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Exploring My Family "Garden"

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I have many uncles on both sides of my family. A large number of them worked (some still work) as gardeners, either full-time with their own routes, or part-time helping their brothers. In addition, many of my cousins were “drafted” as helpers on weekends and during the summer. Luckily, I never was. =)

Recently, while trying to find photos to help out with the Landscaping America: Beyond the Japanese Garden exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum, I came across some old photos that I had never seen before. In trying to find out about those photos, I learned new stories about my father, and many of my uncles.

This collection is mostly about my Dad, but also shares stories about some of my other uncles. I hope you enjoy it, but try checking back. Learning little bits of my family's history has me craving to seek out more, so I may just add new stories in the future. Each story is like a leaf, and discovering each one slowly fills out our “family tree”, giving details needed to see and appreciate it all.

For more stories about my family, check out the article I wrote for Discover Nikkei. A Yonsei’s Reflections…on Unearthing My Family’s Values was written in tribute to my Dad in honor of Father’s Day.

Slides in this album 

Daddy

This is my father. This photo was taken about 9 years before he got married, and 10 years before I was born.

My father is the ninth of sixteen children.

Fred posing with lawnmower
Contributed by: vkm

My Dad & Uncle Paul

My father never had his own gardening route until he took over my Uncle Paul’s route when he became unable to work any longer. He worked as a maintenance landscaper for the Metropolitan Water District for many years taking care of their planted areas around their buildings and off-site locations. ...

My Dad & Uncle Paul
Contributed by: vkm

me & Uncle Paul

This is my Uncle Paul and I when I was probably about 1 years old. I asked my parents whose house we’re in front of, but they don’t remember. All they know is that it’s likely somewhere in Southern California.

Uncle Paul was the second of the Murakami children. When ...

Me and Uncle Paul
Contributed by: vkm

Gardening truck

When my uncle died, he left everything to my father. My dad tried to retire entirely, but he still has one customer who begged him to remain their gardener. So, my dad works once a week. Every Friday, he works at one house. When he goes over, she invites him ...

back of my Dad's gardening truck
Contributed by: vkm

Backyard stone lantern

I took this photograph in my parents’ backyard. If you look carefully, you can see some potted plants on the side (aloe plant) and in the back.

The rest of the yard doesn’t actually look like this. Their yard has a bunch of different areas.

Backyard stone lantern
Contributed by: vkm

Garden bottle markers

This is a photograph I took from my Dad’s vegetable garden. They’re glass bottles (I think they’re probably beer bottles) that are upside down in the dirt. My father uses them as markers to divide the sections of the garden.

The garden is a little overgrown right now. I think ...

Garden bottle markers
Contributed by: vkm

Garden bottle dividers close up

This reminds of one of the phrases I heard a LOT growing up…“Mottanai”. Finding ways to maximize the use of things. I love this very creative use of what most people would consider trash. It’s the very creative, outside-the-box thinking that I think characterizes a lot of JA gardeners and ...

Garden bottle dividers close-up
Contributed by: vkm

Gardening tools

This is a photograph I took of my parent’s backyard vegetable garden. This hoe looks like most of the tools that my parents use—rusted metal with wooden handles. They’re still all very functional though.

My dad’s garden is a little overrun now. You can see assorted plants growing in the ...

hoe leaning against fence
Contributed by: vkm

assorted tools in my parents' garage

Some of the gardening tools that my parents use to care for their yard. Included are various rakes, a pair of worn gloves, some clippers, a bulb chart taped with duct tape to the wall, hangers, and the top of a step ladder. There are assorted other things in there ...

assorted tools in my parents' garage
Contributed by: vkm

glass bottles of assorted screws & washers

My parents’ garage is carefully crammed full of LOTS of miscellaneous stuff. Most of it is very neatly organized into labeled boxes and containers.

Along the wall on one side is the tool area. There’s a lot of really old and rusty tools that I think may have belonged to ...

glass bottles of assorted screws & washers
Contributed by: vkm

Uncles Mike, Roy, and Harry

Three of the Murakami brothers. This photo was taken in front of the Wayside Nursery in Gardena, California, in 1955. Uncle Harry and Uncle Roy were gardeners with their own routes. 

Murakami Brothers
Contributed by: eishida

JACCC Garden

When he was alive, my Uncle Harry helped the JACCC maintain their garden and with their annual plant sales.

James Irvine Garden
Contributed by: jdecker

Little Tokyo sakura tree

Uncle Harry also helped take care of the sakura trees on Central Ave. in Little Tokyo when the Southern California Gardeners Federation was responsible for establishing the trees when they were first planted.

Little Tokyo sakura tree
Contributed by: vkm

Omoto brothers

There are gardeners on my mother’s side too. Her four brothers: Tak, Herb, Sam, and Mako Omoto are/were Kibei gardeners with their own routes. One uncle lives in Seattle. The other three had/have routes in the Los Angeles area.

My grandmother had eight children—four boys & four girls. Of the ...

Omoto brothers
Contributed by: vkm

leaves

This was a print I made by hand as part of a silkscreen printmaking workshop in 1998. It was inspired by my family’s green thumbs (which I unfortunately did not inherit).

leaves, silkscreen print, July 1998
Vicky K. Murakami-Tsuda

Leaves
Contributed by: vkm

Album Type

family history

vkm — Last modified Apr 28 2015 7:10 p.m.


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