Mitsutaro and Moto Kobayashi

   Mitsutaro was born in 1877 in a settlement called Shinya, a suburb of the city of Fukuyama, Hiroshima prefecture. He was a mechanical engineering graduate of Kuramae Technical College, now Tokyo Institute of Technology. He left Japan on a British ship in the company of the president of Kuramae Technical College and arrived in San Francisco on August 3 rd , 1904. After the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, he moved to Webster and initially worked for Seito Saibara.

   Mitsutaro purchased twenty acres of land in Webster and planted Satsuma oranges that he ordered from Nagoya, Japan. His orchard failed in 1911 when a freeze killed his trees. However, cucumbers he planted between the orange trees were successful and his business grew.

   Because of his prosperity, he wrote his family in Japan to send a “picture bride.” In 1913, Moto Shigeta of Osaka arrived in America and met Mitsutaro in Colorado Springs. Although their marriage had been officially performed in absentia in Japan, they met for the first time in Colorado and spent their honeymoon with a trip up Pike's Peak [1].

 

Mitsutaro Kobayashi and Satsuma oranges,
ca. 1938, (Courtesy of Hope Kobayashi)
UT Institute of Texan Cultures


   Life in Texas for Moto was somewhat difficult at first. Twenty-four-year-old Moto was a graduate of Osaka Christian College, where she was taught English, but she still had trouble communicating in anything but Japanese. Because of this she relied almost exclusively on her husband in her dealings with the non-Japanese community around Webster [1].

 

     The Kobayashi's first child, Thomas, died shortly after birth, so the couple was especially grateful when their first daughter was born in 1916. They named her Hope. The Kobayashi's had 4 more sons and 2 more daughters. Since Mitsutaro was often busy with marketing produce, Moto took the orders for harvesting and directed the workers until Mitsutaro returned from Houston.

Top row(L-R): Lily, Tokuye, Ty and Riki
Bottom row(L-R) Mitsutaro, Mitsu, Moto, Hope and Herbert, May 1937
(Courtesy of Hope Kobayashi)
UT Institute of Texan Cultures
Mitsutaro and Moto Kobayashi family. Riki in Moto's arms. Children from left, Hope, Lily, Ty (father of John and Kathy), and Tokuye


Moto Kobayashi [3]

    Moto Shigeta was born in Obama, Japan on November 13, 1889. She was born into a prosperous family whose business was whale oil for lamps. She remembers as a little girl having her own maid who in evenings carried Moto's lantern for her. Here at an early age she was trained in the tea ceremony.

    At the turn of the century came the first major change in her life. Kerosene replaced whale oil for lamps, and her family was left without a source of income. Moto, because of her intellectual capability, was sent to the Christian School Baika in Osaka. At this Congregationalist school she learned not only regular academics, but also calligraphy, flower arranging, cooking, and poetry.

        Meanwhile her future husband, Mitsuturo Kobayashi, graduated from the Tokyo Institute of Technology with a major in mechanical engineering. Because he has not the eldest son and to preserve the family ownership of land, immigration was an opportunity to seek his own fortune. Mitsuturo came to San Francisco. After the earthquake he continued his journey, until he came to Webster, Texas.

    By 1913, he was ready to marry.  After marriage negotiations, Mitsuturo (in absentee) was married to Moto. She was brought to Colorado where he met her for the first time. (Lee's note:They were married in Colorado Springs and honeymooned at Pike's Peak.)

    Moto's journey to the little farm house in Webster marked more change.  She now had to learn to cook on a kerosene stove, new language, new climate, new culture.  She held on to her values of hard work and discipline.  She brought eight children, one dying at birth, into this world.  They remember their life structured by school, chores and study.  Moto worked hard on the farm where okra, carrots, asparagus, cantaloupe, strawberries and other vegetables and fruits grew.  While her husband would take produce to market, Moto would take the orders and give direction to the field workers.  (Lee's note: as well as keeping house, looking after chldren and cooking for a family of nine.)

    Moto was an excellent cook fixing both Japanese and American food.  Here children remember her sushi, rump roast and turkey with stuffing recipes.  Moto was also a person of laughter.  She always greeted people with bow, and when she lifted her head, there was always a huge smile.

    Moto valued education.  With both her and her husband having received training, she knew her children must. (Lee's note - All 7 attended university  and the 5 with degrees had several grad degrees as well and all grads as well) Wlth five of her children receiving college degrees, they have contributed in the fields of chemical and aerospace engineering, medicine, as well as farming.

    Moto loved and valued family.  She deeply loved her husband of 49 years.  When he died in 1962, she said she might die within three years of a broken heart, but if she lived through those years, she didn't know how long she would live.  She was right.  Moto lived a long life because she valued family; so in turn her family honored her.  She lived because Hope was there daily giving to her.  She lived because Lilly was there to nurse her.  She lived because Mitsu would come home from Japan each year to continue the connection with Japan.  She lived because Riki and Herbert would stop by to give support.  Moto deeply loved her family and they loved her.

    Moto experienced many changes, but she held on to values.  She held on to the value of the land.  In Japan the Kobayashi family has owned the same land for over 400 years.  Moto would not sell the land; she would not give up the farm house she moved into in 1913.  The farnily would only Iease the land.  Moto would talk to neighbors who sold property saying, "You are so rich now.  We are not rich, we just get the money once a month."   Moto valued the land.

    Life was not always pleasant.  The short interment at the beginning of World War II.   Moto had several illnesses, but she always came home from the hospital.  She experienced so many changes.   Throughout it all she demonstrated great strength.

    Moto wrote Japanese poetry.  In the poetry we see her strength, her humor, her thanksgiving.  Here are a few translated into English.

On Moon surface
hear voice of
person walking (on TV)
I open door
to make sure
it is same moon.

Moon
explorers
go on
expedition
Apollo
brave men
bring back stone
souvenir.

Dr. Overstreet made
old age body well
again.
You brave doctor
I honor this
Happy Day.

 


References


1. Walls, T.W., The Japanese Texans, (1987) UT Institute of Texan Cultures, San Antonio, TX.
2. Allton, J.H., Brackett, P.M., and Ray , D., The Little White Church on NASA Road 1 - From Rice Farmers to Astronauts, Webster Presbyterian Church, Webster, TX.
3. Kobayashi, Lee, (personal communications)