Koji Ariyoshi

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Koji Ariyoshi

Koji Ariyoshi (1912 - 1976) was an Hawaii activist.


Koji Ariyoshi was born on a coffee plantation in Kona. Ariyoshi was born on the Big Island in Kealakekua, went to Konawaena High School, became a journalist, labor organizer, rose to the rank of sergeant in the US Army, and was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Hawaii. It was while in China he met Chinese and Japanese communists, like Mao and also Sanzo Nosaka, fighting a liberation movement. Back in Hawaii, Ariyoshi founded the short-lived labor newspaper, The Honolulu Record, which exposed the treatment of labor by the Big Five. He was among the seven Communist Party leaders rounded up in 1951 and imprisoned for his membership in the Party. Ariyoshi later became a florist and penned a memoir, FROM KONA TO YAN'AN.

Stay in Georgia

Already interested in Communist ideas at the University of Hawaii, Ariyoshi won a scholarship to the University of Georgia in the 1930s. In Georgia, Ariyoshi lived with the leftist parents of Communist sympathizer and Tobacco Road novelist, Erskine Caldwell.


Because he was in the mainland at the outbreak of WWII, he was interned at Manzinar relocation camp, where he enlisted in the Army and was assigned to Yenan China as an interpreter and U.S. military observer[1].

Ariyoshi joined the WW2-era Military Intelligence Service/OSS—predecessor to the CIA—and used his language skills to land himself a position as U.S. military liaison to Communist forces in China—working personally with Mao Zedong.

"Dixie Mission"

Koji Ariyoshi with Mao Tse Tung, 1944

Ariyoshi was a member of the "Dixie Mission" to Yenan, the HQ of the Chinese communist forces in the 1940s. Ariyoshi spent nearly two years in China as an officer of an all-Nisei psychological warfare unit. The unit's job was to direct propaganda against the Japanese civilians and troops in China at the time.[2]

Working for China-US "friendship"

Immediately after the war, Koji Ariyoshi worked in China and then New York City with accused "Amerasia" spy John S. Service and Ed Rohrbough -- who would become business manager of the Honolulu Record -- in an effort to steer U.S. policy towards the Communists and against the Nationalists. Rohrbough had edited a U.S. Office of War Information newspaper in Fukien, China during the war.

Ariyoshi also worked with Maud Russell in the Committee for a Democratic Far Eastern Policy[3].

Honolulu Record

Back in Hawaii after the war, Ariyoshi established and edited his own po-labor newspaper, the Honolulu Record and helped to write for and edit Ti Mangyuna, with Rev.Emilio Yadao[4].

Hawaii 7

In 1951, with John Reinecke and Aiko Reinecke, Jack Hall of the ILWU, and others Ariyoshi was arrested under the Smith Act for his activities with the Communist Party USA[5].


Communist Party USA, Hawaii, March 14, 2018.

The "Hawaii Seven": members of the leadership of Communist Party of Hawaii rounded up and indicted by the FBI in 1951, included from left to right: mechanic Jim Freeman, school teacher John Reinecke, journalist Koji Ariyoshi, Jack Kimoto, [their lawyer, Richard Gladstein, in dark suit]], Hawaii Party chairman Charles Fujimoto, ILWU Secretary for Local 136 Eileen Fujimoto, and ILWU organizer Jack Wayne Hall.

John Reinecke and his wife Aiko Reinecke were school teachers on Oahu who were fired from their positions due to their Party membership.

Ethnic studies

The Record had been founded just after the first prosecution of Communists began. From its first issue it had dedicated massive amounts of space to defending fired Communist schoolteachers John Reinecke and Aiko Reinecke who would later become two of the Honolulu Seven. Shortly after the Honolulu Seven convictions were reversed, the paper folded. Ariyoshi then opened a flower shop and became known as “the Red florist.” But a decade later he was back in action leading the 1970 establishment of the Ethnic Studies Department at UH Manoa

China "Friendship"

Ariyoshi was a leader in the establishment of the US-China Peoples Friendship Association and a founder of the Hawaii branch.[6]

From John Marienthal US-China Peoples Friendship Association South Bay Chapter, Friday, April 4, 2014.

A young woman reporter at a recent National Convention asked how I became interested in China. Two things about China captured my interest. I had recently finished a degree in geography during which. China, being the biggest developing country in the world, was a major topic. How developing countries were to solve their problems was of interest to me.

Additionally, after spending a year and a half in the Air Force in the Philippines (’64-’66), I became interested in the Vietnam anti-war movement. While in the Philippines, I had observed SEA Countries and China first hand, and I knew none of these countries was strong enough to storm the beaches of Santa Monica and Los Angeles Calif. I knew we were wrong to be in Vietnam.

I did some reading, and visited China Books and Periodicals. (Later, in 1975 I worked for China Books) I was intrigued that while China was a Socialist country, some of their ideas might benefit the U.S. So, when in Sept of 1971, a friend approached me about forming a China Peoples Friendship Assn, I was only too willing.

In December of 1971, we had a small meeting of local activists. (We were lucky to have Grace Granich and Manny Granich who had just returned from a visit to China in 1970. They had also been involved in running an anti-Japanese newspaper in Shanghai from 1935-1937. They left just before the Japanese occupied the International Settlement. Just before the Japanese warrant for their arrest.) We discussed reasons we should form a group to build friendship with China. We decided we wanted to have a public program before Nixon went to China. Thus began the Southbay Chapter, one of the first five in the country.

The SF chapter, which was the first chapter in America, started about the same time. In 1972 a chapter was started in Palo Alto. Within a year, Jack Edelman and others started a chapter in Marin County (North Bay).In 1974 we formed a chapter in Santa Cruz.

Chapters began popping up all over California and the west. There was a professor and some interested students in Fresno—a chapter was born. There were some people who had been involved in United Nations Assn. work in Sacramento—a chapter was born. Groups formed in Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Orange County, West Los Angeles, Long Beach, and San Diego.In 1972 Frank Pestana and others formed a regional network. From the west coast, USCPFA blossomed all over. Koji Ariyoshi and family helped form a Hawaiian chapter. Chapters were formed in the Midwest and the East coast.[7]

Back to China

In 1972, Ariyoshi, then president of China Products, Inc. in Hawaii, traveled to China for 35 days. He met Chou En-lai "he remembered me, we had a a pleasant conversation about the 'old days' "[8].


  1. http://clear.uhwo.hawaii.edu/LaborBios.html
  2. Honolulu Advertiser September 16, 1976
  3. Honolulu Advertiser September 16, 1976
  4. http://clear.uhwo.hawaii.edu/LaborBios.html
  5. http://clear.uhwo.hawaii.edu/LaborBios.html
  6. Honolulu Advertiser September 16, 1976
  7. [1]
  8. Honolulu Advertiser September 16, 1976