Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories/2016/Spring/Section 021/Kosaku Sawada

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Kosaku Sawada
Kosaku Sawada at work. [1]
BornKosaku Sawada
October 21 1882
Osaka, Japan [2]
DiedApril 15 1968
Mobile, Mobile County, Alabama, United States [3] [4]
Other names"Mr. Camellia" [5]
EducationOsaka University, Degree In Agriculture
Known forCamellia Expert


Kosaku Sawada was a Japanese-American immigrant and horticulturalist who lived in Mobile, Alabama during the Great Depression and World War II era. He was known for his work with camellias at the Overlook Nurseries in Mobile and "Sawada's Dream", a camellia introduced from cross-pollinated seedlings. [6]


Early and Professional Life[edit]

Kosaku Sawada was born into a family of six in Osaka, Japan on October 21st, 1882. He graduated from Osaka University with a degree in Agriculture. [7] In 1906, at the age of 24, Sawada immigrated to America. There he began work as a rice farmer near Houston, Texas. Sawada, along with three other men, was recruited by an official representative of the Japanese government, Shinpei Mykawa, to establish a rice farming venture. Shinpei and the others worked on the rice farm for only four months after they arrived from Japan. Mykawa died in a farming equipment accident, and the rice farming project ended shortly afterwards. [8] In efforts to profit off of the orange boom, Sawada imported Japanese satsuma oranges and other plants for the Alvin-Japanese Nursery in Alvin, Texas. [9] In 1910, Sawada relocated to Grand Bay, Alabama and purchased 30 acres of farmland where the citrus industry was more active than Texas. By 1914, the nursery expanded to Mobile, Alabama, and four years later Sawada founded Overlook Nurseries.

Personal Life[edit]

In 1916, Sawada traveled to San Francisco to meet and marry his wife, Nobu Yoshioka, in an arranged marriage. She came from Japan with a dowry of camellia seeds. Together they three boys and one girl. The boys were named after American statesmen: Tom after Thomas Jefferson, George after George Washington, and Ben after Benjamin Franklin. Their daughter was named Lurie. In 1930, his wife died three weeks after giving birth to their daughter.


Sawada was very intent on integrating himself with American culture. He taught none of his children Japanese, and did not intend to return to Japan as he felt he did not fit in there. In order to assimilate with his new home, Sawada rejected Japanese culture. When interviewed by the Federal Writer's Project in 1939 he said, "I am contented In this country. The government protects my, people here, but, if I were in South America or Mexico, and someone wanted my property, they could take it." However, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Sawada's Overlook Nurseries was to be seized and sold by the local government. After surrounding nurserymen pleaded Sawada and his family's case to local authorities, the government allowed him to keep his business.
As a horticulturalist, Sawada felt strongly about the harm of deforestation. He noticed the effect deforestation had on the growing intensity of weather, and he commented on the neglect people had about maintaining forests.

Japanese-Americans During World War II[edit]

The Japanese bombing of the U.S. on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 was a surprise attack on a United States naval base by the Imperial Japanese Navy. [10] It led to the entry of the United States into World War II, as well as a growing anti-Japanese sentiment in the United States. Two months following the attack, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066 ordering all Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast. It was the result of racism and wartime hysteria rather than a military danger posed by Japanese-Americans. Japanese-Americans, like Japan, were viewed as the nation’s enemy. 120,000 innocent people of Japanese ancestry residing within the evacuation zone experienced forced removal and mass incarceration, euphemistically called internment. [11]

Those who were incarcerated were only allowed to take what they could carry to the camps. As a result, many internees lost irreplaceable personal property. All internment camps were controlled by armed guards and located in desolate areas. Housing was described in the 1943 War Relocation Authority report as "tar paper-covered barracks of simple frame construction without plumbing or cooking facilities of any kind." These buildings were built based on designs for military barracks and were cramped and unsuitable for families to live in. Camps were surrounded by barbed-wire with unpartitioned toilets and cots for beds. At the Heart Mountain War Relocation Center in Wyoming, people were relocated there unaware of where they were being relocated to and what the weather conditions were going to be like. As a result, families did not bring appropriate clothes for the northwestern Wyoming climate. Instances in which guards have shot internees who reportedly tried to walk outside the bounds of the camp have been documented. [12]

In December of 1944, the Supreme Court case Korematsu v. United States held that Executive Order 9066 was unconstitutional.

As a result of the discrimination against Japanese-Americans, many assimilated to American culture, sometimes to a hyper-patriotic extent. Many chose not to teach their children Japanese, and kept Japanese cultural activities private or eliminated them altogether.[13]

In 1988, U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act. This was a federal law that granted reparations to Japanese-American Internees. It granted 20,000 dollars to each surviving internee and a formal presidential apology.[14]

Deforestation and Climate Change[edit]

Deforestation is a non-temporary, large-scale clearing of forests. [15] Deforestations effects include climate change, air pollution, carbon dioxide emissions, hydrologic cycle disruptions, decrease in wildlife, soil erosion, and landslides. [16]

Climate change is the change in global or regional climate patterns in the long term. In Alabama, as well as every other state, the average temperature has shown a warming trend since the 1970s. In 1970 the annual average temperature was 62.7325 degrees Fahrenheit and in 2011 the annual average temperature was 64.0793 degrees Fahrenheit in Alabama. Alabama is the 46th fastest warming state in the United States, rising at .275 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. The continental U.S. as a whole has warmed about 1.3 degrees Fahrenheit per decade. [17] According to prediction models, low temperatures are expected to be 3 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit higher from 2011 to 2100. Summer high temperatures are expected to rise 3 to 7 degrees Fahrenheit. The July heat index, a measure that combines temperature and humidity, is expected to rise 10 to 25 degrees Fahrenheit in Alabama. More extreme storms are predicted to occur, with dry spells lasting longer between storms. [18]
Climate change denial involves the dismissal of the inherency, solvency, and significance of global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that "Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal." [19] However, leaders and corporations have incentive not to acknowledge climate change. The politics surrounding the skepticism of climate change is associated with conservative economic policies and backed by industrial interests opposed to the regulation of CO2 emissions.[20]


  1. Kosaku Sawada at Work. Mobile Botanical Gardens, Mobile, Alabama. Accessed March 3, 2016. http://www.mobilebotanicalgardens.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Sawada-Ray.pdf.
  2. Sawada, Kosaku, “Federal Writers’ Project Papers 1936-1940,” Folder 66, Collection Number: 03709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Accessed March 3, 2016.
  3. "Kosaku Sawada." Social Security Death Index. Accessed March 3, 2016. http://www.mocavo.com/Kosaku-Sawada-1882-1968-Social-Security-Death-Index/17547861886258764971.
  4. "Kosaku Sawada, Camellia Expert, Dies in Alabama." St. Petersburg Times, April 17, 1968. Accessed March 3, 2016. https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=888&dat=19680417&id=v9UqAAAAIBAJ&sjid=1FwDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6346,4328434&hl=en.
  5. Ray, Bill. "Petals Along the Trail." Mobile Botanical Gardens. Accessed March 3, 2016. http://www.mobilebotanicalgardens.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Sawada-Ray.pdf.
  6. Ray, Bill. "Petals Along the Trail." Mobile Botanical Gardens. Accessed March 3, 2016. http://www.mobilebotanicalgardens.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Sawada-Ray.pdf.
  7. Sawada, Kosaku, “Federal Writers’ Project Papers 1936-1940,” Folder 66, Collection Number: 03709, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Accessed March 3, 2016.
  8. Connor, R. E. "How That Road Got Its Name." (Archive) Houston Post, Sunday May 2, 1965. Spotlight, Page 3. - Available on microfilm at the Houston Public Library Central Library Jesse H. Jones Building
  9. Williams, Sandra. "Gainesville Camellia Society---Florida." Gainesville Florida Camellia Society Camellia Names. Accessed March 03, 2016. http://www.afn.org/~camellia/camnames.html.
  10. "Pearl Harbor." History.com. Accessed March 04, 2016. http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/pearl-harbor.
  11. "Japanese-American Relocation." History.com. Accessed March 04, 2016. http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/japanese-american-relocation.
  12. "Japanese American Internment." - New World Encyclopedia. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
  13. Nakano, Dana Yasumitsu. "A Matter of Belonging: Dilemmas of Race, Assimilation, and Substantive Citizenship among Later Generation Japanese-Americans." Order No. 3642939, University of California, Irvine, 2014. http://search.proquest.com/docview/1609006988?accountid=14244.
  14. Print. Civil Liberties Act of 1988. Densho Encyclopedia. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
  15. "Deforestation Facts, Deforestation Information, Effects of Deforestation - National Geographic." National Geographic. Accessed March 04, 2016. http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/deforestation-overview/.
  16. Delang, Claudio O. "Deforestation." In Encyclopedia of Global Warming & Climate Change, edited by S. George Philander2nd ed., 423-424. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2012. doi: 10.4135/9781452218564.n212.
  17. "The Heat Is On: U.S. Temperature Trends." The Heat Is On: U.S. Temperature Trends. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
  18. 3. Boslaugh, Sarah. "Alabama." In Encyclopedia of Global Warming & Climate Change, edited by S. George Philander2nd ed., 25. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc., 2012. doi: 10.4135/9781452218564.n10.
  19. "Climate Change Evidence: How Do We Know?" Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.
  20. "Capitalism vs. the Climate." The Nation. 2011. Web. 21 Mar. 2016.