Patti Hirahara is a product of the Anaheim school system, attending Theodore Roosevelt and Adelaide Price Elementary Schools, Fremont Junior High School, and graduating from Anaheim High School in 1973 When she was in the fourth grade, her pediatrician recommended that her parents send her to the Anaheim Assistance League Cotillion, which was run by Mr. & Mrs. Robert E. Gollatz. Membership was by invitation only for Anaheim students in the fourth through eighth grade. She was also a banner carrier for the Adelaide Price Elementary School in the Anaheim Halloween parade, won an honorable mention in the “Why Anaheim Beautiful” essay contest sponsored by the Anaheim Beautiful Committee, and won a Special Achievement Award in Vocal Performance at Fremont Junior High School.
Patti was selected as the Anaheim High School representative to the Broadway Department Store’s Youth Council in 1972, and was the store’s representative on Seventeen Magazine’s National Youth Advisory Council. She was selected a Seventeen Magazine national scholarship winner in 1973, competing against 500 representatives from across the country. In 1974, Patti became the first Miss Suburban Optimist / Orange County Nisei Queen, and through this experience, became involved in the local Japanese community, changing her life forever.
Patti earned an AA Degree with Honors from Cypress College in 1975, and her BA Degree in Communications from California State University, Fullerton in 1977. In 1976, she was a contestant on "Match Game '76" which was a nationally broadcast game show on the CBS network hosted by Gene Rayburn. She appeared five days on the show and won $11,800.
Patti worked in the Southern California Japanese American news media as a TV producer and host, TV reporter and public affairs director, newspaper journalist, photographer, and columnist. She was on the board of directors of the Society of Professional Journalists Los Angeles Chapter, American Women in Radio and Television Southern California Chapter, the Nisei Week Japanese Festival and the Suburban Optimist Club, where she was named an Optimist of the Year for 1995-96.
After serving as the special marketing consultant to Disneyland’s “Festival Japan” event when she was 27 years old, she found a niche helping the Japanese to tell their story to the American people, and started her own public relations and television production company, Productions By Hirahara. She was featured in the 1984 Tokyo Broadcasting System’s special “Soko Ga Shiritai – Little Tokyo’s 100th Year", as a fourth generation Japanese American helping relations between the U.S. and Japan. The feature focused on her role as public relations counsel to the Japan External Trade Organization's (JETRO) office in Los Angeles and assisting their Tokyo headquarters, which was a major highlight of her career. This TBS special was shown in Los Angeles and in Japan.
Through her work at JETRO, she helped the states of California, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Utah enter the Japanese market. In addition, she served as communications coordinator for JETRO’s first All Japanese Women’s Buying Mission to the U.S. to promote American exports in Japan. She was the highest paid public relations counsel in JETRO’s overseas network of 78 offices in 57 countries.
Upon the death of her father in 2006, Patti dedicated her life to creating opportunities to tell the Japanese American story, and developed collections that tell the history of her family and others at Washington State University, the Yakima Valley Museum in Washington, the Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center and the Oregon Historical Society, both in Portland Oregon, the donation of a Hirahara Family Heart Mountain artifact to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History in Washington DC, as well as the family’s history here in Anaheim.
She has been identifying the individuals in her family's Heart Mountain photographs and giving these Heart Mountain descendants a piece of history that they never knew existed, as well as continuing to promote the Japanese American legacy. Her quest inspired the students of the University of Tokyo in 2014 to entitle their short documentary "Preservation", to show how Japanese Americans feel about their roots both here and in Japan. This documentary, featuring Patti, was shown both here in Los Angeles and in Japan.
To continue her quest to tell the Japanese American legacy story, she was a featured speaker at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum on October 12, 2017, and in April of 2018 she received the Honorary Alumna Award from the Washington State University Alumni Association. This is the highest honor that a non-alumni can receive from Washington State University and she is the first Japanese American to receive the award since its inception in 1966.
On June 12, 2018, Patti Hirahara received a proclamation from the Anaheim City Council for her work in promoting the history of the Japanese Americans in America as well as working to preserve the history of the Japanese pioneers in the City of Anaheim.