The legacy of Fujii Nursery
I am saddened when I reflect on how Japanese Americans were treated during WW11. In 1942, due to the Executive Order 9066 signed by President Roosevelt, over 100,000 people of Japanese ancestry and many of them American citizens were sent away to concentration camps because they were considered a “threat”. Innocent children were also strongly affected. Although the Declaration of Independence states, “All Men Are Created Equal”, it did not ring true during that era for these innocent Americans of Japanese decent.
In the early 1920’s, my grandfather, Fred Kiechi Fujii and his younger brother, Mauro John Fujii, opened the doors of Fujii Nursery. They were wholesale growers raising beautiful plants, shrubs and trees.
Toward the end of the depression, Fujii Nursery donated over 3,000 Cherry trees to the City of Berkeley. According to the Berkeley Daily Gazette and the Tribune, in 1938, over 1,000 Cherry trees were planted along the parkways of Civic Center, Adeline and Ashby St. as well as many other locations.
Prior to being sent away to the concentration camp, Fujii Nursery donated their trees and shrubs to the newly constructed Fort Ord Army Base in Monterey. They made this donation rather than leaving them behind with no one to tend to them. The property of Fujii Nursery was eventually gifted to the Berkeley Buddhist Church.
The legacy of the nursery continues and although I am not sure if any of the trees survived, they are a testament to the goodwill of the people who were taken to camp. My grandfather, Kiechi was sent to Gila River War Relocation Center, an Indian Reservation in Phoenix, Arizona. Brother, Mauro and his family went to Tule Lake Internment Camp in California. It is said they were there from approximately 1942- 1946. My aunt, the little girl, survived the hardship of living in the camps through the spirit of love and forgiveness.