.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

For More Information

Hiura, Arnold. "Aloha 'oe, Pat Morita." Hawaii Herald , Dec. 16, 2005, 1–2.

Morita, Aly. "Papa-San: Pat Morita’s Daughter on the Waxing and Waning of Her Father’s Life." Hyphen Magazine , Spring 2010,’s-daughter-waxing-and-waning-her-father’s-life .

" Pat Morita, 73, Actor Known for 'Karate Kid' and 'Happy Days,' Dies." New York Times , Nov. 26, 2005. .

Patricia Sullivan. " Noriyuki 'Pat' Morita, 73; Played 'Karate Kid' Teacher." Washington Post , November 26, 2005. .

Thurber, Jon. "Pat Morita, 73; Actor Starred in 'Karate Kid' Movie Series." Los Angeles Times , November 26, 2005. .

Last updated April 16, 2014, 9:41 p.m..