A Tribute to Sensei Leigh Nakamoto

Sensei Leigh, formerly the head instructor for Leeward Judo Club and also Kapolei Judo Club, passed away in his sleep from a heart attack on Saturday, February 11, 2012.


Funeral for Leigh Nakamoto
Friday, March 9, 2012 – open to everyone
Visitation: 5:30 p.m.
Service: 6:30 p.m.
Mililani Mortuary in Mililani

Burial will be the following day. The family has requested that the burial be a private affair – Family Only at the burial service.

Nakamoto Sensei’s obituary will appear in the Honolulu Star Advertiser on Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Sensei Leigh lived his life on his own terms. He rode through life on an express train filled with family, friends, students, and people who were drawn to this big man with an even bigger heart. Leigh could sit and regale everyone with stories and anecdotes about life experiences and teach lessons at the same time.

Sensei Leigh’s accomplishments as one of the most successful Judokas in Hawaii Judo history still doesn’t measure up to his achievements and influence after his competitive time on the mat. He resurrected Leeward Judo Club into a Century Club before heading off to Kapolei to spread Judo further west. During his time as President of 50th State Judo, he and a dedicated band of Judo stalwarts gave Hawaii a High School Judo State Championship. His son Christian is one of the few High School Judokas with 4 State Championships. He headed up the corp of referees that serviced both the Association and the High School Judo competitions.

He was truly blessed to meet his wife Sharon and welcomed Darryl, Lori, Everett and Christian on board his express train through life. I’m sure we’ll hear some stories and moments from others here. Leigh enjoyed his Sundays at Grandma Sugihara’s as yet another wonderful moment at his banquet table of life. His hearty laugh lingered on longer than most of us because he sensed more than just the experience, he appreciated who he was experiencing it with and brought that out of those lucky enough to be around him.

When his health kept him out of the everyday operations of his beloved sport of Judo, he was still someone who Senseis and students came to for advice, leadership, and encouragement. With Sensei Leigh, no one walked away wanting and most walked away feeling relieved and blessed.

This final celebration with Sensei Leigh on his express train touches us because we will miss him. We are also reminded that he will always be in our happy moments, our thoughtful moments and our significant moments because whoever he was to you, he was and will always be the big guy with the even bigger heart.