Nebraska’s Episcopal Churches Prep For Celebrations to Honor JA Reverend
Episcopalians in Nebraska are gearing up for a Japanese Heritage Celebration that honors the late Rev. Hiram Hisanori Kano, who was an integral community leader.
By Nalea J. Ko, Pacific Citizen Reporter
June 1, 2012
Nearly 100 years have passed since Rev. Hiram Hisanori Kano set foot in the United States, but his legacy continues to live on in fading newspaper clippings, black and white photos and within the hearts of Episcopalians in Nebraska.
Kano, who was known by some as the “Saint of Nebraska and Colorado,” died in 1988 three months before his 100th birthday. He was a prominent leader in the Japanese American and Episcopalian communities in Nebraska and later Colorado.
“He was a father,” said Adeline Kano, 84, the daughter of the late reverend. “He was a scholar, a very devout man and very devoted to his mission, which was to serve the Japanese people in Western Nebraska in agriculture as well as in church activities.”
To honor the memory of Kano the St. George’s Mission and St. Mary’s Mission in Nebraska are holding celebrations July 29 and July 30 at the Episcopal Church of Our Savior. Adeline and her older brother Cyrus are planning on attending the Japanese Heritage Celebration.
“The Rev. Hiram Hisanori Kano served as an adviser, minister, teacher and translator to Japanese immigrants residing in Western Nebraska,” said Stephen W. Kay, 58, a member of the Episcopal Church of Our Savior and chair of the Japanese Heritage Celebration Committee. “The Japanese Heritage Celebration will commemorate the life, ministry and service of Fr. Kano, as well as the Episcopal Japanese Missions in North Platte and Mitchell.”
Born in Tokyo, Japan in 1889 to an influential family, Kano’s interest in the U.S. was piqued after his family hosted American politician William Jennings Bryan, who was also a family friend.
It was 1916 when Kano arrived in the U.S. Kano’s experience in the country would not be without turmoil.
“He was of small personage, but a really dedicated Christian and he worked with the Japanese people here in the Panhandle,” said Nancy Sato, 79, who moved to Mitchell, Neb. in 1962. “And he was at the St. Mary’s Mission here and then he helped all the Issei, which would be our first generation Japanese.”
Sato was integral in helping to publish Kano’s autobiography called “Nikkei Farmer on the Nebraska Plains.” The book chronicle’s the Nisei’s life in the Midwest before and after WWII.
At the University of Nebraska, Kano earned a master’s degree in agricultural economics.
In 1919, Kano testified at the state Capitol to argue against a bill that prohibited “illegal aliens” from owning land in the state. The anti-Japanese bills failed in Nebraska, although anti-Asian sentiments remained.
Before the outbreak of WWII, Kano was ordained a deacon in 1928 and worked as a priest in 1936.
After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Kano was arrested by FBI agents and was unjustly interned for two years in incarceration camps.
The JA community in North Platte and Mitchell, Nebraska still remembers the work accomplished by Kano nearly a century ago.
“We’re probably one of the less than five or 10 surviving families of that era of Father Kano because that’s another century ago,” said Mary Kumagai Okamoto, 89, a resident of North Platte and long-time member of St. George’s Mission. “Well, my goodness he was a very important part of our lives at that time. He was a priest in the Episcopal church.”Printer-friendly version