Mitsuo Aoki, nicknamed Mits (December 4, 1914 - August 19, 2010) was an American theologian. He was born on a sugar-cane plantation near Hawi on the Island of Hawaii, and lived there until graduating high school. He then relocated to Honolulu for University training, and converted to Christianity from Buddhism. At the beginning of World War II, he was on the mainland US, and subsequently escorted by FBI agents to Hawaii, rather than placed into Japanese American internment camps as were mainland persons of Japanese Ancestry. He never showed any degree of bitterness, and was a constant spirit of joy.
Mitsuo was the founder of the Department of Religion at the University of Hawaii, Manoa campus, and regularly taught courses such as Religions of Mankind, Death and Dying and The Meaning of Existence for forty years thereafter. These were some of the most popular courses on the campus. He frequently recounted an Out of Body Experience he'd had following an automobile accident in 1957 as a driving force in his life. In 1968 he met and soon married Margaret Evelyn Reeves Wagner, a divorcee recently relocated to Hawaii from California. Together, Mits and Lynne set out on a new adventure that touched numerous lives for the better. They were frequent travelers, both on around the world sojourns, and to distant destinations, often as the guru for Young Presidents' Organization, for which organization he was a frequent invited speaker and counselor.
In his later years, he often gave seminars on Death and Dying, relaying his many experiences in counseling families of those losing a loved one, whom he considered his teachers. He is acknowledged as a world leader on the subject of Death and Dying. He leaves behind three children, Galen, Sophie Ann and April; and three step-children, Richard, Walter and Christina. Step-sons John and Wiley preceded him in death. He constantly preached that we should not be afraid of death, and instead should embrace it. He was against dying in the hospital, and he died in his own house surrounded by family and friends at the age of 95 in August 2010.
In 2004 Mitsuo was named as a Living Treasures of Hawai'i.
By his own admission, he's taught over 40,000 students during the 40 years of teaching at the University of Hawaii, an extremely notable achievement not shared by many other professors at any university anywhere. Among those crediting him with their success is the 2011-2015 Governor of Hawaii, Neil Abercrombie, who in his election victory speech of November 3, 2010 made specific mention of Mits' positive influence on his life's work, thanking him for his service to Hawaii and stating inter alia: "He blessed us with his presence."
His best legacy, perhaps, is the Department of Religion that he founded at the Manoa campus, and which he led for forty years. Additionally, there exists the Mits Aoki Legacy Foundation.
Many articles by others about Mitsuo's work span several decades.