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An Unlikely Revolutionary

An Unlikely Revolutionary: Matsuo Takabuki and the Making of Modern Hawai`i

a memoir by Matsuo Takabuki
assisted by Dennis M. Ogawa
Glen Grant
Wilma Sur
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  • Book Info
    An Unlikely Revolutionary
    Book Description:

    A confidant of Governor John Burns, a member of the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of Honolulu, a business associate of developer and financier Chinn Ho, a trustee of the Bishop Estate - Matsuo Takabuki has been at the heart of many of the sweeping social, financial, and political changes that have fundamentally altered Hawaii in the last half century. An Unlikely Revolutionary is Takabuki's own story, told in his characteristically straightforward manner, of his life and work as one of the "movers and shakers" behind Hawaii's transformation from an isolated, agriculture-based territory to a highly diverse, competitive modern community.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6143-8
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)
    Dennis M. Ogawa and Glen Grant

    “Social revolutionary” is not a term that one would normally associate with Matsuo (“Matsy”) Takabuki. Well-known in the Hawaiian Islands over the past four decades as a financial and political leader, Takabuki has been largely viewed as a prominent member of the island establishment. Actively involved in the Democratic Party in the post–World War II years, he was among a generation of Americans of Japanese ancestry in the islands to rise to political power in the 1950s, serving for sixteen years on the Board of Supervisors of the City and County of Honolulu. For many years a confidant to...

  5. PROLOGUE: Keiki o Ka Aina
    (pp. 19-22)

    The magnificent Great Hall of China in Beijing was filled with government officials of the People’s Bank of China, the Central Bank of China, and the Central Bank of the People’s Republic of China, Asian business leaders, and representatives of the Pacific Rim institutions that had joined together to create the first international joint venture bank in this communist nation. The Great Hall was the historic setting where the various partners in the venture formally documented, signed, and commemorated the beginning of this new era in China’s financial international relations. In this place two decades earlier, President Richard M. Nixon...

  6. CHAPTER ONE From Hawai‘i’s Plantation to Europe’s Battleground
    (pp. 23-46)

    The Hawai‘i in which I was born in the 1920s would be a foreign world to the modern generation of islanders familiar with the bustling cosmopolitan society of the Hawaiian Islands. I grew up in Haleiwa, a small town on the North Shore of Oahu, which was at the time a tight-knit community primarily consisting of Japanese and a few Hawaiian and Chinese families. The area was surrounded by small plantation villages in Waialua, where first-generation Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Filipino immigrant sugar laborers and their families struggled to survive within a contract labor system—a system that exploited immigrants...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Hawai‘i after the War: A Time for Change
    (pp. 47-60)

    Even after the war, the nisei’s desire to prove themselves as first-class Americans continued to be a driving force. Our military service qualified us to receive certain benefits under the GI Bill of Rights. For those of us whose university careers had been suspended by war service, this was a godsend, providing us with financial support to resume our college education. Going to excellent universities on the mainland was no longer an impossible dream, and we took this opportunity to pursue the very best education possible.

    Since Aya was still working in Chicago, I decided to use my GI stipend...

  8. CHAPTER THREE At the Heart of a Revolution
    (pp. 61-78)

    The exhilaration following our political victory at the polls soon abated as the realities of governing became clear. As a newly elected member of the Board of Supervisors, I quickly realized that I was only one vote out of seven. The many changes we as veterans had envisioned could not occur simply by my saying, “I’m going to do this!” To effectively spearhead change, I needed the skills of a negotiator. I had to sit down with the rest of the supervisors and persuade them to take a certain course of action.

    The three Democrats on the board in 1952...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR The Financial Revolution
    (pp. 79-96)

    Besides the political revolution that was transforming Hawai‘i, there were also exciting economic changes. Returning veterans were educated, highly skilled professionals seeking greater economic participation within the community. They were teaming up with budding entrepreneurs and older-generation risk-takers in niches of small business activity. The big corporations on Merchant Street never fully comprehended this social uprising, but simply struggled to keep out the competition and maintain the status quo. Those of us who were part of this economic expansion did not set out with specific goals—we sought only the opportunities available to achieve financial growth and security. Ultimately, our...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE The Nisei Trustee of the Bishop Estate
    (pp. 97-140)

    The formal announcement of my appointment as trustee of the Bishop Estate came as a complete surprise to the community. I had not been suggested as one of the probable candidates in the rumor mill, and interested parties knew I did not solicit appointment to the position. Since the appointment that immediately preceded mine had been of a businessman of Chinese ancestry, the choice of another non-Hawaiian to the Estate, particularly a nisei, was almost unthinkable. My personal friendships with several of the justices on the Supreme Court was also no secret, nor was the fact that I was engaged...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Toward the Pacific Rim Century
    (pp. 141-170)

    It is widely recognized that the twenty-first century will be characterized by the emerging economic growth and leadership of the Pacific Rim nations. The greatest challenge for the United States, which is biased toward Europe, is to overcome the many cultural misconceptions that seem endemic to East–West relations. The American businessperson, who knowingly or unknowingly gives an impression of superiority by insisting on doing business his or her way, is usually courteously and gracefully stonewalled with ambiguous equivocation by his or her Asian counterpart. An American expects the person he or she is dealing with to be open and...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Reflections from inside Hawai‘i
    (pp. 171-188)

    The Hawaiian Islands have experienced many changes in the past fifty years that have revolutionized our society, economy, and way of life. In retrospect, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the advent of World War II, the triumphs of the 100th Battalion and 442nd and the military intelligence groups, and the political and economic changes of the 1950s seem like fortuitous events, giving rise to opportunities to be grasped and creating milestones on the path to a freer and more democratic island society. In the nisei’s effort to modernize Hawai‘i, it would be presumptuous and untrue to assume that our generation...

  13. EPILOGUE As Good as the Next Guy
    (pp. 189-192)

    As I approached mandatory retirement at the age of seventy in 1993, my staff and my daughter began planning a retirement party. Early on, I indicated that I did not want a big celebration at a Waikiki hotel, but a small, informal, byinvitation-only gathering with the Kamehameha Schools’ohanaand friends. While I was told that the party was going to be in accordance with my wishes, I was not informed of the intended size or scope of the dinner and program. Knowing that I did not want a retirement gift, a scholarship fund in my name was established for...

  14. Appendix A The 442nd Veterans Club: A President Looks Back on Its First Five Years
    (pp. 193-196)
  15. Appendix B An Address to the Hawaiian Civic Clubs
    (pp. 197-203)
  16. Appendix C Legacy of the Princess: An Address to the Oahu District Council of Hawaiian Civic Clubs
    (pp. 204-210)
  17. Appendix D Bishop Estate Today—The Rest of You Tomorrow
    (pp. 211-216)
  18. Appendix E Speech to National AJA Veterans Reunion
    (pp. 217-221)
  19. Appendix F 1991 Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate Service Awards
    (pp. 222-228)
  20. Chronology
    (pp. 229-232)
  21. Index
    (pp. 233-238)