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Biography Hawai'i: Koji Ariyoshi (film)

Documentary film that profiles journalist, labor leader, and former Manzanar inmate Koji Ariyoshi . Produced as part of the Biography Hawai'i series, it aired on public television stations in Hawai'i in May 2005.

Director/Editor Joy-Chong Stannard tells Ariyoshi's story in a straightforward chronological fashion, using interviews with those who knew Ariyoshi, historical photographs and footage, and Ariyoshi's own words as voiced by actor Dann Seki; the segments with Seki include both voiceover and on-camera segments in which Seki plays Ariyoshi in his flower shop later in life. Most of the film focuses on his unusual role in the Military Intelligence Service during World War II that saw him serving in India, Ceylon, and China and the close ties he builds with Chinese Communist leaders such as Zhou Enlai as well as his postwar newspaper, The Honolulu Record , and his 1950s Smith Act trial. His time at Manzanar is treated very briefly, with only a hint of the controversial role he played there as a founder of the Manzanar Citizens Federation .

The Ariyoshi film was the fourth in the Biography Hawai'i series produced by the Center for Biographical Research, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa. Center Director Craig Howes told reporter Michael Tsai that they chose Ariyoshi because they "wanted someone to represent the ... (Americans of Japanese ancestry) experience and he had such an interesting narrative and such a different spin to the idea of the AJA experience." [1] The hour-long film was produced in collaboration with the Center for Labor Education and Research, University of Hawai'i West-Oahu. Funders included the Hawai'i Council for the Humanities, the Gerbode Foundation, the Kukui Foundation, The Arthur A. Rutledge Endowment in Labor Studies, and Stephen T. Sawyer.

Since its May 2005 premiere, it has been shown on local public television many times and is also available on DVD.

Authored by Brian Niiya , Densho

Might also like From Bullets to Ballots (1997); The First Battle: The Battle for Equality in War-Time Hawaii (2006); Daniel K. Inouye: An American Story (2003)


  1. Michael Tsai, "Portrait of a Era," Honolulu Advertiser , May 5, 2005, accessed on November 28, 2016 at .
Media Details
Release Date 2005
Runtime 57 minutes
Director Joy-Chong Stannard
Producer Joy Chong-Stannard
Writer Victoria Nalani Kneubuhl
Narrator Nyla Fujii-Babb
Starring Franklin Odo (interviewee), Helen G. Chapin (interviewee), Clyde T. Hayashi (interviewee), Davianna Pōmaikai' McGregor (interviewee), Ah Quon McElrath (interviewee), Roger Ariyoshi (interviewee), Dann Seki (Koji Ariyoshi), Karen Yamamoto Hackler (Taeko Ariyoshi)
Music Stephen Fox
Cinematography Paul Hayashida
Editing Joy-Chong Stannard
Studio Center for Labor Education and Research, University of Hawai‘i West-Oahu, in affiliation with the Center for Biographical Research, University of Hawai`i at Mānoa
For More Information

For More Information

PBS Hawai'i page: .

Center for Biographical Research page: .

Berger, John. " Koji Ariyoshi Was Key Labor Figure. " Honolulu Star-Bulletin , May 3, 2005.

Boylan, Dan. " A Territorial Labor Activist's Tale. " Midweek , May 4, 2005.

Tsai, Michael. " Portrait of a Era. " Honolulu Advertiser , May 5, 2005.