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https://www.discovernikkei.org/en/interviews/clips/1488/

Studying in Japan before working in the US

So, as my educational experience in Osaka, Kyoto, first … well I was very fortunate to have a good teacher. Teacher was very instrumental for me to become a Japanese gardens designer. Then … so, professor Tadashi Kubo, in Osaka, he guided me to be landscape architect, who should be based on Japanese gardens. Then I went to Kyoto, studied farther in Japanese gardens. So those are kind of academic experience. My experience of Japanese gardens is a little more academic at that time. So when I came out [to] this country, I wasn’t sure really I can do Japanese gardens. I had just a few experiences before I came, Osaka I had some, but it’s very still immature-ish.

So, when I had a project in Corona Del Mar, that project really opened up my practice into Japanese gardens.

I*: How did you get to become involved in that?

That one, my, one of my students, his brother was a landscaper. And they needed someone to help Japanese garden for his firm. And that was Mr. Swedlow. We started from very small Japanese garden project to become entire property Japanese gardens.

* “I” indicates an interviewer (Sojin Kim)


agriculture education gardening gardens Japanese gardens landscape gardening migration

Date: August 10, 2016

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Sojin Kim, John Esaki

Contributed by: Watase Media Arts Center, Japanese American National Museum

Interviewee Bio

Dr. Takeo Uesugi, born in Osaka on March 25, 1940, continued a family tradition of thirteen prior generations of Japanese garden builders. He completed undergraduate studies in landscape architecture at Osaka Prefecture University in 1962 and began graduate studies at Kyoto University before earning his master’s degree at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1967. He returned to Japan to teach landscape architecture at Kyoto University in 1969. In 1970 he contributed to the landscape design of the Japan Pavilion for Expo ‘70 in Osaka. Returning to California to teach landscape architecture in the College of Environmental Design at Cal Poly Pomona, he designed projects for public gardens, as well as for corporate and individual clients, integrating the principles of traditional Japanese gardens with the climate and lifestyles of post-World War II California.

His major work includes: restoration of the Japanese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California; design of the Pine Wind Garden at the Torrance Cultural Arts Center; and design of the James Irvine Japanese Garden at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles.

In 2000, Dr. Uesugi retired after 30 years of teaching at Cal Poly Pomona, though he remained active as Professor Emeritus. In 2010 the Japanese government honored him with the Order of the Sacred Treasure recognizing his lifetime of achievement. He passed away in January of 2016 at the age of 75. (April 2016)

 

* This interview was conducted by curator Sojin Kim for Landscaping America: Beyond the Japanese Garden, an exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum in 2007.

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