Former educator was ex-governor's 'right arm' in Japan
By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Rod Ohira
Albert Miyasato, whose ability to bridge Japanese and American cultures provided a valuable resource to state government and civic organizations, died Feb. 24 at Kuakini Medical Center at age 80.
Miyasato worked 24 years as a public school teacher and principal before becoming an aide to Gov. George Ariyoshi in 1976, specializing in building relationships between Japan and Hawai'i.
"He could speak (Japanese) fluently, understood the culture and fit in well with the Japanese," Ariyoshi said. "He was my right arm there. Albert was a genuine person who lived his culture."
In 2003 Miyasato was recognized as a "Living Treasure" by Honpa Hongwanji Mission of Hawai'i.
Born in Hilo and raised in Kalihi, Miyasato was sent to Japan in 1940 at age 14 to study and become a Buddhist priest, said his daughter, Leigh-Ann Miyasato. Trapped in Japan by the outbreak of World War II, he was put to work as a translator. After the war he continued that role for the U.S. Army.
After returning to Hawai'i, he taught at Kahuku High & Intermediate, Wai'anae Intermediate & Elementary and Stevenson Intermediate before becoming a principal on the Big Island at Waiakea Uka and Ka'u High & Pahala Elementary.
In 1975 Miyasato served as the Department of Education's acting superintendent. He retired as deputy superintendent in 1976.
By then, Miyasato had begun to establish himself in community organizations such as the Hawaii United Okinawa Association and Japan-America Society of Hawaii.
"No question, in my opinion, that he was our man of the century as far as the local Okinawan community is concerned," said James Iha, who succeeded Miyasato as president of the Hawaii United Okinawa Association. "His greatest contribution was being bilingual. He had a great understanding of Japanese and Okinawa backgrounds and was a good in-between man for us."
Earl Okawa, Japan-America Society president, said Miyasato had been working with Kapolei Middle School and Kin Junior High in Okinawa since January to set up a sister school program. "He was a great community person who helped everyone, a kind person and very good adviser," Okawa said.
Retired Central Pacific Bank CEO Yoshiharu Satoh said Miyasato was trusted by people in Japan.
"He was quite a rare person in terms of knowing Japanese and American culture but his character, very sincere, gained him the trust of people from Japan," Satoh said of his friend of 30 years. "I would say there are very few people left now who have that kind of influence."
Leigh-Ann Miyasato said her father was involved with the Japanese Cultural Center, Hawai'i Kimono Cultural Foundation, Urasenke Foundation of Hawai'i and the Pan-Pacific Festival-Matsuri in Hawai'i.
A service will be held March 12 at 5 p.m. at Honpa Hongwanji at 1727 Pali Highway. Aloha attire, no flowers. Arrangements by Hosoi Mortuary.
Miyasato is survived by his wife, Shizue; daughters Leigh-Ann Miyasato, Mernie Miyasato-Crawford and Alison Colby; sister Lily Horio; and five grandchildren.
Reach Rod Ohira at email@example.com.