He was born a Nisei Japanese-American, but at age 8 moved back to his parents' home country, where he extensively studied the art of bonsai due to his grandfather's influence.
He returned to the United States near Boulder, Colorado in 1935, and then in late 1946 settled in Los Angeles, California with his wife Alice and their three sons, Eugene, Robert, and Richard. In Orange County, Naka and four friends founded a bonsai club in November, 1950, which is known today as the California Bonsai Society. He became a very important force in American bonsai art in the 1950sâ€“60s. He was a driving force in the spread of bonsai appreciation and the practice of bonsai art in the West and elsewhere. Naka traveled and taught extensively around the world, at conventions and clubs, but refused to hold classes in Japan (where bonsai had been highly developed along certain lines over the centuries), saying "They want me to teach, and I tell them it's like trying to preach to Buddha."