Dr. Toyohiko Takami (1875 - 1945) - Founder of JAA


 

Pleaded for Mutual Aid, Believed in Service to Mankind

 

Toyohiko Takami was born in Kumamoto Prefecture on April 4, 1875, firstborn son to a samurai family in the service of the Hosokawa Clan. While still a boy he studied at the Toda School, along with other privileged children but managed to study English at a missionary school run by O.H. Gulick. There, he heard the story of Jo Niijima who had earlier violated a national prohibition against foreign travel and had gone to the U.S. to study. Deciding to emulate Niijima he planned with a cousin to earn travel funds in Osaka. At the end of spring vacation April, 1890 he left for school after saying goodbye to his parents, but took off for Osaka. At the time he was just 15 years old.

 

Having missed his boat he traveled overland and reached Osaka in June. He was able to calm an upset family's anxieties and continued studies in English and navigation. Then in March of the following year, he set sail as a crew member on a British ship, the Mogul. In October of 1891 he set foot on a pier in the East River of New York, and started a new life in the land of his dreams. While studying English he worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard to earn his expenses. His superior Captain McLane introduced him to Nancy Campbell who became his mother figure and life-long mentor. Under her tutelage he completed his studies at Cornell University Medical College, finishing second in his class. It was doing this time that he happened to observe an autopsy on a nameless Japanese identified only by number. This led him to openly plead for mutual aid among the Japanese and the need to purchase of a burial plot for his countrymen.

 

After graduating, he opened a practice in Brooklyn. He spent much of his time in service to charity patients and was thus the object of considerable respect and admiration. On May 26, 1907 he formed the Japanese Mutual Aid Society, forerunner of the Japanese American Association. On July 3, 1909 he married Sona Oguri and had six children. In 1912, he purchased land at Mt. Olivet Cemetery to be used for Japanese burial ground, and in 1918 organized a credit union for the Japanese. Thus, his entire life work was dedicated toward his fellow man, based upon his firm faith in God and Christianity.

 

In 1940, Dr. Takami was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, sixth class. He passed away on May 17, 1945 at his home in Brooklyn.

(Based on Dr. Takami's autobiography, edited by Dr. Masahiko Ralph Takami)