February 15, 2024

The Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way, Washington connects people to nature through the living art of bonsai. The Densho communications team recently had the chance to visit the museum to investigate an interesting intersection between our two organizations that comes by way of the Domoto family.

Kanetaro Domoto established the Domoto Brothers nursery in Oakland in 1891. In 1926, his son Toichi started his own nursery and, like his father, had a passion for bonsai. One of the bonsai in the family collection was a large Trident Maple his father purchased from an exhibitor at the 1915 Panama Pacific International Expo in San Francisco. The tree had been imported from Japan and was estimated to be over 50 years old at the time. During WWII, the Domoto family was incarcerated at the Merced Assembly Center and Amache (Granada) concentration camp, leaving the Trident Maple behind. During those four years, the tree’s roots penetrated the bottom of its wooden planter and entered the earth, causing the tree to rapidly grow beyond bonsai size. Today, the Domoto Trident Maple and other bonsai cultivated by Toichi can be seen at the Pacific Bonsai Museum.

The families of Toichi’s younger siblings, Kaneji, Yuriko, and Wakako, have donated their collections of photos, letters, documents, and more to Densho for digitization. The Kaneji Domoto Collection in particular highlights his landscape and architectural work, and includes photos of bonsai demonstrations and shows. Explore some highlights from the Domoto family’s vast archives below, and take a deep dive into the Kaneji Domoto Collection in the Densho Digital Repository for more.

And make sure to visit the Pacific Bonsai Museum to see their incredible exhibition of live bonsai!

The entrance to the Pacific Bonsai Museum in Federal Way, Washington.
The Domoto Trident Maple at the Pacific Bonsai Museum. Photo by Aarin Packard, Pacific Bonsai Museum.
The Densho communications team stand in front of the Domoto Trident Maple
Toichi Domoto stands next to the Trident Maple. Pacific Bonsai Museum.
Group photo of the Domoto family. Courtesy of Yuriko Domoto Tsukada Collection, Densho.
Kaneji Domoto giving a bonsai demonstration at Hill Nursery. Courtesy of the Kaneji Domoto Architecture and Landscape Photograph Collection, Densho.
Shimpaku Juniper
Original artist: Toshio Kawamoto
Date of origin: 1972
In training since: 1980
Japanese Black Pine
Original Artist: Juzaburo Furuzawa
Date of origin: 1942
In training since: 1945