Discover Nikkei

Returning to Japan after studying in New York

I went back to Japan, 1967, right after Berkeley, and then went to New York, five months practice. I had a dream to be in New York, when I was young. That time [inaudible], those kinds of things. And then I wanted to stay, you know, New York for a while, but, again, Expo, Kyoto University, those kinds of things.

Then I went back to practice for a while. Then 1969, Kyoto University is a riot. Yeah, big riot. I was teaching that time, but I wasn’t able to teach that time. And also I had lots of influence from Berkeley. You know, freedom, I was really, you know, on the side of the students, as a teacher. But I was trying to help students to develop the understanding of policy and so forth. 

1960s civil rights civil rights movement Japan student movements student strikes

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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