“Blossoms and Thorns” to Screen at JANM

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The Oishi family in the Topaz, Utah camp.

“Blossoms and Thorns: A Community Uprooted,” directed by Ken Kokka, will be shown on Saturday, Feb. 2, at 2 p.m. at the Japanese American National Museum’s Tateuchi Democracy Forum.

“Blossoms and Thorns” is a documentary on the Japanese American flower-growers in Richmond, Calif., who were forcibly removed from their homes and businesses during World War II and incarcerated in barren desert camps. The film provides an arc from the pre-war establishment of family nurseries, the growing Nikkei flower-growing industry, the abrupt interruption to their lives during the war, and their return to the West Coast.

While the film focuses on the Richmond community, the filmmakers seek to expand the conversation and invite individuals to share the stories of local growers in the regions where screenings are presented.

Stemming from a community effort and sponsored by the Contra Costa JACL, “Blossoms and Thorns” was created to ensure that the story of Nikkei flower growers is remembered and that their history is represented at the new Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond.

Following the screening, there will be a Q&A session with director Ken Kokka and co-producer and historian Donna Graves with a panel of Southern California flower growers. Panelists confirmed are Sus Ioki of Ioki Nursery (San Leandro/Venice/Malibu) and Iku Kiriyama of Kato Nursery (North Torrance/Gardena 1947 to 1986). Invited, but not confirmed, is Jonathan Kono of Kono & Sons (Whittier/Carpinteria), president of Southern California Flower Market.

Also attending are Bay Area flower growers Flora Ninomiya (who appears in the film) and Ray Fujii of Berkeley.

The film was narrated by George Kiriyama, NBC Bay Area reporter.

The Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California, Southern California Flower Market and Preserving California’s Japantowns/California Japanese American Community Leadership Council are community sponsors.

All JANM programs are free to members and free with admission for non-members. For reservations, email [email protected] or call (213) 625-0414. The “Blossoms and Thorns” DVD is available for $10 at the Museum Store.

For further information, contact Jill Shiraki of Preserving California’s Japantowns at (510) 734-0875.

A recent photo of the Sakai nursery site.

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