It’s a day late to post this to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month but it’s certainly worth a post! We also just visited the cemetery to pay our respects to Bob’s family members who have passed on so it seemed like a good time to say a little something about the founder of this company, Chosuke Miyahira.
I came across some images while googling his name just to see what would come up. They are part of University of California’s digital archives and they were kind enough to let me use these photos for company use.
I’ve never met Mr. Miya but I’ve heard about him, of course, from Bob and his family. He began his flower shop in the 30s in NYC and although many of his family members were taken to interment camps during World War II, their properties and most of their possessions confiscated by the government, Japanese Americans living on the East Coast were not interned and were mostly able to keep their businesses. Of course, that is not to say that they had it easy. Racism and feelings of mistrust against Japanese Americans at the time had its toll on the community.
While interned, some people had the opportunity to apply for jobs that would move them away from the West Coast. Mr. Miya offered jobs to many evacuees to help them start a new life in New York. These pictures depict the people who were able to do just that.
One of Mr. Miya’s nieces wrote a book about the experience of being interned and moving to New York to work with Uncle Miya. It’s called Bend With the Wind by Sachi Kaneshiro. It’s a beautiful book that recounts the story of the Tamaki family, the sadness and despair of the era, and ultimately, the hope that keeps us all going. As she writes of her family’s first reunion after the war,
“We had survived the test. Mama said it best at our first dinner together: ‘We bend with the wind. We did not break. Like bamboo.'”
It’s a nice read – not sure if it’s available anywhere but I’ll add excerpts from it another time. Good stuff.