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    May 2018
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Katsu Goto: Slain Honoka’a Hero – Film Sneak Preview and Talk

In 1889 Katsu Goto, one of the very first Japanese immigrants to come to Hawai‘i, was killed for helping plantation laborers. His body was found hanging from a telephone pole in Honoka‘a, not far from where a memorial in his honor stands today.

Katsu Goto memorial

For many years his story was almost unknown, however thanks to a dedicated group of writers, filmmakers and researchers, that is changing.

On Sunday, March 5, at 10 a.m. the Honoka‘a Hongwanji will host a free presentation about Goto, featuring a talk by researcher Dr. Yoshinori Kato from Oiso, Japan, Goto’s hometown, that reveals new information on Goto’s life. In addition UH Hilo professor/filmmaker Patsy Iwasaki will present a preview of the film “Honoka‘a Hero, the Story of Katsu Goto” by Danny Miller, Iwasaki and the Katsu Goto Memorial Committee.

Katsu Goto

The event will be attended by 23 students from Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan, as part of the U.S. Japan Council Sen. Inouye Tomodachi Kakehashi exchange program.

Katsu Goto gave up his family name and birthright as eldest son, to sail on the S.S. City of Tokio in 1885 bound for Hawai‘i Island. He went to work on Soper, Wright & Co’s O‘okala Plantation, for $9 a month, and when his three-year contract was fulfilled, he elected to stay and opened a store, selling general merchandise, Japanese products and medicines. Goto’s general store success and advocacy of labor led to animosity and eventual conflict with plantation staff and others.

Researcher Yoshinori Kato Ph.D. translated the inscription on a recently discovered gravestone in memory of  Goto in Oiso that provided new information on him. A resident of Oiso, Kato has a bachelor of engineering degree from Keio University in Tokyo, Japan and a doctoral degree from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

According to Kato, Goto published a business journal in Yokohama and was involved with democracy advocates influenced by the Meiji Restoration of 1868. In Kato’s March 5 talk, entitled “Deciphering the Stone: Revealing the footprints of Katsu Goto through a gravestone inscription,” Kato uses ukiyo-e (Japanese woodblock prints) to help visualize the town of Oiso and Goto’s early years.

In 2010, the 125th anniversary of Katsu Goto’s arrival as a “first boat” immigrant, Goto’s great-nephew, Kiichi Kaya, and daughter, Toyoko Saeki, traveled from Japan to attend the annual memorial service in Honoka‘a. They met Patsy Iwasaki, author of the graphic novel, “Hāmākua Hero, A True Plantation Story,” illustrated by Avery Berido.

Iwasaki, a professor of communication at UH-Hilo, was inspired by Goto’s story. She was also the first recipient of the Goto of Hiroshima Foundation scholarship in 1993, a project of Goto’s adopted niece, Dr. Fumiko Kaya, a hibakusha, or atomic bomb survivor.

In 2011, Iwasaki was contacted by a curator at the Bishop Museum. Her book was included in the exhibit, “Tradition and Transition: Stories of Hawai‘i Immigrants,” alongside Goto’s pocket watch.

Iwasaki met with filmmaker Danny Miller, and they interviewed members of the Hāmākua community to create two videos for the Museum exhibit. From there, the concept of a Goto documentary grew, with financial support from the Hawai‘i State Legislature, YWCA, UH Diversity and Equity Initiative and others. A “living history” documentary, the film will also include reenacted scenes starring students from the UH Hilo Theatre Department, shot in historic locations around the island.

Iwasaki will present a 20-minute preview and behind-the-scenes segment of the documentary on March 5, following Dr. Kato’s talk. Subtitled in English and Japanese, the clip was aired on Nippon Golden Network in Hawai‘i. To learn more about the film, and to make a donation to help complete the film, please visit www.katsugotomovie.org.

The programs are free and presented as a service to the community, and attendees are invited to stay for light refreshments and to talk story with the presenters and the Kyushu students. For more information, contact Miles Okumura by text 808-640-4602, or email misterokumura@yahoo.com.

Preview of Film on Hawaii Labor Pioneer Katsu Goto on Nippon Golden Network

Discover the story about Katsu Goto, an early Japanese immigrant who came to Hawai‘i in 1885 aboard the City of Tokio, the first ship of the Kanyaku Imin (contract laborers) to work on the sugar plantations in Hawai‘i. After enduring a three-year labor contract at Soper, Wright & Co. along the Hamakua coast of Hawai‘i Island, Goto became a successful businessman and labor leader. He was killed via a lynching in Honoka‘a, Hawai‘i in 1889 while helping Japanese sugar plantation workers.

Katsu Goto

Katsu Goto

“Bringing the Legacy of Katsu Goto to Life” is the first documentary of his story presented by the Katsu Goto Memorial Committee (KGMC) of the Honokaa Hongwanji Mission. This special is a 25-minute preview as well as a behind the scenes look at the “making of” the documentary on Katsu Goto featuring a fundraising campaign to document his story on film. The preview will run four times on Nippon Golden Network (NGN Channel 677):

  • 9:35 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016
  • 12 a.m. Sunday, Jan 3, 2016
  • 6 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016
  • 3:15 p.m. Sunday, Jan 3, 2016

The previews are airing during the Nippon Golden Network “Freeview” period (Dec. 30 – Jan. 3) when NGN will be available for free to all Oceanic Time Warner subscribers in the state of Hawai‘i. Interviews will be captioned for Japanese and English speakers.

In the preview, experience interviews with his descendants, academic and historical scholars, community members and the film’s production team.

“As a film director, you look for those really beautiful stories that come together to make a movie and I think we really have those powerful stories in this film,” says Director and Editor Danny Miller.

“We still have new immigrants coming to Hawai‘i all the time so it is important for us to remember our history so we do not repeat some of the mistakes we have made in the past,” said Baron Sekiya, producer and writer.

It was Goto’s knowledge of the English language and Western laws that thrust him into his role as a bridge between Japanese contract laborers and plantation management as he fought for workers’ rights. “I feel that my life is in danger by being here . . . but I am not afraid,” said Goto while meeting Japanese laborers accused by plantation management of arson of a canefield, according to court documents. Goto was ambushed then lynched from a telephone pole in the town of Honoka‘a after this late night meeting.

Goto’s death in 1889 at 27 was tragic, but his legacy didn’t end there. Dr. Fumiko Kaya, Goto’s niece and a survivor of the bombing of Hiroshima, learned about the lynching of her uncle in 1985. Kaya admirably turned the tragedy into the Goto of Hiroshima Foundation in 1993 to benefit Hawai‘i scholars and improve cross cultural communication. The foundation continues today through the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa’s American Studies Department.

The KGMC is now seeking individual, foundation, corporate or organizational sponsors to provide production and completion funds and welcomes your participation to bring this important story to film. Executive Producer and Writer Patsy Iwasaki strongly believes “His story has become a legacy. It’s a Hawai‘i story, it’s an immigrant story, it’s a national story, it’s a story that needs to be told.”

If you have any questions or for more information, please contact Patsy Iwasaki at patsy@KatsuGotoMovie.org. The KGMC was created under the fiscal sponsorship of the Honokaa Hongwanji Mission, an affiliate of the Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai‘i, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. To make a tax deductible contribution to the Katsu Goto film project, please make checks payable to: Katsu Goto Memorial Committee, ℅ Honoka‘a Hongwanji Mission, P.O. Box 1667, Honoka‘a, HI 96727 or you can make a contribution via Paypal on the website: KatsuGotoMovie.org


Katsu Goto Memorial Service

State Representative Mark Nakashima, a member of the Katsu Goto Memorial Service Committee, announced  that there will be a Katsu Goto Memorial Ceremony on the Big Island commemorating the life of the revered leader who was a liaison between Hawaii’s first immigrant contract laborers and plantation management.

  • When: Thursday, August 23, 2012
  • Time: 2:30 P.M. HST
  • Where:  Hamakua Jodo Mission, 44-2947 Kalopa Road, Honoka‘a, HI

The commemorative service will mark the 127th anniversary of the arrival of the late Katsu Goto to Hawaii.  He was aboard the ship, “City of Tokio”, the first of 26 shiploads of “Kanyaku Imin”, or government contract laborers.  The ship landed in Hawaii on February 8, 1885.

Goto was one of tens of thousands of men and women who left behind family, friends and their homeland for the Hawaiian Islands to seek their fortunes.  He was assigned to work on Ookala Plantation along the Hamakua Coast.  After his three-year contract was fulfilled, he chose to stay and opened up a successful general store in the town of Honokaa.

Goto became a liaison between the Japanese laborers and plantation management because of his leadership skills, knowledge of English, and his strong character.  He facilitated mediation, served as an interpreter, and advocated for improved working conditions.

Katsu Goto’s Japanese-Hawaii immigrant experience is one of hardship, injustice, success and ultimately tragedy.  In summary, the story of Katsu Goto’s life is a cultural legacy for us today and for future generations of Hawaii residents.

Hidehiko Yuzaki, Governor of Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan; Masao Hayashi, Hiroshima Prefectural Assembly President; and a delegation of officials from Hiroshima prefecture will be traveling to Hawaii to attend the Memorial Service.

The public is welcomed to attend the service to honor Katsu Goto as well.

The Katsu Goto Memorial Service Committee members are Masayoshi Nishimori of Hamakua Jodo Mission; Patsy Iwasaki of the University of Hawaii, Hilo Campus and the author of the graphic novel on Katsu Goto, “Hamakua Hero: A True Plantation Story”; Wayne Miyao of the Hiroshima-Hawaii Sister State Committee; and Rep. Mark Nakashima.

Remembering Katsu Goto – Historic Plantation Hero to be Honored Saturday, October 23 in Honokaa, Hilo

The Katsu Goto Memorial Service Committee will be hosting two events on the Big Island commemorating the life of Katsu Goto, a “first boat” Japanese plantation worker-turned successful businessman, tragically killed in Honokaa, in the late 19th Century.

Katsu Goto Memorial Service
Saturday, October 23, 2010, 11:00 a.m.
Honokaa Hongwanji Mission, 45-5016 Plumeria Street, Honokaa

“A Walk with Katsu Goto”
Saturday, October 23, 2010, 3:30 p.m.
Hilo Public Library, 300 Waianuenue Avenue, Hilo, Hawaii

The Memorial Service will mark the 125th anniversary of the arrival of Katsu Goto to Hawaii on February. 8, 1885, aboard the “City of Tokio,” the first of 26 shiploads of “Kanyaku Imin,” government contract laborers. Goto was one of tens of thousands of men and women who left behind family, friends and their homeland for these islands in the middle of the Pacific to seek their fortunes.  Assigned to work on Ookala Plantation along the Hamakua Coast, Goto fulfilled his 3-year contract and opened a successful general store in Honokaa town.

Because of his leadership skills, character, and his knowledge of English, Goto became a liaison between the Japanese laborers and plantation management, facilitating mediation, serving as an interpreter and advocating for improved working conditions. Goto’s Japanese-Hawaii immigrant experience is one of hardship, success, injustice, and ultimate tragedy, and is a cultural legacy for all of us.

Attending the Memorial Service will be descendents of the late Katsu Goto from Hiroshima Prefecture in Japan, Mr. Kiichi Kaya and Mrs. Toyoko Saeki and their spouses.

“A Walk with Katsu Goto” will be a presentation and reading by Patsy Iwasaki, author of the recently released graphic novel, “Hamakua Hero: A True Plantation Story.”  Both Mr. Kiichi Kaya and Mrs. Toyoko Saeki will be present and part of the presentation at the Hilo Public Library.

The public is welcome to attend the Katsu Goto Memorial Service and “A Walk with Katsu Goto” presentation and reading.  There is no charge.

The Katsu Goto Memorial Service Committee is comprised of Hawaii State Senator Dwight Takamine, Hawaii State Representative Mark Nakashima, Miles Okamura of the Peace Committee and Honokaa Hongwanji, Patsy Iwasaki of the University of Hawaii, Hilo Campus and author of the graphic novel on Katsu Goto, “Hamakua Hero: A True Plantation Story” and Wayne Miyao of the Hiroshima-Hawaii Sister State Committee.  For more information, contact Patsy Iwasaki (808) 640-0683, piwasaki@hawaii.edu.