Photos courtesy George & Frank C Hirahara Photo Collection, Washington State University Libraries, Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections
(note from editor: The Hirahara family is responsible for the largest collection of photos of the incarceration camp at Heart Mountain in northwest Wyoming. George Hirahara married one of the last picture brides to enter the United States. This is the Hirahara family story.)
The Hirahara Family came to America from Wakayama, Prefecture in Japan in 1909 to begin our 105 year history here in the United States.
My Great Grandfather Motokichi Hirahara came first to get things ready for his family and then the following year, in 1910, he brought his wife Sato and my grandfather George (pictured second from left with Yakima Valley farmers), who was only four years old at the time, to the State of Washington, by ship.
They settled in the Yakima Valley, where my Great Grandparents were farmers. When my Grandfather became of marriage age, at 19, he was offered an opportunity to make his first trip back to Japan in 15 years.
He thought it would be a great adventure to go back and see what his life would have been like if he had not traveled to America. But what was waiting there was something he had not imagined.
My great grandfather had arranged a picture bride marriage for his only son, with a young 18 year old woman by the name of Koto Inoue. She was the youngest of her family and lived in a neighboring town. She spoke no English or did not know how to cook but she decided the opportunity to go to America was an opportunity of a lifetime to leave the hardships she had in Japan being the youngest daughter.
The term “picture bride” became popular back then since many people would provide photos through a go-between or “Baishakunin” and parties would agree to marry based on the photos. Sometimes, both parties would provide younger photos to enhance the selection process.
My Grandfather George did not like the arrangement and wired his Father in America saying he did not want to get married. The response back was “If you don’t get married, you will not be able to return.”
So, my grandparents got married in Japan and she was one of the last picture brides to enter this country in 1924. Once settling in, they began to manage the Pacific Hotel in Yakima, Washington and my Father Frank (picture at Heart Mountain) was born in 1926 and was raised in the city rather than in the rural farming community of the Yakima Valley.
My father was their only child and they lived and ran the Pacific Hotel until they went into camp in 1942.
(The Hirahara story continues Thursday on AsAmNews with a look at life in Heart Mountain and the birth of the Hirahara Photo collection.)