Roots: The Pioneering Domoto Family
Takanoshin Domoto landed in San Francisco in 1884. Three of his brothers (including Kan’s father, Kanetaro) soon followed. By 1885 the Domoto Family were growing chrysanthemums and carnations at their small nursery in Oakland called the Domoto Brothers. The Domoto Brothers are credited as the first nursery in Northern California to commercially produce camellias, wisterias, azaleas, and lilies imported from Japan. The Domotos not only ran a flower nursery, but their leadership was crucial in founding the first indoor wholesale flower market in San Francisco.
Growing up in Oakland, Kan and his brother Toichi worked in the family nursery. Kan was the resident propagator in charge of tending cuttings in the greenhouses, a demanding task from which he learned a great deal about plants. Kan went on to study physics and math at Stanford but dropped out to help his family with the nursery during the Great Depression. The family filed for bankruptcy around 1930 and the nursery was foreclosed upon and seized.
The Nursery during WWII
Shortly before losing the nursery in Oakland, Kan’s brother Toichi leased land in Hayward from a Danish immigrant named Sorensen. Land taxes were paid to Sorensen but the principal of the loan went into land improvements. When the United States entered World War II, the land was technically owned by Sorensen and thus not confiscated by the state, as other Japanese-American owned properties were. Toichi continued to pay Sorensen taxes while incarcerated, which enabled him to keep the nursery. After the war, Toichi was able to secure a loan and purchased the land from Sorensen’s son.