Hiraga family (Masumi, front row, third from right), Nirasaki, Japan, 1943
Source: Masumi Hiraga Jackson
Alone in a new country in 1987, Masumi had a critical decision to make — stay in Melbourne or return home to Japan.
Masumi Hiraga was born in 1935 at Nirasaki, west of Tokyo. One of ten children, her three brothers died young, leaving seven daughters. Masumi’s father Tomoichi ran a silkworm farm and orchard. He was a quiet man and a strong disciplinarian.
Masumi’s mother Kino was a highly skilled weaver. She wove silk cloth, sent the material to be dyed and then hand sewed the cloth into kimono. The Hiraga family were considered very fortunate to have such clothing after World War II when goods were scarce.
Against her father’s wishes, Masumi studied librarianship and Japanese literature at Toyo University, Tokyo and taught in high schools and universities. Meanwhile, most of her sisters had made traditional preparations for early marriages, learning dress and kimono making, calligraphy and tea ceremony.
In 1977, Masumi met an Australian, Thomas Jackson, who was in Japan for a conference. In 1984, Masumi finally agreed to marry him, and settled in Melbourne in 1985. Thomas died suddenly from a heart attack three years later and Masumi was left with a sad dilemma — stay or go.
She decided to remain in Melbourne and immerse herself in Noh theatre, Ikebana and paper doll-making in Melbourne — skills she had been developing for 50 years. Along with the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, she shares her skills through performance and teaching. Masumi returns to Japan every year to see her family, continue Ikebana lessons, practise her Noh performance and purchase materials for doll-making. But Melbourne is her home.