Saturday, April 30, 2011

South Mountain Flower Group

Baseline Flowers. Owner is an original South Mountain flower grower, April 2011 (photo by Pua Pedrina)

40th and Baseline. Present-day South Mountain Flower area, April 2011 (photo by Pua Pedrina)

3801 E. Baseline Road, Phoenix, AZ

The Japanese American Flower Group was a small organization of flower growers that gardened in Phoenix Arizona. According to the 1921 Arizona Alien land law, Japanese Americans were able to lease land up to 5 years, but not own land.[1] As a result, at a location in Phoenix there were many Japanese families that grew flowers. They raised flowers in Arizona for 60 years and when they were in bloom, the flower gardens drew major popular attraction from the period of 1950 to 1975. The garden stretched from Baseline Rd. to 48th Street to 32nd Street located in Phoenix, Arizona. There were several families that gardened in Phoenix that included: Baijiro "Ben" Nakagawa family, Hajime Nakamura family, Ken Sakato family, Sat Iwakoshi family, Watanabe family, Yukio Maruyama family. The Tanita family and Tadano family also farmed in Phoenix for a short period.
The first of the Japanese flower growers was Kajiuro Kishiyama who started growing vegetables in Arizona in 1928. He started to grow produce near 40th Street and Baseline and experimented with flowers in 1936. The Nakagawa’s who were located in the camps in Poston, started growing flowers after WWII at the foot of South Mountain. During the height of the flower gardens, you could drive from 40th street and Baseline west toward central and be surrounded by flowers.
According to Kathy Nakagawa, there was a great deal of anti-Asian sentiment--especially during and following the war. When the attack on Pearl Harbor hit, the United States Government established a concentration camp called Poston in Arizona that housed 100,00 Japanese Americans.[2] Mae M. Ngai explains that the U.S. didn’t strip Japanese citizenship, but it nullified their citizenship on the grounds of racial difference.[3] This affected access to some resources (Kathy points our that her grandfather had difficulty getting medical treatment) and purchasing land. However, there were also many in Arizona who were supportive and helped my dad and other Japanese Americans.
Kathy Nakagawa indicates that now the area is primarily housing developments. Some names are reminders of the previous history (e.g. Blossom Hills, The Gardens). More over, there’s still a connection to the Japanese flower growers- Kathy Nakagawa’s father owns a flower shop called the Baseline Flower Growers and it’s located at 3801 E. Baseline Road. Nick Nakagawa still has the wholesale/retail flower shop on Baseline, which sells flowers shipped in from various areas. Kajiuro's son, George Kishiyama, is still growing flowers there today and George also maintains a flower stand at the same location as well as Sakato.

- Jimaya Gomez and Pua Pedrina

[1] Vince Murray & Scott Solliday, City of Phoenix, Asian American Hostoric Property Survey, April 24, 2011, (April 24, 2011).
[2] William S. Murphy, “Japanese American Concentration Camp,” Los Angeles Times (July, 23, 1972), p. U57
[3] Mae M. Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004), p 175.


Murphy, William, S. “Japanese-American Concentration Camp” Los Angeles Times (July, 23, 1972), p.U57

Nagi, Mae, M. Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004. 

Asian SunNews, Asian Chamber of Commerce Web Page. April 9, 2011, (April 23, 2011).

Murray, V., Solliday, S, City of Phoenix, Asian American Historic Property Survey.
April 24, 2011, (April 24, 2011). 


  1. If you have any pictures of the pagoda, it would be nice to see them on this site.

  2. Did the Maruyama family have a flower stand on Indian School Road around 33 ave? I remember one being on the north side of the road in a vacant field other than the flower stand, which was actually pretty large. I loved going in there. Great quality and very fresh beautiful assortment there. It was nice getting a custom bouquet from flowers you pick out yourself.