No one has done more to create Hawaii’s “Aloha Bonsai World” then Ted Tsukiyama. He was an ROTC cadet at the University of Hawaii when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. The unit became the Territorial Guard, were issued a rifle with six bullets and sent to guard the hills above Honolulu against enemy paratroopers. Soon after, he and other Japanese were unfairly and summarily discharged and branded “enemy aliens.”
Ted was part of the legendary "Varsity Victory Volunteers" who did manual labor to support the war effort and this made possible the all-Japanese units that included the442nd Infantry Combat Team that became the most decorated unit of its size as the suffered awesome casualties to prove their loyalty. Ted did more than his share in the Military Intelligence Service (MIS) in Burma where interpretive and interrogation combined with clandestine missions helped to turn the tide and shortened World War II.
After discharge, college, and establishing his legal practice, he befriended the nation of his former enemies beginning with Kaichi Ito and Saburo Kato of Omiya, Japan. On his trips throughout Hawaii, Japan, and the United States, he contacted the leaders of the bonsai world. He effectively co-founded the 501(3)(c) Hawaii Bonsai Association and handled the administrative and diplomatic role of secretary-treasurer for the first ten years; then as president for many more years.
Saburo Kato led the rebuilding of bonsai in Japan beginning with the restoration of the historic Imperial Bonsai Collection, the lengthy national exhibit at Osaka Expo 70, the 1976 Bi-centennial Bonsai Gift to the United States, and the 1979 World Bonsai Convention. Ted and Hawaii played quiet advisory and supportive roles internationally but burst on the American bonsai scene when it hosted the landmark IBC 80 Hawaii co-sponsored by Bonsai Clubs International (BCI), American Bonsai Society (ABS) and included the first international participation by Nippon (Japan) Bonsai Association. It featured a Hawaii 3-ring presentation, the first major penjing presentation by Deborah Koreshoff of Australia, a tropical nature’s bonsai by John Naka, with Saburo Kato creating his “Peace Forest,” the first major tropical forest arrangement that now resides at the Fuku-Bonsai Cultural Center.
As we became the catalyst to create the Kona Fuku-Bonsai Center, Ted assisted incorporating Fuku-Bonsai in 1985 as the corporate treasurer and director. He provided steadfast guidance through successful years, during our battle for survival, and retired from our board after the 2007 DuPont fraud settlement. Ted has accumulated impressive honors for his accomplishments in bonsai, his legal career, and also for his vast community service. This May 2012 photo was taken when he was named the University of Hawaii at Manoa Distinguished Alumnus of the year.
On behalf of all associated with Fuku-Bonsai and the Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation, in friendship and respect, THE WORLD OF BONSAI ALOHA! is dedicated to and honors TED T. TSUKIYAMA, of Honolulu, Hawaii.
~~~David W. Fukumoto, Kurtistown, Hawaii (December 14, 2013)