Story: Tsukigawa, Kazuyuki Kiyohei

Page 1 - Biography

Tsukigawa, Kazuyuki Kiyohei

1874–1948

Mariner, Salvation Army officer

This biography was written by C. R. Bradwell and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 3, 1996

Kazuyuki Kiyohei Tsukigawa was born on 9 January 1874 on the island of Konoura-mura Uku in the Nagasaki prefecture of Japan, the son of Kazuye Tsukigawa and his wife, Fuzi Kanki. At 15 or 16 he began to work for his uncle as an apprentice seaman. He decided to become a ship's pilot, and in 1893 he left home and stowed away on a ship to Shanghai. After a period of work there, during which he learned English in his spare time, he became a sailor on English and American shipping lines.

In 1895 Tsukigawa arrived on board the Clan MacLeod at Dunedin, New Zealand, where a dispute with the captain caused him to jump ship leaving behind his clothes and three months' wages. He eventually obtained work on Clydevale station, where his adaptability and industry gained him the confidence of James Mitchell, the station manager. After visiting Japan for four months in 1902, he returned to New Zealand where Mitchell was happy to re-employ him.

In November 1904 Tsukigawa accepted the offer of a job as an able-bodied seaman on the Clutha River Board steamer Clyde under Captain John Butler. He was soon promoted to mate, and after gaining his master's certificate in May 1908 he became captain of a new vessel, the Clutha. When Butler retired Tsukigawa became master of both vessels.

About 1898 he encountered Captain James Walker of the Salvation Army, who led him into a conversion experience. He joined the Army in 1905 or 1906 and his winning personality, dedication, and leadership qualities soon won for him great influence in the Balclutha Corps. In 1910 he was appointed corps sergeant major (senior layman) and was to retain this rank until his death.

Tsukigawa became a New Zealand citizen in 1907; he is said to have been the first Japanese to be naturalised. On 27 October 1913 at Balclutha he married Adelaide May Clarke, who since January 1912 had been the officer in charge of the Balclutha Corps. The bridegroom was by this time one of the best-known personalities of the Clutha River district, and the wedding drew over 600 onlookers, with the Dunedin Salvation Army Band providing music. The couple were to have three sons, Togo, Nogi and Ito.

In 1915 Tsukigawa received a special commendation from the Clutha River Board for the 'seaman-like vigilance and promptitude displayed' when he 'not only saved the ship but also in all probability the lives of the crew'. A seacock on the Clutha had been left open and the ship nearly sank at Tuapeka Mouth at three o'clock in the morning. On 24 February 1924 Tsukigawa risked his life in an effort to rescue a drowning man at Kaka Point near Port Molyneux, for which he was awarded the certificate of the Royal Humane Society of New Zealand.

Tsukigawa's willing, sociable nature and his competence had enabled him to assimilate rapidly into the community. Inevitably he felt the isolation from his own culture at times, and twice during the 1930s he travelled to Wellington to meet the crews of Japanese training vessels. In 1936 he took three months' leave to make his last visit to Japan. Armed with a letter of reference from Prime Minister Michael Joseph Savage and supplies of New Zealand products, he became an unofficial trade ambassador. He was honoured by an audience with members of the imperial family, and by conferences with various government officials. He also made contact with the Salvation Army in Japan.

Tsukigawa retired from service with the Clutha River Board in 1941. By December New Zealand was at war with Japan, and Tsukigawa was to spend many months under house arrest as an enemy alien. His loyalty to New Zealand was apparently never questioned by local citizens, however, and his son Nogi won the Military Medal for gallantry while serving in the European theatre of war.

Kazuyuki Tsukigawa died at Balclutha on 22 December 1948, survived by his three sons. His wife, Adelaide, had died the previous year. He is remembered as one of the most colourful personalities in the Clutha district during the era of river trade.