The Kumazo Tanamachi Family
Ichiro (Jack) Tanamachi and Jitsuji Onishi

Left to right: Kumazo Tanamachi, Flora Onishi, Fumiko (Tanamachi) Onishi, Asao Tanamachi, and Holly Onishi. Children: Hiroko Tanamachi (Edwards) and MarikoTanamachi (Otsuki).

   Kumazo and Asao Tanamachi had 13 children.  The eldest five,  Ichiro, Jiro, Fumi, Saburo, and Goro were born in Seal Beach, California.  The Tanamachis moved to Terry, Texas in 1921, later moved to Nome, then to Yoakum and then to the Rio Grande Valley where they finally bought land in 1935.  The younger siblings, Willie, Robert, Rena, Walter, Yuri, Masa, Mariko and Hiroko were born in Texas during this transition period.

    Here is a quick synopsis of all the Tanamachi siblings:

1. The oldest son was Ichiro "Jack." He married Midori Nakatsuru , and they had three children: Robert, Eugene, and Vivian Candy .   Jack later married Juanita Flores; children who followed were Jack, Velma, Michael and Ronnie.

2. Jiro "Jerry" worked with his father on the farm in the Valley and later started his own successful farm.  He married Kikuko Nakao and they had five children: Diana, Sandra (see below), Jerry James, Deborah, and Laura.

3.  Fumiko married Holly Onishi, Sr. and they had four sons:  Holly, Jr., Harvey, Richard, and Carl. The second son, Harvey, continues the produce business today.

4. Saburo was a member of the 442, E Company and died during the Rescue of the 36th Division, "Lost Battalion."  He was one of the first two Japanese Americans to be buried in Arlington in 1948.

5.  Goro was a member of the 442, Headquarters, and he married Yuriko Kawamura.  He went to work for the Air Force as a civilian employee and moved to Dayton, Ohio.  They had four children: Patricia, Michael, Beverly, and Becky.


6. Willie joined the army at 18, did a tour in Frankfurt Germany where he met his wife Inge.  Later he went to Viet Nam as a civilian trainer, training among tribesmen.  He was attached to the American Embassy. He also worked for NASA, DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) and SBA (Small Business Administration).  They had four children: Linda, Judy, Tim, and Tom.

7 .  Rena married George Tadano from Phoenix, Arizona, and they had three children: Charles, Peggy, and Ronald.

8 .  Walter graduated from Texas A & M University and married  Carol Ann Reeder.  They had twins girls: Stacey and Rickey.  Later Walter married Bonnie Vaughn and they resided in Harlingen, TX.

9.  Robert Christian only lived for about 12 hours and is buried in the Kishi Family Cemetery in Orange County, Texas.

10. Yuri graduated from Mary Hardin Baylor in Design Art and later married Gene Nakayama, a chief Geologist for Sinclair/Arco.  They had three children: Lloyd, James, and Phyllis.

11.  Masa graduated from Jefferson Davis Hospital Nursing School and  married Gerald Elliott, Captain in the Air Force, who later received his PhD in Education and taught at the Houston Baptist College.  They had three children:  Kelly, Kyle,  and Kendall.

12. Mariko "Mary"  married Frank Otsuki who farmed in the Valley, and they had one son, Ted.

13.  The youngest child, Hiroko, married Dean Edwards who started his own successful business, and they had four children: Denise, Michael, Christopher, and Shawn.


Kumazo and Asao Tanamachi Farm, Texas
Kumazo and Asao Tanamachi Family, San Benito
Back: Rena (Tadano), Willie, Saburo, Jiro, Goro, Fumi (Onishi)
Front:  Yuri (Nakayama), Kumazo, Walter, Masa (Elliott), Asao, Mariko (Otsuki).
T he oldest, Ichiro, was in California and Hiroko (Edwards) was not yet born.

Our Texas Roots

by Sandra Tanamachi Nakata
From Pacific Citizen Holiday Issue, December, 1994

    The fragrance of pines at this time of year brings forth a myriad of memories as I sit here admiring our Christmas tree.  The tall, beautiful pine trees were the first things I noticed about Southeast Texas. Growing up in the Rio Grande Valley, the only pine trees we saw were the ones we purchased at Christmastime.

    Pine trees were both a source of beauty and hardship for my father, Jerry Tanamachi, and his family, when they first moved to Texas in 1921. I remember my father telling me that they had to initially clear the land where they wanted to farm. They used dynamite to rid the fields of the stumps of the pine trees after they had worked laboriously to cut them down. The stumps that remained had to be farmed around. “It was back-breaking work to plant the seeds and drive the farm equipment around those stumps,” I remember my father saying. My grandparents, Kumazo and Asao Tanamachi, brought their family to Texas in 1921, as they were not able to purchase land in California. My grandparents, like so many other Issei, had emigrated from Japan to the United States to begin a new life and to raise their children as Americans.

    My grandparents also helped many families settle in Texas. They welcomed them to Texas by offering them a place to stay in their home and shared their land with others so that they could begin farming. One such family was the Isamu Taniguchis, originally from Stockton, California. This summer at the National JACL convention in Salt Lake City my sister, Debbie Galvan, and I were able to meet one of the sons, Dr. Izumi Taniguchi, of Fresno. Dr. Taniguchi said he remembered my grandparents with fond memories. His father, Isamu, designed the beautiful Japanese garden that graced my grandparent's backyard for so many years, as a gift of thanks to them. Mr. Isamu Taniguchi also designed the Japanese Gardens in Zilker Park in Austin, Texas. Mr. Taniguchi's other son, Dr. Alan Taniguchi, resides there.

    On the day that my grandparents arrived in Southeast Texas my uncle, Willie Tanamachi, was born – on March 1, 1921, in Beaumont, Texas. He was the first native-born Texan in our family. Our family has been here for five generations now as one of my nieces, Lorie Wavrusa, prepares to have her third child this month. We are all proud Texans and we are proud of our rich heritage. During World War II, four of my uncles, Willie, Saburo, Goro, and Walter, served in the U.S. Army. My father, who was taking the role of the head of family, stayed home to run the family farm and help take care of his elderly parents and five younger sisters, Rena, Yuriko, Masako, Mariko, and Hiroko.

     Saburo and Goro were members of the 442 nd Regimental Combat Team, which helped in the effort to rescue fellow Texans, the Lost Battalion of 36 th “Texas” Infantry Division. Saburo made the ultimate sacrifice in the rugged Vosges Mountains during the rescue effort and was one of the first two Japanese Americans to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His best friend, George Joe Sakato of Denver, Colorado, returned to Europe this year for the 50 th anniversary of the rescue. While there, he returned to the exact site where my uncle was killed in action. Joe laid a bouquet of flowers there in memory of my uncle. Viewing the pictures of the 50 th anniversary that Joe and his wife Bess shared with me brought tears of joy and pride.

    This August my sisters, Diana Parr and Debbie Galvan, and I accompanied my mother, Kikuko Nakao Tanamachi, and her sister Ikuko Nakao Kitayama, to view the Terminal Island Exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo. Terminal Island was pre-war home to my mother and family. My mother and aunt met many of their childhood friends and reminisced about the varied paths their lives had taken since leaving Terminal Island, at the outset of the war. These friends had much to share, as they had been one of the first groups to be evacuated to the Santa Anita Assembly Center, then to the relocation camp in Rohwer, Arkansas. My mother's family included my grandmother, Chika Nakao, Uncles Taira and Sadao, and my mother and aunt. Taira joined the U.S. Army and served with the occupation forces in Japan. Sadao died in camp.

    After the war ended, my grandmother and my aunt came to live with us in Texas. My grandmother Nakao had graduated from the Wakayama Teacher's College and had taught in Japan for 10 years before immigrating to the United States with my grandfather. She was the person who taught me how to speak Japanese and inspired me to become a teacher. I am proud to have followed in her footsteps and I thoroughly enjoy the teaching profession. Working with young children is very rewarding and challenging. Children, of course are the basis of our future and it is a privilege to be able to have an active part in the shaping of their lives.

    I teach a gifted and talented third grade class at an elementary school in the Beaumont Independent School District. One of the missions of our district is “to teach our children to respect all cultures.” As a member of our campus Multicultural Committee, I take this mission to heart. While teaching my students to take pride in their heritage and to stand up for their rights, I was moved to try to change the names of Jap Road and Jap Lane, two streets here in Southeast Texas. I don't believe that the future generations of Texans should have to come upon road signs bearing this offensive word, nor have to see advertisements on billboards or in newspapers or magazines, nor have to hear commercial advertisements over the airwaves or on television, as we presently have to, in which this term “Jap” is used. What kind of message does that give our children?

    The message at Christmas time is that all men are created equal and we are “”to do unto others as we would have them do unto us”. The fragrance of pines reminds me of this true meaning of the holiday season.

Tanamachi Brothers: Willie is Lone Survivor