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.
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.
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.
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.
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 JVery 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.
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.
Zen 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.
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.”
During their World War II internment, Japanese Americans created gardens to improve their prison-like surroundings, using whatever materials they could find.
Manzanar National Historic Site in California was established to protect and interpret historical and cultural resources associated with the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. The site recently completed preservation work at two of its dozens of Japanese gardens with the help of US and Japanese volunteers . Both the Block 12 Mess Hall Garden and the Arai Family Fish Pond in Block 33 provide visitors with a glimpse of how some of the 11,000 Japanese Americans coped with their confinement during World War II. Visitors can see both gardens via short walks from the auto tour road.
Like other gardens at Manzanar, the Block 12 mess hall garden illustrates many traditional characteristics of Japanese gardens, with features representing a mountain, a stream, waterfalls and cascades, and crane and tortoise rocks. The Arai pond featured a stream, rock borders, three islands, a fish tunnel, and even water lilies. It was a “place of beauty and serenity,” according to Madelon Arai Yamamoto, the daughter of the pond’s creator.
Garden preservation and restoration is an important part of meeting the Site’s mission, but most of the gardens at Manzanar had been long abandoned, buried, and forgotten. Preservation work included removal of invasive vegetation, archeological excavation and mapping, cleaning and repair of damaged concrete, resetting of displaced rocks, and, in some cases, reconstruction of damaged or missing features.
In the summer of 2013, disastrous flooding reversed much of the stabilization work that had already been completed. Manzanar’s historic preservation specialist John Kepford noted that the labor contributed by volunteers was critical to overcoming not only the slow deterioration and burial caused by decades of abandonment, but also the rapid damage caused by the recent floods. Thanks to the volunteers, Kepford remarked, “the gardens can now help tell the story of the resiliency of Japanese Americans during their internment.”
According to Professor Kendall Brown of California State University Long Beach, the Japanese gardens at Manzanar are noteworthy because they were created during World War II, when resources were scarce and when anti-Japanese sentiment was at an all-time high. Even more remarkable, Dr. Brown says, is that “this is garden art of a very high order … Arguably this is the most interesting, compelling collection of Japanese gardens in America.”
Ten Japanese gardens at Manzanar have been documented and stabilized to date, but more await archeological investigation and preservation. Volunteer opportunities are posted on the Manzanar website as they become available.
The Manzanar Visitor Center features extensive exhibits, audio-visual programs, and a bookstore. It is open 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. Manzanar is located at 5001 Hwy. 395, six miles south of Independence, California. For more information, please call (760) 878-2194 or visit our website at HYPERLINK “http://www.nps.gov/manz”nps.gov/manz.
Versailles head gardener and TV host Baraton reflects on his three decades tending some of the most beautiful gardens in the world.
Simply but thoroughly, the author narrates the history of Versailles, from the days of Henry IV sneaking off to these woods to hunt to the days of the revolution. The most surprising element is the speed with which an estate of such size was built. The gardens, on the other hand, sprung from the guiding hand of Louis XIV’s gardener, André Le Nôtre, but then took their own sweet time to flourish. Baraton importantly points out how people rush about on the Rue de Rivoli and other parts of Paris but then slow to a snail’s pace when they walk through gardens at Versailles. Gardens reach into your soul, writes the author, whether you plant them, harvest them or simply enjoy them. The author philosophizes about the ability of gardens to provide space for deep reflection, and he writes poetically about the beautiful power of the grounds he tends. He also provides some practical advice—e.g., the best places for a lovers’ tryst. The building and maintenance of the world’s grandest garden took the efforts and perspectives of a wide variety of great royal gardeners, including Claude Mollet and Jacques Boyceau, as well as builders like Louis Le Vau and Charles Le Brun. In addition to paying tribute to the work of these innovators, Baraton also looks at the various films that have been filmed on the grounds, storms that have battered them, and the effects of each season on the flora and fauna.
The descriptions of the various sites on the grounds could only come from a man fortunate enough to have lived on and loved the site for almost 40 years.