Webster Pioneer Families Memorial Service
March 28, 2004

Ceremony in Fairview Cemetery followed by visit to Forest Park East.


Saibara Family. From left-to right, lady with white shirt & Glasses, Susan Saibara ( daughter of Edward Saibara, who is son of K. Saibara), man with sunglasses, black shirt & mustache- Jim Ferguson, husband of Judy Saibara, lady in blk/white check, Judy Saibara Ferguson (daughter of Robert and Rola Saibara), Man in back with sunglasses, Edward Saibara, man in front, with red tie, Paul Saibara, (son of Edward, brother of Susan), lady in front with glasses, purse strap on shoulder, Mari Saibara, wife of Warren (deceased), Warren is son of K. Saibara, Lady with pearls, Marjorie Saibara, sister of Judy, children in front, daughters of Paul Saibara, Katy , Emily , and Andrew Saibara .


Kobayashi family. Back row: Haruko and Herbert Kobayashi;
Front row: Riki and Lee Kobayashi, Lily Kobayashi Landress


Onishi and Tanamachi family

BACK ROW: (left to right) Diana Tanamachi Parr,  Sandra NakataTanamachi,  Willie Tanamachi,  Inge Tanamachi (Willies' wife),  Hiro Tanamachi Edwards,  Dean Edwards,  Shawn Edwards(son), Shawn's,daughter, Katherine Edwards, Gene Nakayama. 

FRONT ROW: (left to right): Kathy Onishi (Lee's daughter),  Leiola Onishi (Harvey's wife),  Yuri Tanamachi Nakayama, Kikuko Nakao Tanamachi (Jerry Jiro's wife)


Kagawa family. Martha Kagawa Griffith, William Kagawa, Reo "Bo" Kataoka Jr. ( Ruth's son). He is married to Hootch and Cherrie's daughter Elyn. Ginger Kagawa Watanabe

Okabayashi family From left: Kazuko Okabayashi, George Okabayashi, Brehn Okabayashi,
Shirley Cassell, Tommie Okayabashi, Kathy (Midori Okabayashi) Onishi.



Above: Judy Saibara Ferguson
and Marjorie Saibara

Right: Katy and Emily Saibara

Above: Sut Oishi and Helen Nakamoto leads singing God Bless America.

Left: Daniel Watanabe is the master of ceremony.

Texans Honor Japanese Pioneers
By Howard Lindsay Treasurer, JACL-Houston

Every child in Texas is taught to “Remember the Alamo,” and that event is even more prominent now thanks to a new movie. Another milestone in Texas history was celebrated recently as the “100 Years of Japanese Texans Committee” organized a memorial service to remember the pioneer families who immigrated to Texas from Japan beginning in 1903.

On March 28, 2004, at a sleepy cemetery in League City, Texas, near Houston, approximately 100 citizens gathered around the tombstone of Seito Saibara, an early pioneer. JACL-Houston Vice-President Dr. Daniel Watanabe reviewed for the crowd how Saibara, a lawyer in Japan, came to South Texas to begin a completely different career.

Saibara (1861-1939), former President of Doshisha University in Kyoto, and the first Christian member of the Japanese Diet , came to the United States in 1901 to study theology at the Hartford Theological Seminary. The main reason he selected Texas was due to then-Consul General Sadatsuchi Uchida (of New York City), who had advocated immigration of Japanese and had reported to the Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce that America was an ideal land for Japanese farmers. At the time, the average Japanese farmer was toiling on 2-4 acres of land.

Saibara moved to Texas in August 1903 to advise farmers on the cultivation of rice, which was emerging as a major crop. At that time, the average rice yield using seed from Honduras or the Carolinas was 18-20 barrels an acre.

The father asked his wife, Taiko, and oldest son, Kiyoaki (1884-1972), to bring from Japan 300 pounds of shinriki seed, a superior variety. Together, father and son planted 1,000 acres in Webster. The Japanese seed yielded 34 barrels per acre. The first crops were primarily distributed as seed in Texas and Louisiana. Some of the land that the Saibaras farmed now houses NASA's Johnson Space Center.

The Saibaras are credited with building the multimillion-dollar Texas rice industry with their improved rice strains and production techniques. As other families arrived to help with the farming, the first Japanese colony in Texas took root.

In 1924, Saibara was asked to become Japan's Minister of Education, but he declined. This was the same year the Johnson-Reed Act was announced by the U.S. government, which halted all Japanese immigration. Disappointed in this development, Saibara moved to Brazil where he lived for 8 ½ years. He wanted to return to Texas to die, however, and passed away in Webster in April 1939 at age 78.

The other pioneer families honored on March 28 were Kobayashi, Tanamachi, Onishi, Kagawa, Watanabe, and Okabayashi. The mayors of League City and Houston sent proclamations recognizing the historic event. Dr. George Hirasaki, JACL-Houston President, gave the closing remarks.

Prayers were offered by the minister of Webster Presbyterian Church, the same church that the Saibara attended and supported during their years in the area. After the services in League City, the group traveled a couple of miles away to Forest Park East Cemetery where other Japanese immigrant families are buried. Flowers were placed on each grave.