Encyclopedia of the Great Plains

David J. Wishart, Editor


Hiram Hisanori Kano was born into a Japanese noble family on January 30, 1889. His warlord father was the governor of the province of Kagoshima and a member of the Japanese parliament. As the second son in the family, young Kano was not required to follow his father's career. Instead, he chose to study agriculture at the Imperial University in Tokyo, where he graduated with a bachelor of science degree in 1916. Kano eventually found his way to the Great Plains after William Jennings Bryan, a family friend, convinced his father that he could receive a better agricultural education in the United States. With a handwritten note from Bryan in his pocket, Kano journeyed to Lincoln, Nebraska, where in 1918 he earned a master's degree in agricultural economics at the University of Nebraska.

In 1919 Kano married Ai "Ivy" Nagai in Seattle; the couple had two children. He put his agricultural education to good use when he bought a 300-acre farm near Litchfield, Nebraska. Kano became active in the Japanese Americanization Society, teaching English and working as an intermediary or translator for immigrants. In 1921 Kano and Rev. George Allen Beecher, the Episcopal bishop for western Nebraska, successfully defeated a bill introduced in the Nebraska legislature that would have barred Japanese residents from owning property and serving as legal guardians of their children. During the 1920s Kano became active in the Episcopal Church, working with Japanese living in the Platte River valley. He was ordained a deacon in 1928 and became a priest in 1936.

Kano's life took a dramatic turn on December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. After conducting services in North Platte, Nebraska, that Sunday morning, he was arrested by local police and interrogated by federal agents. Because of his family ties to the Japanese government and his position as a leader of Japanese immigrants in the Great Plains, federal authorities deemed Kano a threat to national security and sent him to an internment camp. While being held away from his family, Kano taught English classes to fellow internees. In 1944 he was released and allowed to move his family to Nashota, Wisconsin, where he entered a seminary, earning another master's degree in 1946. Returning to Nebraska, Kano worked as an Episcopal missionary among Nebraska's Japanese residents until his retirement in 1957. After leaving the priesthood, Kano moved to Fort Collins, Colorado, where he and his wife bought a small farm. Kano died on October 24, 1988.

Mark R. Ellis University of Nebraska at Kearney

Kano, Hiram Hisanori. A History of the Japanese in Nebraska. Lincoln: Nebraska Committee for the Humanities, 1984.

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