Tag Archives: Junkoh Harui

Hands at work under a father’s watch

I had a chance to sit down and talk with Junkoh Harui a few months before his death. One subject that came up time after time was his father, Zenhichi.

It seemed that much of what Junkoh created with Bainbridge Gardens was done with his father in mind (the photo to the left shows Zenhichi and his family, with Junkoh at the center wearing a bow tie).

“He came from a farm. He didn’t speak English. He was a man who was uneducated, but he had these two beautiful tools,” Junkoh said, holding up his own 75-year-old hands.

With little more than his hands, Zenhichi came to Bainbridge in 1908. He labored in the sawmills and scraping together enough money to buy 20 acres on Miller Road. While raising five children, he cleared the land, planted crops and eventually built Island Center’s community hub, with a gas station, general store and nursery. He also created an immaculately-groomed landscape of sunken ponds and sculpted Japanese plants. It must have been striking and surreal to the island’s pioneers.

Junkoh put his own hands to work rebuilding what his father had lost after the family was forced off the island during World War II. While it is today one of the island’s most treasured places, Junkoh said his revival of Bainbridge Gardens never could match the beauty and grandeur Zenhichi created. Still, Junkoh thought his father, and his mother Shiki, would be proud of what he’d accomplished.

“I’ve been under the weather now with this situation with cancer,” Junkoh said in July. “But it gives me courage that I have enjoyed life and rebuilt Bainbridge Gardens. I’ve kept it going because I know I’ll see mom and dad in the big sky.

“I think they will be happy to see me, with what I’ve done here, and that I carried it on as far as I could go.”

Below is a column Junkoh wrote in 1986 for his nursery’s newsletter.

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Bainbridge Gardens’ Junkoh Harui dies at 75

Bainbridge Gardens owner Junkoh Harui died Sunday afternoon at his island home. He was 75 years old.

Harui, a well-known and celebrated member of the community, died peacefully at 2 p.m. with family at his side, his daughter Donna Harui said.

Islanders best know him for his Miller Road nursery, a business his father started almost 80 years ago, but was forced to abandon during World War II. Harui revived Bainbridge Gardens in the late 1980s, making it a destination for gardeners around the region and a green oasis with wooded trails, an outdoor café, a garden supply shop and a bountiful selection of plants.

Despite suffering from Parkinson’s disease and, more recently, cancer, Harui was active at Bainbridge Gardens until his death.

“Junkoh’s love of the garden and his commitment to his customers allowed him to share the beauty of nature with generations of Bainbridge Islanders,” his family said in a statement released on Tuesday.

Harui was born on Bainbridge Island in 1933, shortly after his family purchased 20 acres along Miller Road and transformed it into a large farm. The family added a general store, gas station and the Bainbridge Gardens nursery.

He graduated from Bainbridge High School in 1951 and earned a business degree from the University of Washington in 1955. It was at the UW that Harui met his future wife, Chris.

He was drafted by the U.S. Army days before taking a job at a bank. Harui was stationed for almost two years in France, where his interest in working with nature was renewed.

He returned to Bainbridge with Chris and started the island’s first flower shop in 1958. He moved his shop and added a nursery at a second location at the juncture of highway 305 and High School Road. As the highway widened, Harui decided to move his business to his family’s property on Miller Road, with its crumbling buildings buried in blackberry vines. The site was reborn as Bainbridge Gardens in 1989.

This year, Harui and Chris celebrated 50 years of marriage and 50 years of operating a business on Bainbridge Island.

He is survived by his wife, two brothers, four children and five grandchildren.

A celebration of Harui’s life will be held at Sakai Intermediate School on Bainbridge Island at 2 p.m. on Nov. 8.

For more about his life and work, see my July profile of Harui here.