Four Chicago Gardens Take Center Stage at 2014 North American Japanese Garden Conference


CHICAGO, ILLINOIS — All roads lead to Chicago and its Japanese gardens for more than two hundred professionals and enthusiasts from the US, Canada and around the world who are attending the 2014 North American Japanese Garden Association’s (NAJGA) biennial conference happening October 16 to 18.  NAJGA, a non-profit organization, promotes the horticulture, business culture and human culture of Japanese gardens across North America.

Sansho-en (The Elizabeth Hubert Mallott Japanese Garden) at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Sansho-en (The Elizabeth Hubert Mallott Japanese Garden) at the Chicago Botanic Garden

The three-day conference, taking place at the Chicago Botanic Garden, features workshops and lectures on Japanese garden design and maintenance, horticulture, garden history, business practices, education and cultural programming, and health and wellness.  Top Japanese garden experts and scholars from North America, as well as from Japan and the United Kingdom, will be in town to lead the sessions.

The historic Garden of the Phoenix in Jackson Park, Chicago

The historic Garden of the Phoenix in Jackson Park, Chicago

On October 15th,  a special pre-conference, full-day workshop at the Garden of the Phoenix  (formerly Osaka Garden) in Jackson Park, Chicago, will serve as a living laboratory for skills development on moss gardening, aesthetic tree pruning and small stone work for pathways. Registration for the workshop is open to the public with some limits on capacity.  Participants will have the rare opportunity to work in this historic garden originally designed to showcase Japanese culture during the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893.

Also on Wednesday,October 15th, many conference attendees will have the opportunity to visit the Anderson Japanese Gardens and the Rosecrance Japanese Garden in Rockford, Illinois, with the gardens’ designer himself, Hoichi Kurisu.

Twice-honored by the White House for his landscape designs, Kurisu will deliver the keynote address at opening ceremonies on Thursday, October 16th. His remarks will align with the NAJGA Conference theme “New Pathways: The Role of the Japanese Garden for Society and Self” in emphasizing the evolving role of Japanese gardens in modern society, in areas such as medical therapy, holistic wellness and even in healing the natural environment. Three other Kurisu-designed gardens in Oregon and Florida that successfully play up the medical and environmental potential of Japanese gardens will also be presented during the conference.

Chicago Botanic Garden’s very own Sansho-en, the Elizabeth Hubert Mallott Japanese Garden, will be the focus of an October 16th workshop (“Improvements in the Evolution of a Maturing Garden: Observing Sansho-en With New Eyes”) that emphasize the importance of maintenance in the art of the Japanese garden.

The workshop team is led by garden designer Sadafumi Uchiyama, curator for the Portland Japanese Garden. He will discuss real issues and potential problems for a maturing Japanese garden.  Uchiyama, who hails from a multi-generational gardening family in Kyushu, Japan, also has strong roots in Illinois, earning his Bachelor and Master degrees in Landscape Architecture from the University of Illinois.

Read full story here …….. North American Japanese Garden Association – Four Chicago-Area Gardens Take Center Stage at 2014 Conference of the North American Japanese Garden Association.

2014 North American Japanese Garden conference


Recognizing the evolution of North American gardens in the Japanese style as places of both timeless beauty and social relevance, the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA) is launching its second biennial conference with the theme “New Pathways: The Role of the Japanese Garden for Society and Self.” 

The 2nd NAJGA conference will be held at the Chicago Botanic Garden from October 16 to 18, 2014. It will bring together Japanese garden specialists and devotees from across North America and the world to explore how Japanese gardens can better serve today’s audiences in terms of nurturing mental health and physical wellness, and contributing towards a more beautiful and humane society.

“The 2014 NAJGA conference promises to be a watershed event in transforming our perspective about Japanese gardens.  From thinking about ‘what’ a Japanese garden is, we shift to asking ‘why’ they should be part of progressive societies outside of Japan?” said NAJGA president Dr. Kendall Brown.

He adds that although Japanese gardens have been popular in the West for 150 years, the exploration of how these gardens can become a meaningful part of people’s daily lives is only beginning.

NAJGA executive director Diana Larowe notes that in Japan, the birthplace of these gardens, the public sector has taken the lead in developing contemporary gardens as civic spaces for healing. 

“For centuries, people have always known Japanese gardens to be places of natural beauty, harmony and tranquility,” she said. “We are now seeing how contemporary Japanese gardens are emerging as landscapes that may have special significance in promoting health and wellness.”

The 2014 conference keynote speaker, acclaimed Japanese garden designer Hoichi Kurisu, exemplifies how this centuries-old garden art form is finding this new niche in North America.  “Kurisu-san believes in tapping into the restorative power of nature through the medium of the Japanese garden and he has applied this philosophy to the many gardens he has designed in North America and abroad,” she adds.

One of Kurisu’s most noteworthy oeuvres to date is helping transform a struggling hospital in Lebanon, Oregon into a thriving regional medical center through the addition of a healing garden in the premises.

As part of the pre-conference activities in Chicago, participants will visit a Kurisu-designed Japanese garden at the Rosecrance Behavior Center in Rockford, Illinois that is being utilized for various therapeutic purposes including treatment for addiction behavior, post-traumatic stress disorder and cancer therapy.  Other pre- and post-conference activities on the agenda is a visit to the Anderson Japanese Garden in Rockford, Illinois, a highlights tour of Chicago and Frank Lloyd Wrights architectural legacy to the city, and a professional skills development workshop.

Aside from health and wellness perspective, the conference will also explore other emerging topics in Japanese gardening such as gardening in extreme environments, new garden design materials, lighting in the Japanese garden and gardens connected with Japanese-American history.

Go to for more details.


Chishaku-in: a Kyoto garden of deep repose

Original text and photo – STEPHEN MANSFIELD

As a garden, Chishaku-in has many of the attributes of Japanese landscape design that should attract a good number of visitors. The fact that the temple in Kyoto’s southeastern Higashikawara-cho district is rarely crowded, and that scant attention is paid to it in guidebooks, is therefore somewhat surprising.

The site now occupied by Chishaku-in was once home to Shoun-ji, a temple the famed warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi built for his son, Sutemaru, who died in 1591 at the age of 3.

There is a touch of irony in the fact that another generalissimo, Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543-1616) — the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa Shogunate (1603-1867) — placed Shoun-ji in the hands of the priests of Chishaku-in, a temple in Kii Province (present-day Wakayama Prefecture) that was torched to the ground by Hideyoshi’s forces in 1585. Being the headquarters of the Chizan school of Shingon Buddhism, Shoun-ji carries a certain authority.



Some garden scholars have credited the original design of Chishaku-in to the revered personage of Sen-no-Rikyu (1522-91), but this claim is unsupported. Herbert Plutschow’s excellent book on the tea master, “Rediscovering Rikyu,” for example, makes no mention of any time he spent working on the garden. We do know, though, that Rikyu much admired the arrangement and doubtless enjoyed moments of quiet reflection in this pond-viewing garden, which was rebuilt in 1674 under the supervision of the priest Sosei.


With Kyoto fortunate to have been exempted from Allied bombing raids in World War II, many of the area’s gardens have survived. However, yet another irony attending Chishaku-in is the fact that both the temple buildings and garden were ravaged by fire in 1947 — two years after the war. Nonetheless, its outline and stone arrangements — the essential schemata for most Japanese landscapes — appear to have survived intact.

Read more via Chishaku-in: a Kyoto garden of deep repose | The Japan Times.

A garden haven for people with memory loss

AURORA – A garden that will be open to the public but designed for those affected by memory loss is being donated to the Aurora Public Library through the library’s foundation by the family of Dr. M. Jack and Elaine Parker, formerly of Aurora.

Elaine Parker was a noted educator who was suffering from dementia when she died in June, 2012. Jack Parker, who died in March, 2012, was her husband for 60 years and took on the role of providing 24-hour care for Elaine in her later years so they could remain living independently in their home.

“As a culture, we’ve learned to accommodate physical disabilities with elements like curb ramps, elevators and text-to-speech capability on computers, but we can’t seem to bring ourselves to make environmental improvements to accommodate dementia,” said the couple’s elder son, J. Scott Parker of Portland, Oregon.

The Parker Garden, which will be located on the west side of the Richard and Gina Santori Public Library of Aurora (currently under construction on the southwest corner of River and Benton streets), will offer a safe haven for people with memory loss and their caregivers. The library is scheduled to open in May, 2015.

via ‘Parker Garden’ latest philanthropic addition to Santori Library –

A world-class Japanese Garden in the Irish homeland

The Irish National Stud’s Japanese Gardens were created between 1906 and 1910 by Colonel William Hall Walker, a wealthy Scotsman from a famous brewing family with the help of Japanese master horticulturist Tassa Eida and his son Minoru. Through trees, plants, flowers, lawns, rocks and water, the gardens aim to symbolize the “Life of Man”. That plan was executed to perfection and Eida’s legacy is now admired by the 150,000 visitors who soak up the peace of the gardens every year.Very much representative of JIrish National StudVery much representative of Japanese gardens from the early 20th century, Eida’s work traces the journey of a soul from oblivion to eternity and portrays the human experience of its embodiment as it journeys by paths of its own choice through life. Birth, childhood, marriage, parenthood, old age, death and the afterlife are all brought to mind as the gardens, a seamless mixture of Eastern and Western cultures, are explored.

Eida left Tully in 1912 with 34 years passing before the gardens gained their next supervisor, Patrick Doyle, who remained in charge until 1972, since when the gardens have continued to flourish and surge in popularity.

Among the most loved of all Ireland’s gardens, the Irish National Stud’s Japanese Gardens are a veritable feast for the eye and ear with the sight and sound of trickling streams perfectly complementing the greenery and vivid colours that provide a tranquil backdrop to the beautiful Bridge of Life and Tea House.

Irish National Stud

The Japanese Gardens are a place for contemplation, meditation and reflection. Since they were first enjoyed more than 100 years ago, they have never failed to please.

via Visitors – Attractions – Europe’s Finest Japanese Gardens – Irish National Stud.

Meet Shunmyo Masuno, Zen priest and modern garden designer

Masuno gardenZen Buddhist priest Shunmyo Masuno of the Kenkoh-ji Temple in Yokohama is the man behind some of the most breathtaking modern gardens  in urban Japan. He is also the last active garden designer in his order.

Video: The Zen Gardens of Shunmyo Masuno

Masuno is bringing the spirit of the traditional Japanese garden into the hectic world of the modern Japanese.

Masuno: “The fact that time is moving faster means that it is getting more and more difficult for people to take control of time, or even just to take time off and relax. And it is precisely this dilemma which led to the demand for gardens today to be sanctuaries of contemplation, where one feels embraced by nature. In essence, gardens which provide people with peace of mind, a sense of stability and a feeling of contentment. It’s no longer enough to merely provide a green zone here, or an occasional floral embellishment to a skyscraper there. What we need today are gardens that can reach deep into people’s hearts.”  

He brings traditional garden design precepts into the scope of the modern landscape architect.

Masuno: “Fundamental to Japanese garden design is the belief that all things in nature, be they stones or mountains have life and we must honor these lives that exist beyond ourselves so every single, independent characteristic of the thing considered must be discovered, brought out and reawakened to life. A landscape architect must attempt to identify this special character of a given object and honor its worthiness by assigning the exactly appropriate role to play, so in a Japanese garden, crooked or curved trees are viewed as equally valid, as are stones which symbolize movement. We honor the heart of the natural object.” 

Garden-making for Masuno is an intensely personal exercise.

Masuno: “There is a Zen proverb that says if a poisonous snake drinks water, it is changed to poison. If a cow drinks water, it is changed to milk. That means that it is up to me whether the same water I drink is changed into poison or into milk. If my heart is not addressed, I can’t just create beautiful gardens full of spirituality. Therefore, such gardens are also a mirror of myself. They are myself.”