Hawai’i is one of the most beautiful places in the United States, and people from all over the world go there to enjoy the beauty of the beaches, forests, and the hospitality of the people. Asian tourists visit the islands routinely and have for decades. One such tourist from Japan was named Takeo.
Takeo’s desire to go to Hawai’i was so strong that he stayed several months. He arrived in Hawai’i in March of 1941, and he rented an apartment overlooking the harbor in Honolulu. Using that place as a base, Takeo wandered all over the island of Oahu, learning about its beaches and hills, and he took copious notes so he could remember all that he saw. Like many tourists, he enjoyed taking tours of the island by air. The view from above, he said, gave him a wonderful perspective on all that lay below.
Takeo enjoyed swimming in the harbor. He snorkeled there often, and he sometimes took the ferries and boats that chugged around the island. He mingled with the populace, shopped in the markets, and listed to their stories about life there. Over the course of nine months, Takeo learned all he could about the place. You could easily say that he was obsessed.
Today, almost 1/5th of the population of the state is of Japanese descent. When Takeo was there, the place housed about 160,000 people from Japan. That helped Takeo blend in better and made him feel much less conspicuous, much less of a “foreigner” in what was still at that time an American territory. When the United States entered World War II, the overwhelming majority of those Japanese people residing in Hawai’i chose loyalty to the United States over their native land. Fear of “the other” and racism led the United States government to implement a policy of internment for many Japanese-Americans on the mainland.
Takeo, however, had other ideas. You see, the reason he was so interested in Hawai’i was not that he was a casual but deeply attached tourist. No, rather, he worked for the Japanese government as a gatherer of intelligence. He was the chief Japanese intelligence agent in the American territory.
In fact, Takeo Yoshikawa’s copious notes and research that he radioed back to his home country over the nine months he lived in Honolulu helped Japan carry out the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.