Born in 1870 in Fukushima, Japan, Masuji Miyakawa came to America when he was in his early twenties to attend school. By the time he arrived in Bloomington, he had received degrees from George Washington (LL.M.) and University of Illinois (D.C.L.). To that, he added his LL.B. in 1905, becoming the Law School’s first Asian-American graduate. While in Bloomington he became a naturalized citizen of the United States, and would go on to become the first Japanese American admitted to the bar in the United States.
After law school, Miyakawa embarked on an impressive career as a lawyer, scholar, journalist, lecturer, and advocate for the rights of Japanese immigrants. He resided both in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, working to build understanding of the Japanese people. In 1906, he helped win the rights for Japanese children to attend the San Francisco public schools. He fought against a movement to broaden the treaty restrictions on the immigration of Japanese laborers, and he served as the defense attorney for the first case tried under the American-Japanese extradition treaty.
In the early years of the American Bar Association, he served as an editor on its Comparative Law Bureau. He was the author of several books on both American law and Japanese culture, including Life of Japan (1907), and he was the editor of the New York Japan Review (1913-1914) He was a frequent lecturer throughout the United States on the importance of peace and understanding between the nations and was the recipient of numerous honorary degrees.
One of the most remarkable Japanese Americans, and widely known throughout Japan and America, Miyakawa had an impeccable and enviable reputation among his colleagues. Miyakawa was a deep thinker, talented speaker, and prolific writer who brought great honor to the School of Law and to Indiana University. Masuji Miyakawa died in 1916. He was inducted into the Indiana University School of Law’s Academy of Law Alumni Fellows in 2006.
Japanese-American lawyers, Japanese-American biography, Maurer Alumni
Law | Legal Biography | Legal Profession
"Masuji Miyakawa" (1870). Notable Alumni. 22.