History of Japanese Americans in Texas: Katsunore Wakasa

Katsunore Wakasa

Katsunore Wakasa
Katsunore Wakasa in Orangefield, Texas
On the back of this photo, he 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."

Unlike most of the figures in this exhibition, Katsunore Wakasa was not a farmer. He was an engineer at the Orange Petroleum Company, which was established by Kichimatsu Kishi after he discovered oil on the Kishi colony. The story of Katsunore Wakasa is largely told through email correspondence between his son, Taro Takahashi, a late professor of Earth Sciences at Columbia University, and George Hirasaki, an Emeritus Professor of Chemical Engineering at Rice University.

Katsunore Wakasa was born in Hokkaido in 1894, and went on attend the School of Mines at the University of Tokyo. Immediately after graduation in 1922, he was hired by the Orange Petroleum Company and came to Texas by way of Seattle on a ship named “Empress of Russia.” Here, he served as an engineer under Shunkichi Nomura, vice-president of the company, who also taught Wakasa American-style accounting. In 1925, Nomura and Wakasa both returned to Japan, where Nomura became the president of Nippon Sekiyu Kaisha, or Nisseki, and invited Wakasa to work at the company. However, Wakasa declined the offer and started a hat manufacturing business with this wife. He assumed the last name Takahashi since there was no heir to his wife’s family estate.

Also included in the correspondence between Takahashi and Hirasaki are photos in Wakasa’s personal collection that he shared with Takahashi. From these photos, we get a glimpse into Wakasa’s life in Orange, Texas.