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 http://najga.org/events for more details.