Thomas Sakakihara

Name Thomas Sakakihara
Born July 17 1900
Died February 22 1989
Birth Location Hilo, Hawai'i
Generational Identifier


Thomas Sakakihara was a former Big Island magistrate, legislator, and World War II internee. He began practicing law in the district courts in 1921 and served in the territorial legislature from 1932 to 1954. Despite being interned for the duration of World War II, he served as a magistrate in 1956 for the District Court of Ka'u until 1959 when he was appointed to fill the position with the Hamakua and the North and South Kohala District Courts. [1] He died February 22, 1989, in Honolulu at the age of 88.

Early Career and Internment Experience

Sakakihara, a Republican, served in the Territorial Legislature from 1932 to 1954 including two terms as finance chairman as one of the earliest Japanese American politicians in Hawai'i despite previous unsuccessful bids. In 1933, he married Sadako Aileen Arizumi, a teacher at Kapoho School in Puna. During his career as a representative, however, Sakakihara was convicted of having falsely certified a claim against the territory in connection with his duties as chairman of the House Lands Committee and was reprimanded for his conduct. [2] Yet, throughout his career, Sakakihara never wavered in his belief in the loyalty of the Japanese in the Islands. In October 1935, at a congressional committee at the statehood hearings, Sakakihara argued that the children of the territory are taught that "their first duty of loyalty to the Stars and Stripes," as they are taught "the fundamental principles of democracy" and "to live in the standards of the American community." [3] After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Sakakihara was named special deputy sheriff to advise Hilo police and to act as a liaison between the police and the military. However, he was removed from the job and arrested "on suspicion of being an alien" although he was born in Hilo. [4] Sakakihara was detailed at the Honouliuli internment camp for a period of time before his release in 1943. [5]

Postwar Fate

Despite his incarceration during World War II, Sakakihara's career was not significantly affected. In 1957, Sakakihara was appointed magistrate for the Ka'u district court, a position that he held until 1959 when he was appointed magistrate of the Hamakua and Kohala districts. He retired in 1968. Sakakihara passed away in 1989, predeceased by his wife Aileen and survived by his two daughters, Ruth and Jeanne along with two brothers, Haruo and Rufus and sister Dorothy.

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

For More Information

Sato, Hank. "Honouliuli: Oahu's Little-Known World War II Internment Camp." Honolulu Star-Bulletin , March 18, 1976, A-1-A-8.

"Thomas Sakakihara, Former Magistrate." Honolulu Advertiser , March 2, 1989, A-7.


  1. University of Hawai'i at Mānoa Hamilton Library, "Sakakihara, Rep. Thomas T.-1937/1950" Microfiche D98050.
  2. "Censure for Sakakihara is Vote in House," Honolulu Star Bulletin , April 29, 1937, 1; "Suspension is Sakakihara's Possible Fate," Honolulu Star Bulletin , April 28, 1937, 1; "4 House Men Attest Hiring of More Help," Honolulu Star Bulletin , April 26, 1937, 1; "Mystery Note Added to Case of Sakakihara," Honolulu Star Bulletin , April 27, 1937, 1; "Sakakihara's Kin Claimed He Received Pay," Honolulu Star Bulletin , April 22, 1937, 1.
  3. "Legislator's View Defense of Statehood," University of Hawai'i at Mānoa Hamilton Library, "Sakakihara, Rep. Thomas T.-1926-1937 1*" Microfiche D98050.
  4. "Thomas Sakakihara, Former Magistrate," Honolulu Advertiser , March 2, 1989, A-7.
  5. Hank Sato, "Honouliuli: Oahu's Little-Known World War II Internment Camp," Honolulu Star-Bulletin , March 18, 1976¸ A-1-A-8.

Last updated June 12, 2013, 8 a.m..