Friday, August 1, 2008

Part I: Meeting Clara Breed

I wrote in the translator's notes of the Japanese edition of Dear Miss Breed, that one of my motivations in working on this book was based on the fact that Clara Breed and I worked together one time on the Japanese Garden Project in Balboa Park in the 1980s.

A Japanese Tea Pavilion with garden was built in l915 for the Pan American California Exposition in Balboa Park. It was later demolished when the San Diego Zoo was constructed. The City of San Diego had promised 10 acres (about 4 hectares) inside Balboa Park to recreate it. Will Hippen, the San Diego-Yokohama Sister City Society and the Honorary Consul General, led the formation of the nonprofit organization called Japan-U.S. Friendship Garden Society, with the slogan "Rebuild the Garden". Corporate donors were recruited including companies such as Kyocera, Sony, Union Bank of California. Many local Japanese American citizens such as Joe and Elizabeth Yamada, Roy Muraoka, Moto Asakawa and others got involved as well. Sounds so easy and simple now but it was a tough job, beginning with fund raising campaigns and detailed plans which took decades to finalize. It was a huge project. More than 20 years have elapsed since it's completion. I can proudly say that San Diego now has one of the best Japanese gardens that can compete with any of the west coast Japanese gardens.

I came to know Clara Breed from the board meetings of Officers of the U.S.-Japan Friendship Garden Society. At that time I was on the Board of Directors along with Joe and Elizabeth Yamada. Clara had been called in occasionally to substitute as Secretary when the regular Secretary was unable to attend. Perhaps she was called in by Liz Yamada, who I later learned was one of the Breed children Clara had inspired and shared affection with during the Japanese American internment camp days of World War II. Clara was a graceful woman. I commended her on the quality of minutes she produced, all taken in shorthand. She smiled and thanked me.

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