Howard Miyake, Part 2

An Imin Centennial Series Saluting the Men of the 100th Infantry Battalion

Hawaii Herald, 6/21/1985
By BEN H. TAMASHIRO

“I don’t want any part of it!” he exclaimed loudly when Juanita came home one day with a Burmese kitten given to her by a lady friend in Manoa. Her joy turned to stony silence. Realizing that his dislike for cats had gotten the best of him, he silently set about to make a bed for the kitten in the laundry room.

The nights in Dowsett Highlands in Nuuanu can get pretty chilly, so he lined the cardboard box with several layers of toweling, but even in the downy enclosure, the kitten cried all night. So the next night, Miyake placed the kitten on his chest when he went to bed. The two slumbered soundly till morning. For the next 14 years, the two slept side by side each night. (Because of her lingering illness, Juanita slept in a separate bedroom surrounded by oxygen tanks and other life-saving aids.)

“She even had two litters, right there on the bed, beside me!” says Miyake excitedly. “There were nine kittens in the first and six in the second. We gave them all away.” Puutao the cat died in 1972. Miyake buried her by a corner of the house where Juanita’s favorite ginger plants grew. Juanita herself died a month later.

Perhaps Miyake’s incredible reversal in attitude towards the cat, from complete aberration to sleeping with it over that long period of time, can be traced to the influence of Miyake’s father, Ken Noburu, who ingrained in his son a broad and receptive consciousness. “My father came from a long line of Shinto priests,” Miyake says. “Over 1,150 years and 26 generations.”

Miyake has his roots in Yamaguchi prefecture. “My father was a third son, so he migrated to Hawaii to start a new family. In Japan, the eldest son inherited the family wealth and position, so he migrated here. Miyake does not know how his father came to learn English, but his ability to do so kept his father from working in the cane fields as did most immigrants, taking a job as a bookkeeper at a company store in Haleiwa instead.

“My mother, Tei Yamamoto, also from Yamaguchi prefecture, had come to Hawaii to help her younger brother, Seizo, who was then managing the Motoshige Boeki Kaisha. That’s where she met my father because he used to trade there.”

Miyake was born in Haleiwa in 1918, the seventh of nine children. Schooling began at Waialua Elementary, then progressed through the Andrew E. Cox Junior High School-now Waialua High- and Leilehua High, which then was located on the post of Schofield Barracks. It was a school attended mostly by military dependents, almost all Caucasians. “Maybe, it was for that reason,” says Howard, “that my English was very strong.”

That ability was to stand him in good stead in more ways than one–as a bell boy at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, through his university years, and later on in his political life. He was 16 when he graduated from Leilehua in 1935 and continued to work in the pineapple fields of Dole’s Waimea plantation as he had been doing during the summers. But at 16¢ an hour, it would be years before he could save enough for tuition at the University of Hawaii. One day, he walked into the lobby of the Royal Hawaiian and asked the bell captain for a job. “Miyake,” the bell captain said, “you speak very fine English. You must be a graduate of Roosevelt High School.”

Roosevelt used to be the English-standard school. “Kids who couldn’t make it into Punahou used to go there. And I didn’t deny it because if I said no, he might not hire me. So I kept my mouth shut. “Miyake bursts into laughter as he recalls the incident.

“There were about 30 bell boys, mostly Chinese and Japanese boys, some of them from the Neighbor Isles. We made good money, $300 a month in tips. At that time the tourist season was just summer and winter. In between the seasons, we went swimming. The hotel allowed us to remain in the bachelor quarter. We lived a life of Riley!” Miyake worked for a year at the Royal, saved every penny he could (“I did not gamble”) and accumulated enough money to pay for four years of tuition at the UH.

He continued to skimp and save all through his collegiate year by working his way through school. “I had no vacations because I worked full-time at the university when school was out and at the cannery during the summers.”

His prowess in English made him a natural for the Theater Guild and he was awarded the guild’s prized diction award during his sophomore year for his role as a lord in the play, “The Quest Of Shimosaka. “He received another diction award the following year for his role of Menemius Agrippa, friend of Coriolanus, in Shakespeare’s play of that name. Miyake majored in business and economics with a minor in English. Upon graduation in 1940, he was one of three recipients of the “Real Dean” award, signifying all-around excellence.

He worked four years for Castle & Cooke as an operations research analyst, then entered the University of Colorado School of Law in 1951. It was while he was away at law school that the Islands underwent its greatest political change since becoming a territory.

At the forefront of the Democratic revolution were the returning AJA veterans from the battlefields of World War II. In 1946 there were half a dozen AJAs in the legislature. Six years later they had won half the seats in the House, then half the seats in the Senate in the subsequent biennial elections.

Miyake returned home to Hawaii upon graduation in 1954, took the bar exam, hung up his shingle, then plunged into the churning waters of the political upheaval. He was first elected to the House from the 14th District in 1958, the last territorial legislature. Because of statehood, he had to run again the following year. Elected, he became House Majority leader and chairman of the House Policy Committee, powerful positions he held until 1970.

In wrestling with the problem of leadership a Majority Leader and head of the Policy Committee, Miyake always carried in the back of his mind his father’s dictum respecting the roots of leadership – that if and when he ever came into power or authority, that he use it for the good of the people, because if he used it for his own selfish ends, it would destroy not only him but his family, too. His father also admonished him to fight injustice wherever he should find it, and along with that, to protect the women and children and unfortunates who could not help themselves. “To me, the real significance of the Democratic program was, first, the support of public education. “That included upgrading, equalizing and standardizing the school system. And putting parks in low income area for recreation purposes.

“And one of the best things we did was pass the anti-trust laws in 1962. This broke up the economic control of the Islands by the Big Five corporations, which then opened the door for investments from abroad for the establishment of new companies.

“Then in 1967 we passed the Land Use Law which forced landowners to convert their lands into best and highest use. The law accomplished some of its purposes but created new sets of problems, like high density.

“Then we concentrated on upgrading the University of Hawaii. We set a goal of 10 years and we were able to do it. You know, we were almost on par with the University of California at Berkeley! But, in three years, the new legislators in the legislature made it slide right back. Takes a long time to build up but no time to slide back.

It’s not only the legislators; it’s the unionization of the professors, too.”

In his current role as president of JAIMS (Japan-America Institute of Management Science), Miyake not only provides administrative guidance, but also lectures on “communication and the five senses” as part of the school’s seminar program. Knowing that communication exerts a tremendous influence over the actions of people, he emphasizes improvement of communication at all levels – from the give-and-take between parents and their children, to that between husband and wife, and on up to the exchange between executives in their business dealings.

Influence? “My father was a wise old man.” says Miyake. A Shintoist, Ken Noburu sent his children to the Liliuokalani Protestant (Congregational) Church in Haleiwa for their religious training. Why? “He figured that if we were to live in Hawaii, we’d better learn to mix with the other racial groups. So at church we sang hymns and recited Bible verses in Hawaiian and English.” The Miyakes were one of only three Japanese families attending the Hawaiian church.

Even with his busy schedule. Miyake has found time to write an autobiography, in Japanese, a book already in its second printing. Recently, he received a letter from a retired officer, a major-general, of the Japan Self-Defense Forces. The officer wrote that since the Occupation, he has had a negative image of the Nisei in America because of their conduct when they were part of the Occupation forces: arrogant, they carried an air of superiority about them, and were demeaning to their own kind. But having read Howard’s autobiography, he had now come to perceive a different image, a changed conception of the Nisei in America. The work’s title. “Bridge Across the Pacific,” is thus especially appropriate. Miyake’s story is proof that the power to influence lie in one’s own acts.