Born to Japanese-American parents at the Tule Lake Relocation Camp in northern California during World War II, Nakano was raised near Tacoma, Washington. An early graduate of the Landscape Architecture program at the University of Washington, he received his B.L.A. in 1968. He earned a Master’s in Regional Planning in 1971 from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. Following graduate study, Nakano returned to Seattle and began a career based in the Pacific Northwest that included teaching in the College of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Washington for nearly 30 years.
Nakano joined Richard Haag & Associates in 1969, while the firm was working on Gas Works Park in Seattle. He later joined Robert Shinbo Associates in 1980, before partnering with Dale Dennis to form Nakano-Dennis Landscape Architects in 1989. Associated with large-scale planning initiatives, urban design, and campus planning, Nakano’s notable projects include the renovation of the Seattle Center International Fountain and Mall (1995), Waterfront Park on Elliot Bay (1990s), the redevelopment of New Holly, Rainier Vista, and High Point Housing Projects for the Seattle Housing Authority (1997 - 2006), and the Japanese Garden Entry at Washington Park Arboretum (2009). Nakano became a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1997 and an honorary member of the American Institute of Architecture in 2010. He died at the age of 68.