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


Top 10 Japanese Gardens in N. America (2013)

Sukiya Living (The Journal of Japanese Gardening) published the latest list of the top 10  Japanese gardens in North America in its September / October 2013 issue.  The list is based on a survey of Japanese garden specialists and covers the more than 300 public Japanese gardens in the continent.

10.  Tillman Water Plant Japanese Garden (Van Nuys, California) Located in the premises of the Donald C. Tillman Reclamation Plant, the Suiho En ”garden of water and fragrance” is a 6½ acre authentic Japanese garden fashioned after stroll gardens constructed during the 18th and 19th centuries for Japanese feudal lords. It incorporates three classical designs: a dry kare sansui, a wet garden with promenade, and an authentic tea ceremony garden incorporating a 4.5 tatami mat tea room.

Photo from http://lacreekfreak.wordpress.com/

9. Missouri Botanical Garden (St. Louis, Missouri) Seiwa-en, “garden of pure, clear harmony and peace,” is located on 14 acres at the Missouri Botanical Garden, one of the oldest botanical gardens in the nation. The Japanese Garden, dedicated in 1977, was designed by the late Professor Koichi Kawana, a native of Japan and lecturer on environmental design and landscape architecture at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden

8. Carleton College Japanese Garden (Northfield, Minnesota) The Jo Ryo En ”garden of quiet listening” was designed and constructed by  Dr. David Slawson between 1974 and 1976. Dr. Slawson, who received his doctorate in Japanese literature and aesthetics from Indiana University, studied for two years in Kyoto with Kinsaku Nakane, one of Japan’s foremost garden designers.

Photo by Margit Johnson

7. Seattle Japanese Garden Located within the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, Washington, this is a 3 1/2 acre formal garden designed and constructed in 1960 under the supervision of world-renowned Japanese garden designer Juki Iida who has designed more than 1,000 gardens around the world.

Photo from Seattle.gov Parks and Recreation

6. Bloedel Reserve Japanese Garden (Bainbridge Island, Washington) Located within a 150-acre arboretum and national reserve, this garden was designed by Seattle landscape designer and nurseryman Fujitaro Kubota. Professor Koichi Kawana, who teaches landscape architecture at the University of California, also designed a dry garden, which evokes meditative moods with its elements of stone and sand.

Photo from Flickr.com

5. Garvan Woodland Gardens (Hot Springs, Arkansas) The “garden of the pine wind” is a four-acre, majestic rock and stream garden.  This garden was also designed by Dr. David Slawson and features approximately 300 varieties of Asian ornamental plants, including 60 types of Japanese and other Asian maples and Oriental dogwoods. Key features include the Sunrise Bridge, the Joy Manning Scott Bridge of the Full Moon, three major cascades, a 12-foot waterfall, two springs, four pools, and a half-acre koi pond.

Photo from Arkansas.com

4. UBC’s Nitobe Garden (Vancouver, British Columbia) This is a traditional Japanese tea and stroll Garden located on the grounds of the University of British Columbia. It was created out of two-and-a-half acres (one hectare) of pristine forest by landscape architects and gardeners recommended by the government of Japan. The garden honours Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933), a prominent Japanese agricultural economist, author, educator, diplomat and politician.

Check out my visit to this Japanese garden here.

Photo: Grace R Morrissey

3. Shofuso Japanese House and Garden (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) This traditional-style house and nationally-ranked garden reflects the history of Japanese culture in Philadelphia from the 1876 Centennial Exposition to the installation of its contemporary paintings in 2007.  A viewing garden with koi pond and island, a tea garden, and a courtyard garden comprise the 17th century-style Japanese walled and fenced garden of this historic site.

Photo from dguides.com

2. Anderson Gardens (Rockford, Illinois) The second best garden for 2013 was built in the late 70′s around a naturally-occurring spring-fed pond on the estate of John Anderson, whose lifelong fascination with Japan started after college. Garden designer Hoichi Kurisu spent many years studying under Kenzo Ogata, one of Japan’s most renowned landscape designer. The strolling pond garden includes several waterfalls and ponds, streams, rock formations, winding paths, and a tea house and guest house.  The “garden of reflection” is a contemporary Japanese-inspired garden with bronze angel sculptures.

Photo from jsonline.com

 1. Portland Japanese Garden (Portland, Oregon) Adjudged once more as North America’s best Japanese garden, this is a garden museum featuring five styles of Japanese garden (strolling pond, natural garden, tea garden, sand-and-stone garden/flat garden) on a 5.5-acre hilly area overlooking downtown Portland. Designed by Prof. Takuma Tono of Tokyo Agricultural University, it is celebrating its 50th year anniversary this year and has expansion plans in place in the next few years, including the creation of a public tea house and a center for Japanese gardening education.

Check out the “Festival of Souls” at the garden here.

During the recent O-bon festival at the Portland Japanese Garden. Photo: Grace R Morrissey


GARDEN VISIT: Nitobe, Vancouver BC

The Nitobe Memorial Garden — one of the top five most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan — is best explored in a counter-clockwise fashion that follows the way of the moon, rather than the sun.  It is said that one can walk through it as if making a symbolic journey through life — as life is experienced in the span of a day, or a week, or a year or a lifetime: beginning, growing, changing and ending. Photos: GRM