Noriyuki “Pat” Morita was a Japanese-American actor who was well-known for playing the role of Arnold on Happy Days and known as Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid movie series, in which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in 1984.
Pat Morita was born in Isleton, California. He developed spinal tuberculosis at the age of two and spent the bulk of the next nine years in Northern California hospitals, including the Shriners Hospital in San Francisco. For long periods he was wrapped in a full-body cast and was told he would never walk.
After a surgeon fused four vertebrae in his spine, Pat finally learned to walk again at the age of 11. By then, his Japanese American family had been sent to an internment camp to be detained for the duration of World War II.
He was transported from the hospital directly to the Gila River camp in Arizona to join them. It was at this time that he met a Catholic priest from whom he would later take his stage name “Pat”. For a time after the war, the family operated Ariake Chop Suey, a restaurant in Sacramento, California. Teenage “Nori” would entertain customers with jokes and serve as master of ceremonies for group dinners. Later, he worked as a data entry clerk for the State of California and at Aerojet-General Corporation near Sacramento. In the early 1960s, he started his career as a stand-up comedian known as The Hip Nip, performing in local nightclubs and bars.