Saibara, Seito (1861–1939)

By: Diana J. Kleiner

Type: Biography

Published: July 1, 1995

Updated: November 14, 2017

Seito Saibara, agriculturalist, college president, and developer of the Gulf Coast rice industry, was born in 1861 and came to the United States from Kochi, Japan, in 1901 to study theology at Hartford, Connecticut. At the time he was president of Doshisha University at Kyoto, which had been founded by American Congregationalists. A Tokyo lawyer and the youngest and only Christian member of the Japanese parliament at a time when Japan's government was anti-Christian, Saibara, a member of the liberal party, had been asked to assume the presidency of the Japanese college, relinquish his parliament seat, and acquire training in Hartford to educate the Japanese about Christianity. He was invited by the Japanese consul on behalf of the Houston Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Pacific railroad to teach rice production to local farmers and came to Texas in 1903. At Webster he subsequently founded the first Japanese Christian colony in Texas, brought over his family and thirty colonists to work with him, and began rice farming on a lease of 1,000 acres that he later purchased. The first crop, grown from seed imported as a gift from the Emperor of Japan and harvested in 1904, was primarily distributed as seed in Texas and Louisiana. Saibara's success is attested by the fact that by 1972 Texas rice production totaled two billion pounds. Saibara left Texas with his wife and spent fifteen years in South America, where he established colonies along the Amazon, before returning to Japan. Ill health caused him to return to Texas in 1937. He died, still a Japanese citizen, at Webster on April 11, 1939, and was buried in the community cemetery. His work was carried on by his son, Kiyoaki Saibara. See also RICE CULTURE.

Houston Metropolitan Research Center Files, Houston Public Library. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.


  • Agriculture
  • Farmers
  • Promoters
  • Peoples
  • Japanese
  • Religion

Time Periods:

  • Progressive Era


  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Diana J. Kleiner, “Saibara, Seito,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 02, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 1, 1995
November 14, 2017

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