JAMES SHIGETA / 1929 – 2014Shigeta started out as a singer and founded a UH scholarship
By John Berger / email@example.com
Island-born actor James Shigeta leaves a legacy in Hawaii.
Shigeta briefly attended the University of Hawaii at Manoa, as well as the University of Southern California and New York University, but his studies were interrupted when he joined the Marines during the Korean War. He did, however, help many others pursue their educational
goals by establishing the James Shigeta Scholarship in Asian Studies at UH.
In a 2007 interview with Sukhdev Sandhu during a film festival in his honor sponsored by NYU's Asian/Pacific/American Institute, the actor called the scholarship fund one of the things he was most proud of.
Shigeta explained that he was helped by various scholarships while in school, and "I thought when I did amass a little bit of money, I decided to pay back a little bit."
Masami Hironaka, 84, of Wailea, Maui, was in an a cappella choir with Shigeta when both were at UH.
"He had a beautiful baritone voice. I was surprised he became an actor. He wasn't the show-off type. Jimmy was the shy type," said Hironaka, a longtime educator who started children's choir and ukulele groups in Maui schools and offered ukulele lessons.
Shigeta began his show business career as a singer in Hawaii, joining with singer-pianist Charles K.L. Davis to perform as a cabaret act, Guy Brion (Shigeta) and Charles Duran (Davis), in 1951.
Local singer and actor Jimmy Borges remembers Shigeta as the guy who "got me into Vegas" in 1959.
"Jimmy (Shigeta)was starring in show called 'Holiday in Japan,' which was produced by Shirley MacLaine and her husband, Steve Parker, and he left to finish 'Walk Like a Dragon,' his second movie, and I got the job," Borges said. "I thought I was going to be there for six weeks. I was there for two years."
Borges and Shigeta finally met on the set of "The Islander," a 1978 TV movie starring Dennis Weaver.
"We got along very well," Borges said. "We talked about (my getting 'Holiday in Japan'), but we were looking back at it from a long, long way back."
One of Shigeta's best assets was a "great voice," Borges said.
"He spoke so eloquently and he had this 'This is the Voice of America' voice. His stature, his presence, was all built around his voice. Jimmy became what his voice was."
Nancy Kwan, who starred opposite Shigeta in the 1961 film musical "Flower Drum Song," and on stage in 2004 in "Love Letters" in Los Angeles, described him as "a very lovely man, great to work with. We were all very proud of (the movie).
"It's a fun film, and James was a big part of it."
Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of the deceased