JAHSSC Final Program: ‘Japanese American Gardeners: Their Stories Through Senryu’

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TORRANCE — The final program of the Japanese American Historical Society of Southern California, “Japanese American Gardeners: Their Stories Through Senryu,” will be held on Saturday, March 28, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Katy Geissert Civic Center Library, 3301 Torrance Blvd. in Torrance, co-sponsored with the Southern California Gardeners Federation, Heritage Source and the Torrance Main Library.

Gardener_coverThrough the pre- and post-World War WII periods, the Japanese American gardener was the ubiquitous figure greening the yards of thousands of homes in the tracts and upscale neighborhoods around the Southland. Many Issei and Kibei Nisei gardeners used senryu, a literary form similar to haiku, revealing feelings of their everyday lives.

While haiku uses nature to express feelings, senryu expresses human experiences. A simple line tells a story of the history, challenges, racism and prejudice, dreams and desires. Two examples: “Because he was Nikkei, he was forced to shine apples with his college diploma,” and “We use gestures or body language to get a job.”

The late Isamu "Sam" Hirahara, Naomi Hirahara's father and the inspiration for the Mas Arai mystery series.

The late Isamu “Sam” Hirahara, Naomi Hirahara’s father and the inspiration for the Mas Arai mystery series.

The Southern California Gardeners Federation published three books since 1960: “Gardeners Essay,” also called the “Gardeners Bible”; “Green Makers,” written by Naomi Hirahara in 2000 to mark their 45th anniversary; and “Gardeners’ Pioneer Story” in 2007 by Sankyaku Seki (aka Sunny Seki, a notable children’s book author). Seki’s book guides readers through one century of the history of Nikkei gardeners in Southern California through the simplicity of senryu.

“Green Makers” and “Gardeners’ Pioneer Story” will be the focus of the March 28 program, presented by Hirahara and Seki. Actor Kurt Kuniyoshi will deliver a few of the poems in English and Japanese. Hirahara will also lead the audience in experimenting with writing one of their own unique senryu.

Traci Kato-Kiriyama will facilitate the program, which is free and open to the public. Both books may be purchased at the program from Heritage Source.

For questions or more information, contact Iku Kiriyama at (310) 326-0608 or email [email protected]

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