Ted T. Tsukiyama

2012 University of Hawai‘i Founders Alumni Association Lifetime Achievement Award

Undergraduate studies, 1939-41, 1946, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
AB, 1947, Indiana University
LLB, 1950, Yale Law School

Ted Tsukiyama was among the first of nearly 500 ROTC cadets to report for duty on the UH Mānoa campus that fateful morning of Dec. 7, 1941. Eager to serve his country, he and his fellow ROTC cadets, who had been converted into the Hawai‘i Territorial Guard, protected O‘ahu for the next six weeks, until the devastating news came that all guardsman of Japanese ancestry were to be discharged immediately. Disheartened, but undaunted, Tsukiyama and fellow UH students who had been discharged from the HTG channeled their frustration constructively as Varsity Victory Volunteers, building and repairing fortifications and defense installations all over the island. After 11 months of work, their efforts and patriotism were recognized by the War Department, which then created the all-Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team. He volunteered and served with the 442nd before being transferred to the Military Intelligence Service, for which he served as a linguist in the India-Burma Theater.

Tsukiyama attended UH until his education was interrupted by WWII. After the war, that early, bitter taste of injustice helped inspire Tsukiyama to complete his education and become an attorney. After earning his bachelor’s from Indiana University, he graduated from Yale Law School and was licensed by the Hawai‘i Bar in 1950. He went to work for attorney Masaji Marumoto then became Deputy City and County Attorney. He was an associate with Okumura & Takushi Law Firm from 1956-67 and also chief counsel of the Honolulu Redevelopment Agency. In 1959, he became involved in local labor contract disputes as an arbitrator and mediator. He established his Honolulu law firm in 1967, where he practiced until retirement. Since 1995 he has been on the Hawai‘i Supreme Court’s bar examining committee and served on numerous local, national and international mediation and arbitration panels. Over the course of his career, he issued more than 800 arbitration decisions.

Tsukiyama is a historian who has lived history. He has served on numerous 442nd projects, including as coordinator of the 100/442 Archival Research Project at the National Archives. He donated his extensive research collection, now known as the Ted Tsukiyama Papers, to UH Mānoa’s Hamilton Library. He is a founding member of the Nisei Veterans Endowed Forum Series “Universal Values for a Democratic Society” in the UH Mānoa Colleges of Arts and Sciences. He also chairs the university’s Charles R. Hemenway Scholarship Fund committee. Tsukiyama is oral history coordinator for the Japanese Cultural Center, the 442nd and MIS. He also serves as historian for Harris United Methodist Church.

Tsukiyama helped found the World Bonsai Friendship Federation for which he serves as legal counsel and is editor of its magazine, Bonsai of the World. In 2001, he received the “Order of the Rising Sun – Silver Rays” Imperial Award from the Japanese government, and Honpa Hongwanji Mission named him a Living Treasure of Hawai‘i in 2003. Tsukiyama and wife Fuku have been married 61 years and have a daughter, two sons and five grandchildren.


Tribute video produced by Tom Galli. Mahalo to Sen. Daniel Inouye, Joyce Najita, Tom Coffman, Peter Boylan, Sara Daly, Jennifer Sabas and Don Kozono. Special thanks to the UH Media Lab for producing Sen. Inouye's interview, Ted Tsukiyama for sharing his photos; and to Benny Chong for permission to use music from Ukulele Jazz (2005).