Sae Tachikawa

Name Sae Tachikawa
Born August 9 1889
Died February 14 1990
Birth Location Fukuoka Prefecture, Japan
Generational Identifier


Picture bride who was a noted educator and promoter of Japanese culture in Hawai'i.


Sae Tachikawa was born in the Mizumi district of Fukuoka Prefecture in Japan on August 9, 1889. Her paternal grandparents raised her after she was orphaned at a young age and enrolled her in tea ceremony classes that instilled a lifelong love of Japanese cultural traditions. She attended Kurumei Jogakkō and earned her teaching certificate at the Tōkyō Bijutsu Senmon Gakkō (Tokyo Special School of Arts). After returning to Fukuoka, she met Ryurei Kimura, the wife of a missionary who arranged a picture bride marriage to Shinkyo Tachikawa who was a missionary in Hawai'i. In 1911, Tachikawa immigrated to Hawai'i island to become a teacher and minister's wife at Ō‘ōkala in Hāmākua.

Educational and Cultural Activities

Tachikawa regularly assisted her husband with his sermons, taught Japanese language school classes, and conducted tea ceremony classes. When her husband was appointed the head of the Hawai'i Jodo Mission, becoming the youngest person to hold that position at thirty-eight years of age, Tachikawa provided invaluable assistance teaching at Hawai'i Jogakkō (girls secondary school) that was part of the temple. While caring for her own family, Tachikawa was a dorm mother for boarding students and taught a sewing class at night. Tachikawa would later reflect on her activities noting: "At that time, the priests and wives really suffered, although at that time we didn’t think of it as suffering . . . When we think back, we wonder how our bodies it made it this far. Even during the night we had no rest." [1] After her husband became ill and passed away, Tachikawa took over his duties until a successor was appointed.

Tachikawa would take her husband's remains back to Japan with two of her four children but when she returned, she was unable to teach at Hawai'i Jogakkō. Thus, she decided to start her own school, the Tachikawa Jogakkō girls school. According to researcher Yuri Tsunehiro, "Sae Tachikawa didn’t want to start an ordinary school. She believed that education is to create a human being—Ningen wo tsukuru. She wanted to create Yamato nadeshiko—that is, the ideal woman of Japan." [2] Tachikawa established her first school on King Street and later with the help of supporters and parents, purchased a property on Rycroft Street in Honolulu where she built a permanent school that offered academic courses weekdays from two to five o’clock, shishū (embroidery) and saihō (sewing) lessons on Saturday mornings, and various craft classes in the afternoon. The school also sponsored a children's story hour on the Japanese radio program. Although authorities forced Tachikawa to close the school during World War II, in 1949, she established the co-educational Tachikawa Japanese Language School where she was the headmistress of 650 students. She taught various classes in calligraphy, flower arraignment, and reigi sahō (etiquette) and even gave music lessons in the shamisen and biwa (stringed instruments) and koto .

In 1967, the Japanese prime minister awarded Tachikawa a commendation for her efforts to promote Japanese culture. A year later, the Japanese government gave her the Sixth Order of Merit, Order of the Sacred Treasure and in 1973, the Fifth Order. Tachikawa would retire at the age of ninety and continued to live a full life until her death in 1990 at the age of 100.

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

For More Information

Nakano, Takashi. Nikkei josei Tachikawa Sae no seikatsu shi . n.p.: n.p., 1983.

Udell, Joe. "Sae Tachikawa." Hawai‘i Herald , Jan. 1, 2010, B-3.


  1. Joe Udell, "Sae Tachikawa," Hawai'i Herald , Jan. 1, 2010, B-3.
  2. Shiho S. Nunes and Sara Nunes-Atabaki, The Shishu Ladies of Hilo: Japanese Embroidery in Hawai'i (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 1999), 79.

Last updated April 14, 2017, 12:56 a.m..