Paul Osumi

Name Paul Osumi
Born June 15 1905
Died April 8 1996
Birth Location Honolulu
Generational Identifier


Prominent Hawai'i Christian minister and popular newspaper author who authorities incarcerated during World War II.


Paul Osumi was born on June 15, 1905, in Kusatsu, Hiroshima, the eighth child of Usaburo and Yoshi Osumi. His father immigrated to Hawai'i a few years later leaving Osumi in the care of his mother and in 1919, when he was fourteen years old, he left Japan and arrived in Honolulu. He first stayed with his father for a few months before Usaburo returned to Japan. Osumi then lived with his older brother, Torakichi, who owned a Japanese restaurant called Fukujitei near A'ala Park. He lived above the restaurant for a time before enrolling and boarding at Mills Institute for Boys, now called Mid-Pacific Institute. Osumi excelled in his studies and was able to attend school through work scholarships. According to Osumi's son Norman, "it was at school that my father was first influenced by Christian values." [1]

After graduating from Mills in 1926, Osumi attended the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa where he was active in student life as the President of the Friend Peace Club, a member of the Japanese Students Association and YMCA, and a reporter for the student newspaper, Ka Leo o Hawai'i. Osumi graduated on June 2, 1930, and for four years lived at Waipahu Community House and worked for the Hawaiian Board of Missions for the Waipahu, 'Ewa, and Pearl City districts while working part time at the YMCA boys' club in the Leeward area. During that period, he met a third-generation Japanese American by the name of Janet Sadako Monden who was born in Nu'umalu, Kaua'i. On June 16, 1933, they married at Nu'uanu Japanese Church in Honolulu, currently Nu'uanu Congregational Church. The couple then left for California where Osumi earned a master's degree in theology from the University of Southern California. After graduating with honors in June 1936, Osumi returned to Hawai'i where he was first assigned to the Hilo Japanese Christian Church, now the Church of the Holy Cross, and later became the minister for Līhu'e Japanese Christian Church.

World War II Experiences

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, authorities issued a warrant of arrest for Osumi and incarcerated him first at Wailuā County Jail then at Sand Island before he was moved to the mainland. According to Osumi's son Norman, Osumi believed he was arrested because he was corresponding with the Japanese Consulate of Honolulu as he was assisting with expatriating dual-citizen Nisei to have them become full American citizens. [2] In a letter protesting his incarceration Osumi directed addressed the charges against him:

I was arrested and interned on the charge that I was a consular agent. But I NEVER WAS. What I did was this: many of church young people had dual citizenship—Japanese and American citizenship—Believing that they would renounce their Japanese citizenship I encouraged them to expatriate. Since they and their parents did not know the procedure in expatriation, I helped them write papers to the Japanese consulate and the Board of Health. This was my primary purpose in writing to the Consulate. Great was my surprise when I was branded as a consular agent, and was arrested. [3]

Despite these innocuous actions and testimony from many prominent people on Kaua'i who vouched for Osumi's character as a Christian minister, authorities remained unconvinced of Osumi's innocence. After sending him to Sand Island, authorities transferred Osumi to Lordsburg , New Mexico, then to Gila River concentration camp in Arizona where Osumi was the youth minister at the Canal Christian Church. On February 5, 1944, Osumi contracted valley fever, a fungal growth in the lungs causing him to have pleurisy, a painful inflammation of the membrane surrounding the lungs. Concerned about her husband's health Janet Osumi moved to Gila with her two young sons, Paul Jr., and Norman, to care for him.

Return to Hawai'i

When the family returned to the Islands after the war, Osumi became the minister at the Waialua Pilgrim Church, now called the Waialua United Church of Christ in 1946. In 1949, the family moved to 'Ewa where Osumi was the minister at 'Ewa Community Church for nine years before he became the senior minister at Nu'uanu Congregational Church. As senior minister, he was instrumental in moving the church from the old 1614 Nu'uanu site to a three acre parcel on 4">Mary Ishii Kuramoto, Dendo: One Hundred Years of Japanese Christians in Hawaii and the Nuuanu Congregational Church (Honolulu: Nuuanu Congregational Church, 1986), 71.</ref>

Starting in 1957, Osumi began to write a series of short articles for the newspapers called "Today's Thought" that were inspirational non-denominational sayings, observations, and commentaries. As Osumi recalled, "in the beginning, eight ministers from different faiths were asked to contribute . . . I outlasted them all because I didn’t write about my own theology, I wrote about real life." [4] Osumi wrote on a wide variety of topics and one author described his articles as "philosophical, yet witty, characteristic of the author's charismatic personality. They make profound social statements about peace, racial harmony, raising children, marriage, technological advance, life and death . . . thoughts everyone can apply to their daily lives." [5] According to his family, Osumi "got many of his Today's Thought inspirational sayings from his own life experiences; from talking to people he met through his ministry; from reading the Bible, books, magazines, newspapers, and letters; and sometimes by waking up in the middle of the night to write down a thought." [6] Osumi published his writings in the Honolulu Advertiser and Hawaii Hochi (newspaper) , for over thirty-eight years and published three volumes of his collected articles that sold thousands of copies in multiple printings.

He also began the practice of doing Hawai'i weddings for couples from Japan in 1968 that offered additional income for the church with the start of the Japanese tourism boom in the 1960s. Although the majority of the couples were not Christian, these visitors wanted to have an American-style Christian wedding performed in Japanese followed by a honeymoon in Hawai'i and Osumi was willing to meet the demand. This practice soon grew into a multi-million dollar industry in Hawai'i that is still going on today.

Osumi first retired from Nu'uanu Congregational Church in 1975 before being called back for a "few months" that turned into five years. [7] Following Osumi's second retirement, he and his wife took a trip to Japan in 1980 and enjoyed the last few years of his life with family and friends. Osumi passed away at the age of ninety on April 8, 1996. [8]

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

For Further Information

Osumi, Norman H. Today's Thought—Rev. Paul Osumi: the Man and His Message . Honolulu: Legacy Isle Publishing, 2013.

Osumi, Paul S. Today's Thought . Honolulu: Hawaiian Printing Co., 1966.

Osumi, Paul S. God in the Desert: One Minute Sermons for Devotional Reading . N.p.: N.p, 1947.


  1. Norman H. Osumi, Today's Thought—Rev. Paul Osumi: the Man and His Message (Honolulu: Legacy Isle Publishing, 2013), 19.
  2. Osumi, Today’s Thought , 40.
  3. Japanese Cultural Cneter of Hawai'i (JCCH) Resource Center Archival Collection 14 (AR 14), Box 2, Folder 14. "Military Letters, From Osumi, To Edward J. Ennis – Director, Alien Enemy Control Unit, Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C."
  4. John Heckathorn, "Positive Thinker," Honolulu , June 1 1992, 19.
  5. Karleen Chinen, "'Today's Thought'" Hawaii Herald , September 1, 1995, D-12.
  6. Osumi, Today’s Thought , 95.
  7. Joe Udell, "The Rev. Paul Osumi," Hawaii Herald , September 2, 2011, 21.
  8. "The Rev. Paul S. Osumi," Honolulu Star-Bulletin , April 16, 1996, D-14.

Last updated Sept. 15, 2017, 12:44 a.m..