Years of Japanese Texans
of the “100 JT Project” by Daniel Watanabe (December 2003)
At the beginning… About
a year ago, I was reading through Thomas Walls' book “The Japanese Texans.” I found out that a Mr. Seito
Saibara arrived in Houston in August 1903. It occurred to me that 2003
would make it one hundred years since his arrival in Texas to begin the
immigration of Japanese in this part of the U.S. That called for a celebration
and recognition of what these new immigrants did for Texas history. Thus
began the “100 years of Japanese Texans Project” or 100 JT for short.
Let's remember what happened one hundred years ago. It was the same year
when the Wright Brothers made their first manned flight. It was the year
when the first Ford Model A rolled off the production line. This report
summarizes what has happened during 2003 to commemorate this special
The programs we had this year:
(1) In January, Mrs. Mari
Saibara representing the Saibara family was invited as the honored
guest for the 50 th anniversary celebration of the founding of the
Ikenobo Ikebana Society of Texas. This first-ever society for Japanese
style ikebana was organized by Mrs. “Taka” Saibara,
the wife of Mr. Seito Saibara. On this occasion, Daniel Watanabe made
the first public announcement of the 100 JT Project in Houston.
(2) Several descendents of
the pioneer families were guests at the 10 th Annual Japan Festival
Opening Ceremony held on April 4 at Hermann Park. Invited families
were: George & Darlene Hirasaki, George Okabayashi,
Harry & Mari Okabayashi, Mrs. Mary Hada, Mrs. Lilly Kobayashi, Mr.
Herbert Kobayashi, Mr. & Mrs. Kiyoshi Sandow, Mrs. Mari Saibara,
Joyce Kawahata and Charles Medlin, Ms. Sandra Tanamachi. Again, in the
presence of Mayor Lee Brown and other dignitaries, Watanabe announced
the 100 JT Project.
(3) Through George Hirasaki's efforts, family histories began to be
listed in the new JACL-Houston website. Numerous families have been contacted
to proceed in writing their family histories which will all be documented
and made public.
- Fairview Cemetery in League City is being researched by Watanabe.
This is where Seito Saibara and his immediate relatives are buried.
There are 30 other markers.
- Forest Lawn West Cemetery in Webster is being research by Watanabe.
- The Kishi Cemetery in Orange County is on the JACL website.
- Sut Oishi is compiling the history of JACL-Houston.
We have contacted:
- Thomas Walls, author of the Japanese Texans and now living in Okalahoma,
has agreed to help us on our compiling histories.
- George Hirasaki has visited the Institute For Texan Cultures in San
Antonio where he has begun liaison with staff Tom Shelton who will
help us in archives and resources.
- Daniel Watanabe has contacted
Irene Hirano, Executive Director & President
of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, plus the Museum's
Board of Directors, Trustees, and Governors.
- George Hirasaki has contacted the Orange County Historical Society,
regarding the name change issue of Jap Lane, and of the 100 JT which
will recommend the name Kishi Lane to honor one of the pioneers.
- Other people contacted include: Harry Honda, editor emeritus of the
Pacific Citizen, the monthly newspaper of JACL; Southern Journal published
in Houston; Dr. Takeshi Udagawa, Profession at U.T. Austin; Dr. Eiichiro
Azuma, Asst.Prof. of History at Univ. of Penn.
- Rice University professors: Dr. Fred von der Mehden, Dr. Steven Klineberg,
Dr. Sarah Thal.
- The Japanese Consulate General in Houston, and the JETRO office.
- Members of the Japanese Association of Greater Houston, and of the
Japan America Society of Houston.
We have been contacted by:
- Steven Sano of San Antonio who is now initiating their own city's
effort to celebrate the 100 JT.
- Ms. Patricia Alderson, VP for Communications for the USA Rice Foundation
would like to obtain information from our historical findings.
- Mr. Alan Pham of the Asian American Students Assn. of Rice University
like to disseminate information on the 100 JT.
New Resources that have become available:
- Joyce Kawahata introduced
me to the book “100 Years History of the
Japanese-Americans” published in 1961 by the Shin-Nippon Shimbun of
Japan. Although written entirely in Japanese, it has 1431 pages of
Texas history and family history that exceeds those recorded in “The
Festival, April 5
in Texas by Steven Sano
in South Texas
Americans in the Lone Star by Irwin Tang
The family histories
for the 100 years of Japanese Texans have gotten a start with following
assignments and family names identified in the book, The Japanese
Texans, by T. K. Walls. If you know of families that should
be on the list or you would like to write about your family, we would
like to hear from you. Your family does not need to be 100 years
old. We would like to eventually include every family wanting
to share their family story.
Family histories with
1. Hada/Oyma family: Eric Lindsey (done)
2. Kishi & Hirasaki families: George Hirasaki (done)
3. Kawahata family: Joyce Kawahata
4. Kobayashi family: Kathy Kobayashi (GJH, done)
5. Kondo family: Beverly Kondo Burns
6. Mayumi, Yoshio: George Hirasaki (done)
7. Nagai family: George Hirasaki
8. Okabayashi family: Harry Okabayashi
9. Onishi family: Sut Oishi (done)
10. Saibara family: Howard Lindsay (done)
11. Sando, Kuniemon: Sut Oishi, Mari Okabayashi
12. Tanamachi family: Sandra Tanamachi (done)
13. Taniguchi, Isamu & Alan: Keith Taniguchi (GJH)
14. Maekawa, Shinpei: George Hirasaki (done)
Project Proposals (HelpNeeded)
- JACL history
1.1 Founder: Sut Onishi
1.2 Past presidents
1.3 Past major programs
- The Pioneers
2.1 Really early history of first arrivals. "Who were they?"
2.1.4 Where did they come from?
- Later arrivals
3.1 Who and when? The later isseis.
3.2 The "new" isseis
- The Internment Camps of
4.1 History and record of the four camps
4.2 Name of internees
4.3 Reunion of internees
4.4 "The War Years": reminiscent
- Nikkei organizations through
5.1 Church groups
5.2 Social groups
5.3 Professional groups
- The 442nd/100th and the
Texas 36th Division
6.1 Texans who were in the 442nd/100th/MIS
6.2 Contact with the 36th Division
6.3 Former GIs from Texas in WWII
- Recognition of nikkeis through
7.1 First among the nikkeis, e.g., 1st graduate of Texas A&M, Rice,
7.2 Award-winning nikkeis
7.3 Recognized scholars, community leaders
- Events planning for the
8.1 Program chair
8.2 Program planning
8.3 Program execution
8.4 Commemorative publication or public event (e.g. planting tree, commemorative
8.5 Invitation to VIPs
8.6 Joint project with the JANM, Institute of Texas Cultures
in The Japanese Texans:
Akagi, Beatrice (Reyes)
Furugochi, Dr. Sadakazu
Imai, Tonia (see Kitamura, Tonia)
Kagawa, Kichi (Murakomi)
Kataoka, Ruth (Kagawa)
Katsuro, Paul Shuhei
Kitamura, Tonia (Imai)
Kosaka, Sue (Otsuki)
Maizumi, Fred Chiutaro
Otsuki, Frank Sentaro
Sakato, George Joe
Shimotsu, Takako (Tsuji)
Shimotsu, Uichi “Hugh”
#4: October 7,2002
Proposal to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Japanese
immigrants into Texas.
August 2003 will mark the 100th anniversary of the arrival of Seito Saibara
to Houston. Although there are a few Japanese immigrants who had already
arrived earlier, we are proposing to use this occasion to mark "100
years of Japanese Texans" to commemorate and honor the early immigrants.
Plans for this project was announced at the August 24 JACL meeting. The
occasion will include various programs that will include: historical documentation
of families, activities in the community, recognition of early pioneers
and contemporary personalities; collection of resource materials/memorabilia;
celebration get togethers. Details to be announced.
Officers of the Japanese-American National Museum hear of the "100
years of Japanese Texans." On Sept. 21, at the Board of Trustees
and Governors Meeting of the JANM, held in Washington D.C., Daniel Watanabe
was given the opportunity to announce our endeavor to hold this celebration.
In attendance of this meeting were: Secretary Norman Mineta, Senator Daniel
Inouye (Chairman, Board of Trustees), George Takei (Chairman, Board of
Governors), and about 60 trustees/governors (from all over the U.S.).
UP YOUR SUPPORT! SEND IN IDEAS, SUGGESTIONS, OFFER TO HELP, ETC.
Bulletins on the "100 years of Japanese Texans" will be forthcoming.
Daniel Watanabe email@example.com