By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu Senior Editor
The Southern California Gardeners’ Federation welcomed the return of in-person events with their 68th officers’ installation luncheon on Feb. 5 at the Quiet Cannon in Montebello.
Brian Yamasaki served as emcee and welcomed the gathering of nearly 100.
“So glad to see everybody here this morning,” Yamasaki said. “Today is a special day.”
The resilience and beauty of gardens throughout Southern California reflect the toil and pride in the work of Japanese gardeners. Although their numbers have dwindled over the years, their dedication to their work and community remains.
Masao Morisaku reflected on that legacy in a poem he wrote for the occasion:
Our gardening history started almost 70 years ago
Our green gardens enrich Southern California
Our past memories come flooding back to us
When we lay our eyes on the flowers and trees
Looking up into the faraway Los Angeles mountains
We are going to take the next step into our bright future.
Consul General Kenko Sone remarked, “In the Southern California region there are so many Japanese gardens, even under the challenging climate, which is different from Japan. These gardens demonstrate impressive Japanese culture and beauty.”
Keynote speaker Keiji Uesugi, a professor at Cal Poly Pomona in the Department of Landscape Architecture and principal of the landscape architecture firm TUA, shared the history and legacy of Japanese American gardens. Among his projects are the Roosevelt High School Garden of Peace and the ongoing expansion of the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego’s Balboa Park.
“I have so many non-Japanese students taking the course and coming to me and saying, ‘Although I’m not Japanese, this is a story that resonates with me so much, because it sounds like my family that came from Mexico two generations ago. I did not know this happened to the Japanese community.’ Those connections and bonds are why I teach this story,” Uesugi said.
Hisanori Iwashita, SCGF president, presented special commendations to Hisashi Matsue and Tomoe Maki. Matsue, who writes under the pen name Hisashi Iwami, is a regular contributor to Turf and Garden, writing a column on his specialty, trees. Matsue has devoted himself to teaching Japanese language to children in the L.A. area, including serving as principal at San Fernando Gakuen.
Maki, who writes under the pen name Toyoko Wakimoto, has submitted tanka poems to Turf and Garden starting with the March 1980 edition and continuing until her 90th birthday last year. She became interested in tanka while helping her husband, Masao, and attended tanka gatherings at the Pioneer Center in Little Tokyo.
A lively performance of Tsugaru shamisen was presented by Mitsuru Sasaki and her students.
Bob Kawahara installed officers for 2023. The SCGF cabinet includes: Hisamori Iwashita, president; Yasunori Arakaki, first vice president; Masao Morisaku, third vice president; Derek Furukawa, secretary; Kazuo Oda, main treasurer; and Noriko Jaramillo, auditor.
Photos by GWEN MUANAKA/Rafu Shimpo