Shunzo Sakamaki (1906-1973) is the “father” of Ryukyuan Studies at UHM. In 1936 he joined the Department of History at UH where he worked as a Professor of Japanese history and he later served as Dean of Summer Session. It was his vision to build a research center on Ryukyuan Studies at UH. Fascinated with the history of Okinawa, he collected books and documents on the subject. While on a trip to Tokyo in 1961, he heard about the death of Frank Hawley who owned the most comprehensive collection on Ryukyuan resources. He quickly made an overture to the Hawley family and successfully negotiated its purchase for $20,000. Funding came from UH and the Okinawan community in Hawaii.
Sakamaki also arranged for visiting scholars on Ryukyuan Studies at the East-West Center, recruited graduate students (Mitsugu Sakihara and Mitsugu Matsuda) and scholars (William Lebra, Thomas Maretzki, and Robert Sakai), and compiled with his team of researchers bibliographies on the resources in Ryukyuan Studies at UH. Although the library collection was a true gem to scholars of Ryukyuan Studies, this was a small, select group. Before being moved to its present location at Hamilton Library, the collection was housed in a room in Crawford Hall, and the door to this room bore a modest, hand-painted wooden sign with the words “Ryukyuan Research Institute.”*
Sakamaki donated his private collection to the University Library , and together with the Hawley materials, these resources are known as the Sakamaki-Hawley Collection. To acknowledge his contributions to the University, a building and a lecture series both bear his name.
* Chance Gusukuma, “Nisei Daimyo: The Life of Shunzo Sakamaki” (Master’s thesis, University of Hawaii at Manoa, 1998), 97-102.