Katsunore Wakasa and Orange Petroleum Company
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Palisades, NY 10964
(Correspondence with George Hirasaki, 2004-2010)
Katsunore Wakasa, Engineer for Orange Petroleum Company
It's wonderful to correspond with you. I have been to the Kishi plantation
once in 1998 and again in 2002. My grandfather's name was Katsunore Wakasa,
he was born in Hokkaido in 1894, and was at the Kishi farm from 1922 through
1925. After 1925, he returned to Japan and entered into an arranged marriage
with my grandmother; as there was no heir to my grandmother's estate, he
assumed her surname of Takahashi. My dad came to the US for college in 1953.
(son of Taro Takahashi)
My son Timothy forward your e-mail to me. It is certainly a pleasure "meeting" with a descendant of the Kishi Colony.
My father, Katsu-nori Wakasa, spent several years with the Orange Petroleum Company as a drilling engineer, although he had to keep books and secure supplies in addition. Immediately after his graduation from the School of Mines at the University of Tokyo in 1922, he was hired by the company and sent to Orange, Texas. He lived in the Kishi farm for several weeks to get acquainted with the American way of life, and then served as an engineer under Mr. Shunkichi Nomura, vice-president of the Orange Petroleum Company. Mr. Nomura was a business man, who represented Japanese interest and was a relative of Baron Matsukata (formerly Minister of Finance, Japanese Government), a major investor for the company. I understood that Mr. Kishi traveled to Japan and negotiated with Baron Matsukata for his investment to the Orange Company. My father told me that he did not know anything about accounting methods since his was trained as an engineer. He learned American style accounting from Mr. Nomura, who was trained for business administration. Mr. Nomura returned Japan, and some years later, rose to the presidency of the Nippon Sekiyu Kaisha (Nisseki), one of the largest oil companies in Japan. My father returned to Japan also, but quit being an engineer and ran a hat manufacturing business for my mother's family. During the WW II, the hat business was shut down, and he taught oil engineering at a technical college in Tokyo, and advised the government for the redevelopment of the oil fields in the Southeast Asia, which was ten occupied by Japanese military.
ORANGEFIELD, TEXAS Katsunori Wakasa (later Takahashi) in the Orange Oilfield, ca 1923. He came to Orange, TX, around 1922, from Japan, and worked with Shunkichi Nomura, vice-President of the Orange Petroleum Company. On the back of this photo, Katsunori wrote: The field began to produce about $400 of oil every day, and the company started making some profit. The job began to become more interesting.
I was attending a meeting in Seattle, WA, last week, and spent the
weekend with my son, Timothy. In our casual conversation, I told him
that my father had arrived in Seattle aboard a ship named "Empress of
This week, my son was in LA and visited the Japanese American Museum
there. He remembered about my father's arrival in Seattle, and looked
up the passenger list. He found my father's name (Katsunori Wakasa)
arriving on July 2, 1922, estimation Terry, TX. He also found that
Hachitaro Kishi of Terry, TX, was on the same ship. Hachitaro's contact
in Japan was listed as Mrs. Yamaguchi of Kojimachi, Tokyo. I never knew
that my father was traveling with one of the Kishis. I presume that
Hachitaro was one of your uncles.
Photos of the Kishi Colony
I have gone through my photo collections last night, and found some
which might interest you. As a matter of fact, these photos taken by my
father in and around Orange, TX, reached to me miraculously.
My father had a photo album, in which his photos during his stay in US
were organized. I saw them many times when I was a teenager in Japan.
Since the album contained many photos taken in Texas, my mental images
of the US which I developed in my youth were the land of oil derricks,
cattle and bayous, instead of sky scrapers in New York and auto
manufacturing in Detroit. At any rate, these albums were lost during WW
II bombing. Then, about 10 years ago, a bunch of old photos were found
among the possessions of my fathers elder sister after her death. Since
she lived in a country side, her home was not bombed in the war, and
hence the old photos were not destroyed. These are the photos which I
have in my hands. They were sent to her from my father from Texas to
show his life there in 1920's. On the back of each photo, my father
wrote his commentaries and explanations. One of them shows about 10
kids hanging around a farm truck, and my father wrote "There are about
30 of these kids on the Kishi Farm, where I am staying." One of them
could be your mother.
PS: I just began to wonder if I was named after Mr. Kishi's son,
KISHI FARM Children at the Kishi Farm, ca 1922. Katsunori Wakasa (Takahashi) wrote in the back of this photo: There are about 30 Japanese kids in the Kishi Farm. Every Sunday when I visit the farm, they swarm around my car and beg to have car ride with me. All of them love to play with me.
Commander Isoroku Yamamoto in Orange, Texas
I have a few photographs taken around 1923 by my father during a visit
of Japanese Naval Officers to Orange, TX. Shown with Mr. Kishi, Mr.
Nomura and my father was Commander Isoroku Yamamoto, the Commander in
Chief of the Japanese Combined Fleet at the time of the Pearl Harbor
attack. My father used to talk about the evening, when Yamamoto stayed
in my father's apartment and discussed oil supply for the Japanese war
machine. May be, Yamamoto had an idea of running his fleet with oil
from Orange, TX?!? However, I wondered for many years, why Yamamoto knew
about and visited a minute oil producer like the Orange Petroleum Co. I
surmise that one reason was that Yamamoto came from Nagaoka, Niigata,
the same town as Mr. Kishi. Second, Mr. Nomura came from a wealthy
industrial family, who owned Kawasaki shipyards, a manufacturer of the
Imperial Navy ships.
After I wrote my previous e-mail, I found out a description of Adm.
Yamamoto and Orange oil field in the web. The web site story is
consistent with what I wrote to you about the story of Yamamoto, Baron
Matsukata and the Kishi oil field. Since the story I wrote to you was
based on the information given to me by my father totally independent
from the web site information and it corroborates with the web site
story, it must be close to the truth with only a few minor missing
The photo of Mr. Kishi, Adm. Yamamoto, Adm. Ide, Mr. Nomura (extreme
left) and another (perhaps Adm. Kaku?) which was taken in front of
Orange field oil derricks is interesting. I have the original copy of a
photo taken almost exactly with the same scene, with the exception that
Mr. Nomura is replaced with my father. Therefore, I surmise that the
photo in the web was taken by my father, while the copy I have was taken
by Mr. Nomura. I met Mr. Nomura several times in Tokyo when I was a
young boy. He made a strong impression on me, since he visited our
Tokyo house driving a cream colored Lincoln Continental (which was
probably only one existed in Japan before the Pearl Harbor).
During the WW II, my father corresponded with Adm. Yamamoto serving in
the front line. I recall that in his letter Adm. Yamamoto stated how he
enjoyed an evening of discussion with my father in Orange. The story of
Adm. Yamamoto who spent an evening in my father's apartment and
discussed world oil supplies is based on the letter from Adm. Yamamoto.
This letter (along with the photo mentioned earlier) was reproduced in
the opening pages of an engineering text book on oil production, which
my father published in 1942.
Yamamoto in Orangefield Taken ca 1923 at the Orange Oil Field, near Orange, TX, by Shunkichi Nomura. From left to right Katsunori Wakasa (Engineer, later changed to Takahashi), Isoroku Yamamoto (Commander, Japanese Imperial Navy), unknown (possibly Commander Kaku, Japanese Imperial Navy), Kichimatsu Kishi, and Kenji Ide (Admiral, Japanese Imperial Navy)
Yamamoto in Orange, Texas Visitors to the Orange Petroleum Company, Orange, TX, ca 1923, taken by Shunkichi Nomura. From left to right' Isoroku Yamamoto (Commander, Japanese Imperial Navy) Kichimatsu Kishi, Kenji Ide (Admiral, Japanese Imperial Navy), unknown (possibly Commander Kaku, Japanese Imperial Navy), Katsunori Wakasa (later changed to Takahashi, Engineer).
Yamamoto and Takahashi in Japan
Speaking of Adm. Yamamoto, his paths crossed the paths of my family and
I a few times in addition to his encounter with my father (before he
married my mother) in Orange, TX. My great uncle (mother's side),
Shinzaburo Furukawa, was a rear Admiral of IJN, who was an instructor
for a cadet Yamamoto at the Naval Academy around 1903. As soon as
Yamamoto graduated from the Academy, he was assigned for sea duties, and
lost his finger during the famous 1905 Battle of Tsushima against the
Tzar's Baltic fleet. This is the war, in which Mr. Kishi served in the
During the WW II, I (about age 12) wanted to become a naval officer, and
wrote a letter to Adm. Yamamoto (c/o his flag ship) asking him if he
would give me a letter of recommendation for my entry to the Naval
Academy when I grew up to age 16. He wrote back and stated that he
would be happy to when time comes. However, he died before I became
that age. Although I never became a navy officer, my professional life
is tied to the ocean as an oceanographer.
I would be interested in the book on petroleum engineering written by
your father. I have been awarded the Lester Uren Award by the Society of
Petroleum Engineers. Uren wrote the first petroleum engineering text book in
the U.S. I have a copy of his book.
It is most interesting to learn how paths of people are entwined each
other regardless of the great distance across the broad Pacific and the
continental U. S.
As you mentioned Uren's book on petroleum engineering, I vaguely recall
that it was the book which my father heavily referenced in his small
text book "Sai-yu gijutsu" (Technology of Oil Production). Although I
was 11 years old, I helped him to proof read the galley, and saw a 1
1/2" thick impressive book lying on his desk. I remember that the
author had a short name, and had the first letter of the name was "U". I am happy to hear that you are a recipient of the Uren Award for the
recognition of your distinguished contributions. I would appreciate
hearing about your accomplishments. My field of research is chemical
oceanography and I have been working for the past 40 years on the
natural carbon cycle in the oceans and atmosphere.
I understand that your field of research is surface chemistry related to
the movement of petroleum through host rocks. A number of years ago, I
served once or twice as an examiner for Somasandran's Ph. D. students at
Columbia. I recall that one of the research topics was zeta-potential
for carbonate minerals. As a matter of fact, my idea of sequestering
industrial CO2 is closely related to your field.
As to the iron fertilization of ocean waters as a means for sequestering
atmospheric CO2, I have been involved in it for many years, since the
idea was first discussed at a meeting sponsored by the National Academy
of Sciences/Engineering some 15 years ago. More recently, I have been
involved in the field experiment conducted in the Antarctic Ocean. The
project has been supported by NSF and is called Southern Ocean Fe
Experiment (SOFeX). General findings by the SOFeX project (I am one of
the coauthors) have been recently published in SCIENCE magazine (Kenneth
H. Coale et al.,(2004). Southern Ocean iron enrichment experiment:
Carbon cycling in high- and low-Si waters. Science, 304, 408-414.). An
addition of nano-mole level Fe to ocean waters replete with
macro-nutrients (nitrate, phosphate and silicate) enhances
photosynthetic production. This will reduce the pCO2 of seawater and,
as a result, more atmospheric CO2 will be absorbed by seawater.
However, organic (or biogenic) debris will be oxidized to CO2 rapidly
during its descent toward the deep ocean floor (~ 4000 meters). The
concentration of organic debris in a water column decreases
exponentially with a characteristic depth scale of 100- 300 meters.
Correspondingly, the concentration of CO2 dissolved in seawater
increases and that of dissolved oxygen decreases rapidly with increasing
water depth. Accordingly, as stated by your colleague, only a minor
fraction (1 % or less) of the organic debris reach the ocean floor. 99%
of the organic matter produced in the photic layers of the oceans are
recycled within the water column. As a matter of fact, the present day
sediments from deep ocean floors of the global oceans are white (due to
CaCO3) or reddish brown (ferric iron oxide) color and contain less than
1% of organic carbon. Required conditions, under which organic carbon
can accumulate on the sea floor, are that water columns become anoxic,
so that no dissolved oxygen would be available in seawater for the
oxidation of organic carbon. Mid-depth waters around the discharge of
the Mississippi River are becoming anoxic recently because of the
increased organic carbon falling through the water column. This has
become a cry of environmentalists because of adverse impacts of anoxia
to the local ecosystems (including shell fish and shrimps). I do not
think wise to create a large anoxia in the oceans in order to produce
conditions suitable for the CO2 sequestration in deep ocean sediments.
Negative ecological impacts would far outweigh the benefits of
sequestering industrial CO2.
As to the sedimentation rate, the global mean is 2 to 3 cm per 1000
years for the deep oceans. The rates in the Pacific (mostly terrigenous
and wind blown materials) are in the lower end of the spectrum, whereas
the rates for the Atlantic tend to be higher reflecting the smaller size
of the oceans and accumulation of skeletal CaCO3. The rates around the
Antarctica continent are in the higher end of spectrum because of the
proximity to the glaciers which grind and transport continental rocks. The rates of sedimentation over the continental slope and shelf are, as
you are well aware, orders of magnitude greater than the deep ocean
sedimentation rates and vary widely from place to place.
I had read the article by Coale et al. I see you are reference # 14. It
occurred to me that further south waters that are richer in silica produces
more diatoms rather than algae and thus more organic material will likely be
sequestered in the sediment. I understand that the sediment must have
organic content somewhat greater than 1% to have enough organic matter for
gas hydrate to accumulate.
Since diatoms have greater density than seawater and fluffy biogenic
debris, it has been assumed that diatoms are an efficient carrier for
transporting organic matter (encased in siliceous skeletons) to the deep
sea floor. Recent observations at sea, however, show that diatom
skeletons which are sampled at water depths below about 100 meters are
largely devoid of organic contents. We conjecture that diatoms have
gone through digestive systems of zooplankton and larger organisms, and
that organic matter within diatom frustules have been stripped during
grazing. Diatom frustules sink fast through a water column, but do not
transport much carbon with it in the present day open ocean
However, we see black organic layers in older deep sea sediments (e. g.
during Tertiary) over large areas of the North Pacific. On the basis of
these observations, we interpret that some portions of the Pacific Ocean
became anoxic during the geological past. In the present day oceans,
organic rich sediments are accumulating below anoxic water columns in
restricted basin areas such as the Panama Basin (tropical Pacific) and
Caricao Trench (Atlantic). Black Sea (although an inland sea) is
another modern example for the accumulation of organic sediments under
anoxic waters. In near-shore environments, organic carbon may be
transported to sediments as detritus along with terrestrial rock
debris. Therefore, the transport paths of organic detritus in the
near-shore environments are quite different from the open ocean
processes. Methane hydrates in the continental shelf and slope sediments
may be largely produced from these carbon sources. Those found in deep
sea sediments may have been derived from carbon-rich sediments of
specific geological periods.
Orange Petroleum Company
December 17, 2007
Were you at the AGU meeting in San Francisco? I spoke to at two
or three people who knew you and thought you may have been at the meeting.
I found old records of Orange Petroleum Company. The drilling
reports for the Kishi-Lang wells (1 & 2) were during the time your father was
the Petroleum Engineer for the company.
Thank you very much for sending me very interesting documents on the Orange Petroleum Company and well logs. The logs show that some oil was
found at 3000 - 3500 feet. This is consistent with my father's letter
to his sister (ca. 1922) that the wells were producing about $2000 day at its peak. I am surprised to learn that the Orange Petroleum Co.
lasted until 1942, when it was eliminated by the war act. The Kawasaki Heavy Industry Co., that was a part owner at that time, invested on the Orange Petroleum Co. from the very beginning. As you know, Mr.
Kichimatsu Kishi traveled to Japan in or about 1918, and received financial support from Baron Matsukata, who was the Minister of Finance during the Russo-Japanese War of 1905 and a major owner of the Kawasaki Industries. Matsukata asked Mr. Shunkichi Nomura, one of his sons in law, to head the Orange Petroleum Co. My father was just graduated from the School of Mines, University of Tokyo, and was hired by Mr. Nomura to go to Texas with him as his engineer. The ship's passenger list, that was found by my son Tim at the Hirasaki Library in LA, shows that my father was aboard the Empress of Russia with one of the Kishi's (presumably a brother of Kichimatsu) from Yokohama to Seattle. After they worked for several years in Orange, TX, Mr. Nomura and my father returned Japan around 1925. Mr. Nomura became the president of Nippon Sekiyou Co (Nisseki) later. Although my father was asked to join Nisseki with Mr. Nomura, my father declined the offer and married my mother to manage a hat manufacturing/whole sale business.
Thank you again for sharing such interesting documents with me. Sorry that I miss an opportunity to meet you in person at the San Francisco AGU meeting.
July 1, 2010
Attached is a photo of the plane I had an opportunity to pilot
earlier this month.
I did not know that you are an airplane enthusiast. I always wanted to fly on a WWII fighter plane, but never done it. My boyhood dream was to design a fighter plane like Mitsubishi ZERO.
Toward the end of WWII, schools in and around major Japanese cities were closed. I was an 9th grader and was drafted to work at the Sumitomo Aircraft Co in Shizuoka. My job was to assist in grinding propellers for ZEROs. A few years ago, my son, Tim, who is an aerodynamic engineer, took me to Chino Air field in California, and showed me one of the last operational ZEROs. That was as close as I got to the fighter plane.
In the write-ups which you sent me, I saw a B-25 Mitchel in the background. I believe that I saw one of the Doolittle Raider's B-25's flying over Tokyo in 1942 (?). I was a 6th grader and lived in Tokyo, walking distance from the Tokyo Bay. I was coming home from school at noon on Saturday. I heard strange engine noise and saw a low flying black plane passed by. Sometime later, air-raid sirens were sounded.
That event convinced my father to move away from Tokyo to a country side near Shizuoka in 1943. It is very interesting that the photo of B-25 in your e-mail evoked my old memory.
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