Gardening Matters: The death of Takeo Shiota (Grief & Gardening #4)

[Updated 2007.02.23: Added link to the issue of Plants & Gardens News (PDF, requires membership login) which mentioned Shiota’s death in the U.S. internment camps.]

A video sparked a connection for me among three seemingly unrelated topics: a Japanese Garden built over 90 years ago, World War II, and the Department of Homeland Security.

DSC_0013This is a view from the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. I took this photo last year, November 5, 2005. BBG has this to say about this garden on their Web site:

It is considered to be the masterpiece of its creator, Japanese landscape designer Takeo Shiota (1881-1943). Shiota was born in a small village about 40 miles from Tokyo, and in his youth spent years traversing Japan on foot to explore the natural landscape. In 1907 he came to America, driven by an ambition to create, in his words, “a garden more beautiful than all others in the world.”
Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Note the year of Shiota’s death, 1943. I learned recently, from a review of the book Defiant Gardens in the Fall 2006/Winter 2007 issue of BBG’s Plants & Gardens News (PDF, requires membership login), that Shiota died in a United States internment camp for Japanese-Americans during World War II.

It has happened here before. It can happen again. And our government has plans to do so.

The Pearl Harbor attack intensified hostility towards Japanese Americans. As wartime hysteria mounted, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 causing over 120,000 West Coast persons of Japanese ancestry (Nikkei) to leave their homes, jobs, and lives behind to move to one of ten Relocation Camps.

This constituted the single largest forced relocation in U.S. history.
Minidoka Internment National Monument

The largest, so far. I am painfully aware of the parallels between Pearl Harbor and September 11. As bad as the hysteria has been, it can get worse.

On January 24 of this year, the Department of Homeland Security awarded Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) a $385M contract [my emphasis added]:

The contract, which is effective immediately, provides for establishing temporary detention and processing capabilities to augment existing ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) Program facilities in the event of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs. The contingency support contract provides for planning and, if required, initiation of specific engineering, construction and logistics support tasks to establish, operate and maintain one or more expansion facilities.

The contract may also provide migrant detention support to other U.S. Government organizations in the event of an immigration emergency, as well as the development of a plan to react to a national emergency, such as a natural disaster.

This has been widely reported in the press, including the New York Times. Peter Dale Scott wrote an extensive analysis for Pacific News Service.

I can add little, except to relate these current historical events to the atrocity committed against a single person over 60 years ago, and share my feelings about all of this. Takeo Shiota was responsible for one of the most beautiful gardens in the world, one which I and millions of others have enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy. I will never again be able to visit that garden without wondering about him and his life, and thinking of how my government killed him. It is the least I can do.

Video: Crosby & Nash, “Immigration Man”

I haven’t thought of this song in many years, decades maybe. It was always one of my favorites, hauntingly beautiful vocals and chord progressions.

I don’t know who’s responsible for assembling the images into the video, but it’s an effective piece of work. This is what reminded me of the Halliburton contract, and led me to post this.

Additional Links:

2 thoughts on “Gardening Matters: The death of Takeo Shiota (Grief & Gardening #4)

  1. The images you conjure are scary enough, and it isn’t even half of the picture. Look at how so many Americans seem to be turning a blind eye to our violating the Geneve Accords.

    I’m scary, if you look at how I feel about religious leaders who would advocate the death penalty for converting away from a religion, and the people who would follow them.

    Have you bought your sword yet ?

  2. In Austin we have a Japanese Garden too, built at Zilker Park in the heart of the city. The garden was made by one man, an immigrant from Japan named Isamu Tanaguchi. He was sent to a California internment camp during WWII, but made it through the ordeal to see his sons grow up. At age 70, he started the garden in gratitude for the education of his sons. Isamu Tanaguchi intended this place as a symbol of universal peace.

    Both men went to the camps, but there was a happier ending to the story here in Austin.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *