Posted On October 5th, 2011 -


Ellen Masako Sayegusa was born in Honolulu on August 25, 1913, attended Central Intermediate and McKinley High School before going to Japan to finish her education. While in Japan she studied the art of Ikebana, Japanese flower arrangement, under the late Sofu Teshigahara, founder of the Sogetsu School of Flower Arrangement. After four years of study under Master Teshigahara, she received the highest Sogetsu rank, the Kyojunsho.

Upon returning to Honolulu in 1937 Sayegusa Sogyoku Sensei became Sogetsu’s first overseas and Hawaii’s first Nisei teacher. Her accomplishments and teaching span 60 plus years in Hawaii. She coordinated Sogetsu’s first Hawaii exhibit in 1940 and created floral displays for state occasions, the emperor of Japan, Washington Place, the Japanese Consulate and the Japanese Women’s Society of Honolulu. Her exhibits were highlighted at banks, churches, fashion shows, weddings, Cherry Blossom festivals, retail outlets such as Liberty House (now Macy’s), Shirokiya, Halekulani Hotel, McInerny, American Savings, and the cruise liner the Lurline. She is well known for her “one-man” Ikebana exhibition at the Advertiser Contemporary Arts Center of Hawaii in 1966.

Ellen was a founding member of Ikebana International Hawaii Chapter 56 in 1960 serving as master advisor and an active member for 50 years. As a master teacher she trained many other Ikebana instructors and was a member of the Japanese Women’s Society, Hui Mana’olana and the Gedatsu Church of Hawaii. In 1979, the Sayegusa School of Flower Arrangement was established and as late as 2003, at the age of 89, Ellen was teaching four days a week at her home.

More than 100 students participated in a 50th anniversary celebration, “A Tribute to Flowers,” held April 8-9, 1989. Frank Fasi proclaimed these days as “Ellen Sayegusa Day.” Governor Waihee acknowledged her “distinguished and critically acclaimed shows for Vice President Hubert Humphrey and the late Emperor of Japan.” In 2002, Ellen, along with 50 other outstanding Japanese women, was honored in the Japanese Women’s Society of Honolulu publication, “Living Legacy, Outstanding Japanese Women of the 20th Century in Hawaii.”

On September 13, 2011 Ellen passed away peacefully at home with her family at her bedside. She is survived by son Dennis (Linda), daughter-in-law Iris (son Norman passed in 2003), grandchildren Mark Sayegusa, Sheryl Oi, Derek Sayegusa, Erin Sayegusa, Carey Sayegusa, Jennifer (Todd) Yoshizawa and seven great grandchildren.

Services will be held at Hosoi Garden Mortuary on Wednesday, October 12, 2011. Visitation 5pm-6pm, service at 6pm.

- Denotes U.S. Military Veteran