“In order to comprehend the beauty of a Japanese garden, it is necessary to understand — or at least to learn to understand — the beauty of stones — not quarried but of stones shaped by nature only.”
Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904)
The World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition that opened in New Orleans December 16, 1884, introduced author Lafcadio Hearn to Japanese culture. He was so smitten that he moved to Japan, taught and married there eventually becoming a citizen of Japan. This kind of love story gets repeated countless times right up to our modern era, but not always with the same ending.
In 1966 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin John R. Anderson visited a friend of his father’s Mr. Akira Ohno, a trip that began Anderson’s life-long appreciation for Japanese gardens. In 1978, on a business trip to Portland, Oregon, he visited and admired the Japanese garden there. He asked the name of the designer, and was told Hoichi Kurisu. By the fall of 1978, Kurisu was at work constructing a Japanese garden at the Anderson home, a new residence for him and wife Linda and their growing family in Rockford, Illinois.
Over time, the garden expanded to its present 14 acres. In 1998, Mr. and Mrs. Anderson donated the gardens to a nonprofit organization.
In 1992, John Anderson was recognized for his outstanding work in promoting international friendship and mutual understanding between the United States and Japan with a commemorative silver cup from the Japanese government. In 2012 the Emperor of Japan bestowed The Order of the Rising Sun with Gold and Silver Rays on Anderson.
In commenting on the presentation, the Consulate General of Japan in Chicago noted: “This award, which is one of highest honors given to foreign nationals, commends Mr. Anderson’s lifelong contributions to the promotion of Japanese culture in the US and Japan-US friendship through the construction of Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Illinois, and the hosting of various cultural events such as tea ceremonies and ikebana demonstrations, as well as promoting Japanese language education through regular classes open to the public. Anderson Japanese Gardens is renowned for its authenticity, and is widely considered to be the best Japanese garden in North America.”
Educational programs at the Anderson Gardens cover the language, arts, and culture of Japan, and since 1995, the gardens have hosted Rockford’s Annual Festival Celebration of Japanese Arts, which includes formal tea ceremonies, ikebana and calligraphy demonstrations, and bonsai displays. A display of tokonoma scrolls is planned for August 23-25.
Hoichi Kurisu is the designer responsible for the beauty found at Anderson Japanese Gardens. Kurisu graduated from Tokyo’s Waseda University and spent many years in Tokyo, Japan studying under Mr. Kenzo Ogata, one of Japan’s renowned landscape designers.
Kurisu came to the United States in 1968 to accept the position of Director of Landscaping at the Japanese garden complex in Washington Park Gardens, Portland, Oregon. He was the second of nine trained gardeners to work at Portland carrying out the designs of Professor Takuma Tono. In 1972 he founded Kurisu International, Inc. with offices in Oregon and Florida. Other major projects include Roji-en, the George and Harriet Cornell Japanese Garden at the Morikami Museum in Delray Beach, Florida; Lebanon Community Hospital in Oregon; and Serenity Gardens at Rosecrance in Rockford.
For more on Hoichi Kurisu, view his web site at http://www.kurisu.com/ and be sure to check out the portfolio of completed work and videos of work in progress.
Kurisu continues to this day to ensure continuous improvement of the grounds and design of Anderson Japanese Gardens. One person glad for the continuing education in Japanese garden design is Tim Gruner, curator of the Anderson Japanese Gardens for the past 25 years.
Gruner is a 1987 graduate of the Kishwaukee College Horticulture program. His early interest in public gardens included working at Kishwaukee College’s AAS Trial Gardens and a one year internship at Chicago Botanic Garden. He also volunteered for nine weeks at the Robert and Catherine Wilson Tropical Botanical Gardens in Costa Rica.
An in-demand speaker on the subject, Gruner brings warmth and humor along with his encyclopedic knowledge.
This spring, he gave a photo-illustrated lecture “Patterns and Rhythms in Nature that Inspire Japanese Gardens and the Connection between Garden and Architecture” in which he illustrated Kurisu’s genius for integrating the geometric, man-made lines of structures and pathways with the asymmetrical, curving, organic forms most often found in nature. There is a restful green palette. There is an appeal to all senses: the sound of water falling or flowing, the crunch of gravel on the path underfoot, the clack of bamboo moving in a wind. Such a garden also acknowledges that nature is ever-changing with the seasons and years.
Recently, Gruner wrote about Anderson Japanese Gardens for the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA).
“Much of what guides Japanese garden design is derived from patterns and rhythms found in nature; the general pattern formed by trees growing along streams and on slopes, the nature of a stream cascading down a mountain or winding through a gentle meadow, the gradual transition of the seasons marked by ephemeral blooms,” Gruner wrote.
“At their best, Japanese gardens can induce a positive emotional response felt by the human viewer that one might experience in a place of natural beauty. A sense of peace, calm, tranquility, an opportunity for fresh clear thought, awe of nature’s creativity and its ability to rejuvenate are some of the things that can occur in a garden space that might exist in the middle of a busy city or in one’s own back yard,” Gruner said.
“It can be said that in traditional Japanese culture, nature and humanity were considered part of the same thing. In a Japanese garden, this connection can be viewed in a simple way. Nature’s influence can be seen as the organic component of the garden with its natural shapes and curvilinear lines, while humanity’s influence can be seen as the geometric component based primarily on the right angles of its architecture and cultivated fields.”
“Together nature’s patterns and rhythms are carefully combined with humanity’s architecture to form a Japanese garden. In essence, the garden and its architecture come together to form one space.
“While the architecture is geometric in nature, it is composed of natural materials such as clean grained unpainted wood, stucco the color of clay earth, stone under posts and as foundations, and bamboo fences and gates,” Gruner said.
“Nature flows into the architecture. Conversely, architecture flows into nature via parallel lines and materials that project from architecture into the landscape. A two-way osmosis occurs where the architecture absorbs aspects of nature and the garden absorbs aspects of the architecture for a more or less seamless flow from one to the other.”
Tim Gruner joined the Board of Directors of the North American Japanese Garden Association in 2011.
The Anderson Japanese Gardens mission statement from their web site:
“In our hectic and stressful world, Anderson Japanese Gardens opens minds to a different culture while offering guests a place of peace and tranquility where they will find healing, renewal, inspiration, and a re-energized soul.”
Core values espoused by the non-profit:
“We are an authentic Japanese Garden maintained by the highest of standards that touches the soul of our guests. With grace, elegance, and gentle awareness we exemplify the Japanese cultural heritage of respectful humility in service to people of all cultures.”
Anderson Japanese Gardens is located 90 miles west of Chicago in Rockford, Illinois. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $6 for students, and free for children 5 years of age and under. The garden’s primary season is May 1 to October 31. Hours are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information and maps, consult the Anderson Japanese Gardens’ web site.
Photos not otherwise credited in this blog are by K.T. Cannon-Eger. Click on any image for a full size view.