Kanaye Nagasawa: The Samurai Who Changed California Forever


Although the Paradise Ridge exhibit is considerably smaller than the pre-fire exhibit, it is the only permanent exhibit in the United States devoted to Nagasawa (the Sonoma County Museum, which houses an extensive collection of Kanagawa and Fountaingrove, organized temporary exhibitions). Nagasawa’s largest collection resides in Japan, where a museum preserving the legacy of the 19 student samurai, the Satsuma Student Museumopened in Kagoshima in 2014. Ten descendants of Nagasawa attended the opening, joined by René.

Just above Paradise Ridge, the city of Santa Rosa established the 33 acres Nagasawa Community Park in 2007, dedicated in a ceremony attended by many members of the Nagasawa family. And at Paradise Ridge, just behind the parcel of chardonnay grapes known as Nagasawa Vineyard, a small fenced area contains a newly planted tea plantation, the result of efforts to connect Nagasawa’s heritage with that of Wakamatsu Tea. which employed some of California’s earliest growers. Japanese immigrants in the production of silk and tea.

“Much of California agriculture owes its beginnings to Japanese immigrants. Like the ‘Potato King’ and the ‘Garlic King’, as well as the ‘Wine King,'” said tea plantation founder Nao Magami, referring to Japanese immigrants. George Shimawhose vast potato crops led him to become the first Japanese-American millionaire, and Kiyoshi Nagasaki, which has become the largest garlic producer in the country. “But when the Japanese were sent to camps in World War II, all of those stories got lost. Now we’re trying to connect those legacies of those early California pioneers.”

In 2021, the Wakamatsu Group held its first tea ceremony at Paradise Ridge attended by members of the Nagasawa family. But perhaps the best and simplest epitaph for this remarkable man is the one added by his family to the Nagasawa Park plaque, which describes his life in just four words: “Samurai Spirit in California.”

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