Kotaro Omura sailed to this country from Kobe, Japan, in May of 1900 on a ship named the Tosa Maru. He was a 23-year-old, single man at that time and had never before been to America. He claimed no relations or friends in this country—he was on his own.
There is some evidence that he wandered up and down the west coast for awhile. He may have been working as a farm hand in California, for example, at the time of the 1900 Census. Eventually, however, he settled in Port Blakely in Kitsap County. When the United States entered World War I, he registered there for the draft. He was 42 years old at that time and still single. He stated that he was then employed as a mill laborer.
Although Kotaro was somewhat elusive in the official records of this period, he was clearly in frequent contact with his family, including his mother and a brother, back home in Japan. In late 1920, they sent some good news: They had located a bride for him. Kotaro returned to Japan and married the girl, returning to the United States without her (probably for economic reasons) in February of 1921. He was 43 years old. His bride, Kimi, was 17.
Two months later, Kimi also departed from Yokohama for the United States. She and Kotaro initially set up housekeeping in Port Blakely, but, by the time of the 1930 census, they had relocated to Christopher (now Auburn) in King County. Kotaro worked there as a farm laborer. That year their household included two daughters, Miyoko and Fujie. A daughter named Hatsui was born and died in Eatonville in late 1927, and another baby—a boy they named Koichi—died later on in 1932 (Koichi was the first of the Omuras to be buried in the Auburn cemetery). A son, Masaru, was born in 1933.
In 1935 Kotaro passed away, leaving Kimi widowed at age 31. She had four children, ranging in age from two to twelve, to raise on her own. Although we are uncertain how she made ends meet during this period, there is some evidence that she worked as a cook to make ends meet.
In 1942, Kimi and at least two of her children, son Masaru and daughter Fujie, were removed from their home and sent to the Tule Lake Internment Camp in California.
We have little information regarding what happened to the family during and after the war. However, there is a passenger manifest from Northwest Airlines that documents a trip Kimi made to Japan in early 1953. This was likely the first and probably only trip she made back to Japan since her arrival in America as a teenaged bride. Perhaps she was able to update her remaining family there on all that had happened since she left in 1921: her marriage, the births of her children, the war, internment. More than 30 eventful years had passed since she had last seen Japan.
Kimi lived for 50 years after her husband Kotaro’ death. She never remarried and is buried with him in the Auburn Pioneer Cemetery.
From the Auburn Globe-Republican, March 22, 1935
Kotaro Amura [sic]—58, rural route No. 2, died Sunday morning at his home of heart disease. He was a prominent member of the Japanese Association of Thomas.
Funeral services were held on Wednesday at the Auburn Buddhist church with Rev. N. Aoki officiating. Burial was made in the Auburn Japanese cemetery under the direction of George W. Scott. Omura was born April 17, 1876 in Japan. He has lived here for 34 years. He was married in 1921.
He is survived by his wife, Kimi Omura; one son, Mararu; three daughters, Miyoko, Fujiye and Yoshiye; and one brother living in Japan.
From The Seattle Times, June 4, 1985 p. C6:
Survived by daughters, Mrs. Yazuru (Miyoko) Kondo, Seattle; Mrs. Hareo (Rose) Kajimura, Seattle; Mrs. George (Lily) Komoto, Kent. Five grandchildren, one great granddaughter. Member of Seattle Buddhist Church and its Women's Federation, Fukui Kenjin Kai. Services Wednesday, June 5, 7:30 p.m. at Seattle Buddhist Church. Cremation.