Sunday, January 03, 2010

Being Resolute

Some people make New Year's resolutions....not me. I just write a ranting, incoherent blog post about the state of the economy. That and take the family to the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco.And why not? The weather is great(sorry rest of the country) and I had time off of work.

One of the most famous sites in the Tea Garden is the Drum Bridge (Taiko Bashi). As a kid I remember the one time my parents took me there and I immediately had to climb over the bridge when I saw it. I had no real appreciation for the work that went into it, nor the beauty of the arc reaching over the tiny stream below.

At that time, I'm sure there was no plaque in place explaining the origins of the bridge, but today there is. I made it a point to read it, as so often I pass by these things or just give them acursory glance. I was truly amazed at what I read(and very disappointed afterward that I could find so little on the subject online).

The story goes like this: Shinshichi Nakatani was
commissioned by the government of Japan to create a Drum Bridge for the 1894 San Francisco Midwinter Fair. He came to San Francisco in the early 1890's and found that he did not have the materials he needed, so had to travel back to Japan, where he built the bridge. It was blessed and disassembled, then shipped to San Francisco. The project ran out of money however, so Nakatani-san went back again to Japan to sell his family's rice fields to raise the needed funds.

OK, stop there. Travelling between Japan and the U.S. in the 1890's isn't like a Jet Blue trip to Miami. It's grueling days at sea, with no guarantee you'll even arrive. On top of that, he sold his family farm to complete this job he was entrusted with.

He then asked his son to remain in the U.S. for nearly fifty years in order to work and save enough money to buy back the family farm.

Why had I never heard of this?? I was was honestly dumbfounded after reading that. I ran to catch up with my wife and kids and led tham back to the plaque and read the story to them. I felt like this man and his son needed a lot more recognition for their contributions than just this sign next to tthe bridge. I could not find the words to explain to my daughters the level of responsibility, honor and perseverance this man had. I will never look at that the bridge the same
...I will always think of Shinshichi Nakatani travelling half way around the globe, twice, to ensure the bridge found its rightful place as promised.

Please visit the Nakatani Family web site for more detailed and better researched information.

In searching online for information, I ran across these San Francisco Recreation and Parks Commission Minutes. See page 2 for some of the controversy surrounding the placement of the plaque.


Robin said...

love that you posted this blog. I am a second cousin (Kat's is my mom's cousin) and have done some work for him regarding the drum bridge. It is beaustiful and I'm happy to hear that you read the plaque and found it not only interesting but more than that it touched you!


Susan Uyemura, CEO said...

I, too, am a friend of Katsuya Nakatani and have tried with no success to work with the Parks and Recreation of San Francisco to get them to recognize the bridge in a proper manner. The run around and mis-truths that have been perpetuated by the city should make themselves ashamed...but they're not.

The city is determined to make this 81 Korean War Veteran wait and beg for proper recognition..

Charles Igawa said...

I was happy to see your post.
I wrote a short essay about ten years ago - originally in Japanese and then in English - regarding the
determined effort of Kats Nakatani to bring the story of Shinshichi Nakatani to public attention. Kats used my essay in his subsequent personal campaign to gather the support for convincing the SF Dept of Parks & Recreation to acknowledge Shinshichi Nakatani as the master carpenter who built the famed taiko-bashi bridge now located in the Golden Gate Park. Send your e-mail address to if interested in receiving the copy of my essay on Kats. Charles

Taylor said...

I'm not sure what Shinshichi is to me. I think i would be his...great great ganddaughter? Not sure. But i did a project on this bridge back in 10th grade. I'm sad that i can't find it. and I agree with my Aunt Robin. I think what he did is amazing :)

St. Frank said...

Thank you all for your kind comments. I am happy to be a part of getting this story the expposure it deserves.