The history of Yakima's Japan Town was highlighted during a presentation earlier this month at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY.
Patti Hirahara - whose grandparents, George and Koto Hirahara, owned and operated the Pacific Hotel at 10 1/2 S. First St. - spoke at the FDR Library and Museum on Oct. 12.
“Close-ups of Time Forgotten: The WSU Hirahara Photos Created in a Secret World War II Underground Darkroom” featured the work of George Hirahara and his high-school-age son, Frank C. Hirahara. From 1943 to 1945, they shot and processed what is considered to be the largest private collection of photos taken at the Japanese-American incarceration camp.
The father and son’s work is part of the FDR Library’s current exhibition “Images of Internment: The Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II.”
George and Koto Hirahara ran the Pacific Hotel from 1925-42. The family lived in an apartment on the second floor until they were among 1,017 Valley residents of Japanese ancestry forced to leave their homes and businesses in early June 1942 as a result of Executive Order 9066, signed by President Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942.
Only about 10 percent returned to the Valley.
Patti Hirahara, of Anaheim, Calif., visited Yakima in September and toured the former hotel for the first time. She also confirmed the location of the Buddhist Church in Yakima, which rented space at 202 1/2 E. Chestnut St. It never reopened after the war, nor did the Toppenish Buddhist Church at 603 Washington Ave.
The Yakima Buddhist Church in Wapato continues today, with services at 10 a.m. Sunday at 212 W. Second St. It also holds the popular sukiyaki dinner every March, among other activities.
Hirahara, the last descendant of the Hirahara family in the United States and a third-generation photographer, donated her grandfather’s and father’s collection to Washington State University, Frank Hirahara’s alma mater, in 2010.