Discover Nikkei

https://www.discovernikkei.org/en/interviews/clips/736/

Learning how to be a gardener

After the war, we moved here to L.A. where my father started gardening. A lot of the Japanese came back to L.A. and started gardening. But there were more gardeners here in L.A. before the war so I think that’s what encouraged other people to come back to L.A. to start gardening. Since they had the background of farming, horticulture, I believe that’s why my dad came here.

He worked hard. They all worked hard—long hours. I remember my dad waking my brother and I up at 6 in the morning to go help him. Every weekend, every holiday, you name it, we had to go to work. We didn’t play.

This is where I learned my trade as a gardener, through my father, his friends—I would ask questions. I would go to the nursery and ask questions. They would tell me what to do, what not to do, names of plants, where to plant the plants, in the shade or full sun, what to feed them…I think that gave me a lot of encouragement to know exactly how to do the gardening work.


agriculture California gardeners gardening Los Angeles United States

Date: December 1, 2005

Location: California, US

Interviewer: Daniel Lee

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

Interviewee Bio

Lou Kitashima is a Sansei gardener from Los Angeles. As a child, he and his family were incarcerated at the Gila River concentration camp in Arizona during World War II. After the war, the family returned to Los Angeles where his father was a gardener. As a young man, he was stationed overseas in England with the Air Force's Strategic Air Command. While in England, he met and married an English woman. After his service was over, he returned to the U.S. with his wife and had three children.

Upon his return, he entered the gardening profession and became known as the "Gardener for the Stars," working for celebrities such as Rod Stewart, Sylvester Stallone, and Ann Margaret. He later returned with his family to England where he started a gardening business. He later returned to the U.S. although his family remained in England.

He resumed his gardening business in Los Angeles and also spent 17 years as the Head Gardener for West LA College before retiring in 2003. He continues to work for a few customers even now to keep active. (July 7, 2007)

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