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West County Japanese Flower-Industry Gets its Due

The Exhibit and reception described below opens tomorrow at 5:00 PM at the Open House Senior Center, 6500 Stockton Ave., behind the El Cerrito Library.

The remnant of the Japanese Flower Growing Industry in Richmond is in the project t called Miraflores. For more information on Miraflores, see:


         Ghost Roses of the Former Sakai Nursery in Richmond, September 13, 2009

         EIR Available on Miraflores Housing Development, June 20, 2009

         SF Chronicle Profiles Miraflores Site, November 25, 2007

         Richmond Seeks Developer for Miraflores, November 8, 2007

         Reminder of Miraflores Scoping, September 25, 2007


Our Neighbors: West County Japanese flower-industry gets its due

By Chris Treadway
Contra Costa Times

Posted: 09/25/2009 09:38:05 PM PDT

Updated: 09/25/2009 09:38:06 PM PDT


AN OVERLOOKED ASPECT of local history will get its due Saturday when the El Cerrito Historical Society hosts a program and exhibition honoring the pioneer Japanese families who settled in West County and built a flower-growing industry that thrived through most of the 20th century.

The exhibit is "Remembering Our Local Japanese Heritage," which opens with a reception and program at 5 p.m. at the Open House Senior Center, 6500 Stockton Ave., behind the El Cerrito Library.

There are only remnants of the nursery-greenhouse complexes along San Pablo Avenue on the Richmond-El Cerrito border representing one of the earliest large settlements and commercial concerns in the area.

The nurseries were established by Japanese families who began settling in the sparsely populated area as early as 1905 and built a thriving trade growing roses, carnations and other plants.

"It's certainly true there were many Japanese towns around California and across the west," said Tom Panas of the historical society. "But ours has been completely ignored. There's a lot of story to be told there."

The community in El Cerrito-Richmond grew over time to include 17 nurseries, as well as a Japanese school and church.

A second group of nurseries flourished in what is now North Richmond and San Pablo, led by the arrival of the Nabeta family, who began growing roses near Brookside Drive in 1900.

The flower trade prospered and even weathered well the Great Depression, but the businesses were closed or taken over by others when Japanese families on the west coast were interned during World War II. Most but not all of the families resumed their nursery trade after the war.

Many of the families have stayed in the area even after foreign competition forced their nurseries to close in later decades, but as time takes its toll on the oldest family members the historical society felt some urgency in giving them recognition, Panas said.

The exhibit is being presented by the society with support from El Cerrito Senior Services, the National Japanese American Historical Society, the National Park Service and the Sakura Kai program.

Saturday's program will include taiko drumming and song and dance by students in the Japanese-language class at El Cerrito High School. Members of the pioneering families have been invited, and each family will be presented with a commemorative book of photographs the historical society has created.

The exhibit will continue through Nov. 20 and is open to the public during the senior center's regular hours. For hours, call the center at 510-599-7677.

WEST COUNTY NOTES: St. Jerome Catholic Church invites everyone to its Festival and Street Fair from noon to 5 p.m. today at Carmel and Curry avenues in El Cerrito. The event includes dancing, singing, music, food and drink, games, arts and crafts, wine tasting, silent auction, cakes and baked goods, raffles, a roulette wheel and more.

  If you haven't been already, today is the final performance of "Rivets," the musical about the World War II Richmond shipyards being performed in the hull of the SS Red Oak Victory. Showtime is 3 p.m. and tickets are $20 general, $15 students and seniors.

  Congratulations to the students at Richmond High School, who came through with 44 pints of blood during an American Red Cross donation event on campus Sept. 4. The Red Cross says that each pint of blood could help save the lives of up to three people.

During the 2008-09 school year there were three blood drives at Richmond High that brought in more than 180 pints of blood.

Reach Chris Treadway at 510-262-2784 or ctreadway@bayareanewsgroup.com.