In the early 1970s, my husband and I lived in San Francisco before moving to Hawaii. We used to walk all over the city, sometimes hopping on a bus, streetcar or cable car.
Golden Gate Park was a favorite for exhibits at the DeYoung, competitions at the Hall of Flowers, and peaceful respite with tea at the Japanese garden. Coming back to the city in 2012 was a wonderful time to visit with much missed friends. We enjoyed a progressive dinner in Little Italy with appetizers, main course, and coffee with dessert in three different places.
And we couldn’t wait to see the new (to us) additions to the San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden.
The South Gare, originally from the Japan exhibit at the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco, was partially rebuilt in the 1980s [photo by Bill F. Eger]
“Originally created as a ‘Japanese Village’ exhibit for the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, the site originally spanned about one acre and showcased a Japanese style garden,” according to the gardens website http://japaneseteagardensf.com/
“When the fair closed, Japanese landscape architect Makoto Hagiwara and [park] superintendent John McLaren reached a gentleman’s agreement, allowing Mr. Hagiwara to create and maintain a permanent Japanese style garden as a gift for posterity.”
The Californi fair came to be because Michael H. deYoung was a Presidential appointee to the 1893 fair in Chicago — the World’s Columbian Exposition — and he saw the benefits to his home state. Soon, plans were underway to hold a six-month exhibition in Golden Gate Park from late January to early July 1894.
The San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden is the only ethnological display still in existence from that fair. And Makoto Hagiwara poured his talents and personal wealth into expanding its gardens to five acres.
real ducks mingle with metal cranes in a pond [photo by Bill F. Eger]
Makoto died in 1925 and care of the garden passed to his daughter Takano Hagiwara. With the outbreak of World War II and the relocation and incarceration of most Japanese from the West Coast, the Hagiwara family was removed from their beloved garden, which was renamed “The Oriental Tea Garden.” Japanese structures and a Shinto shrine were demolished. Chinese women replaced Japanese tea servers.
waterfall, stones and lantern reflect in a pond below the iconic tea house [photo by Bill F. Eger]
Following the war, in the 1950s, a period of reconciliation ensued. The tea house and gift shop were redesigned by Nagao Sakurai. Japanese elements returned to the garden. The name was restored. And most of the Hagiwara family’s dwarf trees returned.
The street in front of the garden entry was renamed Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive and in 1974 artist Ruth Asawa donated a plaque honoring the Hagiwara family’s dedication.
seasonal color comes with summer’s iris [photo by K.T. Cannon-Eger]
traditional pathways blend with more modern walkways [photo by K.T. Cannon-Eger]
Congratulations to the management on improving the quality of items offered at the gift shop. And a special tip of the hat to the Japanese and Japanese-Americans serving at the tea house. The tea was very tasty.
For more on the history of the San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden, please refer to the garden’s web site mentioned above, and to the web site of Eric Sumiharu Hagiwara-Nagata http://www.hanascape.com/
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Placement of the stones in the Japanese garden at the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island was designed by Kaneji Domoto, who later oversaw moving the stones to UC Berkeley for the Japanese pond in the botanic garden. (Photo reproduced courtesy of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles, donated by Francis and Gloria Massimo) The Exposition was held in 1939, the same year Domoto worked on another garden in New York for an exposition there.
[the following quoted information on Kaneji Domoto is excerpted from the Taliesin Fellows newsletter #12 July 15, 2003]
Kaneji (known as Kan) Domoto was born on November 5, 1913 in Oakland California, the eighth of eleven children. At the family nursery in Hayward, he learned to propagate camellias and peonies for which his nurseryman father had become famous.
“Domoto attended Stanford University studying science and physics, and played on the soccer team. He also studied landscape architecture at the University of California in Berkeley.
“He apprenticed at Taliesin in 1939 and began his career as architect and landscape architect in California. He came east to assist in the creation of the Japanese exhibit for the New York World’s Fair following work for the San Francisco Treasure Island Fair.”
With the advent of World War II, Domoto was interned with his wife, Sally Fujii, at Granada War Relocation Center [also known as Camp Amache] Colorado. At the end of the war, they moved to New Rochelle, NY with their children, Mikiko and Anyo. Later two more children, Katherine and Kristine, were born in New Rochelle, NY, where he made his home for many years. Domoto died January 27, 2002.
“Domoto had a long and productive career in architecture and landscape design. He designed several homes at the famous Frank Lloyd Wright Usonia homes development at Pleasantville, NY. He designed landscapes for residential and commercial projects, mainly in Westchester County but also in surrounding northeastern states. He became noted for his use of huge stones and rocks in his well-known Japanese-American gardens at the New York World’s Fair Japanese Exhibit, in Berkeley, California, Jackson Park, Chicago, and Columbus, Ohio.
“His career produced more than 700 projects, and Domoto received many awards for his work, including the Frederick Law Olmsted Award for his Jackson Park design. He donated many hours to local and national civic associations throughout his career.
“His wife, Sally, died in 1978, and his second wife, Sylvia Schur, survives him [at the time this was written in 2003]. He leaves 4 children, 6 grandchildren and 1 great granddaughter, 2 sisters, and a number of nieces and nephews.”
The Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island celebrated the opening of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay (Bay Bridge) Bridge in 1936, as well as the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937.
Domoto also published a book on bonsai. His brother Toichi Domoto remained in California with the nursery business and is featured in oral histories in the UC-Berkeley collection on the growth of the California landscape industry.
The area of the Japanese pond in the botanic garden on campus is known as Strawberry Creek. According to director Paul Licht, the area was a dairy before becoming a pond.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)
Work on the Japanese garden began in November 1941. Immediately after Pearl Harbor, the stones and lantern were moved to a warehouse for safekeeping and the garden was not completed until after the war ended.
Elaine Sedlack shows the donated gate at the UC-Berkeley pathway to the Japanese pond. Sedlack laid the pathway stones that go through the gate built by Paul Biscoe. Retaining wall stone masonry was by Shigeru Namba.
Curator Elaine Sedlack has gardened since 1969 and has been with the Asian collection since 1984. She is active in international plant societies including maples and rhododendrons. Sedlack noted that a flood in 1965 brought a lot of mud down the slope and that the lantern was damaged at that time.
Over the years, many improvements and additions have been made. Shigeru Namba, a stone mason from Osaka living in California, built retaining walls around the gate built by woodworker Paul Biscoe. Namba, his wife Sakiko and their two year old daughter drove in from Woodside to set a lantern obtained in Japan by landscape architect Ron Herman.
The gate and the lantern honor the involvement of two stalwarts of Berkeley’s Japanese-American community: artist Chiura Obata and ikebana teacher Haruko Obata, his wife.
a dedication plaque inside the gate honors two long-time garden activists (photo by Bill F. Eger)
The lantern is dedicated to Haruko Obata for her contributions to the art of flower arranging. As early as the 1915 exposition in San Francisco, her work was important enough to warrant an entire room for display.
“To my thinking there is no great art without Nature.” Chiura Obata (1885-1975)
Chiura Obata (1885-1975) was born in Japan and came to California in 1903. A master in the traditional Japanese sumi ink and brush technique, he also excelled in art education and taught at the University of California, Berkeley from 1932 until 1954, except for the years of internment. Many works were published in the book Obata’s Yosemite (Yosemite Association, 1993).
In 1932, Obata began his teaching career at the University of California. For watercolor painting, he gave his students the traditional Japanese materials: the brush, ink of pine soot, colors from vegetable and mineral pigments, and silk and paper as media. In 1938, Time magazine called Obata “one of the most accomplished artists in the West.” Known for defining the nihonga style of painting—a technique that blends Japanese traditional ink painting with Western methods—Obata influenced a generation of artists who were part of the California Watercolor Movement in the 1920s and ’30s.
His popular classes were interrupted by evacuation first to Tanforan and then to Topaz internment camp in Utah in 1942. Even under these conditions, Obata painted prolifically and organized art schools in the camps with as many as 650 students from the internees.
His granddaughter Kimi Kodani Hill notes, “His experience of knowing nature consoled and inspired him,” Hill says. “He always told his students at the camp ‘don’t just look at the dust on the ground, look beyond.’” Hill is editor of Topaz Moon: Chiura Obata’s Art of the Internment, with an introduction by Timothy Anglin Burgard and foreword by Ruth Asawa.
Smithsonian exhibit, A More Perfect Union: Japanese Americans and the U.S. Constitution: “All the families did some gardening about their dwellings in order to beautify them. Everything had to be brought in from the mountains, rocks, trees and shrubs.” Chiura Obata about the garden outside the family quarters at Topaz; illustration used with permission from the family.
He returned to the University of California in 1945 and resumed his faculty position. Former University President Gordon Sproul and several students had kept many artworks safe during the war and returned them to Obata. He traveled extensively as he lectured, sketched, painted, and gave one-man exhibitions at major galleries and museums.
In 1965, Obata received the Kungoto Zuihosho Medal, an Imperial honor and accolade, for promoting goodwill and understanding between the United States and Japan.
From 1954 to 1972 Obata was a tour director, taking Americans on regular visits to renowned gardens, temples, and art treasures in Japan. Students continued to gather at his Berkeley home on Ellsworth Avenue to study painting.
Their studio on Telegraph Avenue was voted a landmark in 2009 by the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission.
“As most of us in California know, the need for uncovering Japanese-American history—the reason it is hidden in our communities—is that the U.S. government made a heinous error in the anxious time at the onset of World War II,” social historian Donna Graves told The Berkeley Daily Planet. Graves nominated the Obata Studio for landmark status, “Federal policy dictated that people of Japanese descent, whether they were American citizens or not, were forced to leave their communities, homes, and businesses in the spring of 1942 and incarcerated in remote concentration camps behind barbed wire and under armed guard. This act, which was not perpetrated on people of German or Italian descent, irreparably harmed communities that Japanese-Americans had built in cities like Berkeley and across California. This is a story we Americans must remember, and it is part of what inspired the landmark application.”
Graves heads Preserving California’s Japantowns, a statewide survey of pre-World War II Japanese-American historic resources. Funded by the California State Libraries, the project has identified hundreds of locations in nearly 50 cities from San Diego to Marysville.
For more information on the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley, to plan a visit there, or to find out about classes and plant sales, visit the web site http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/
To see any photo in this article full size, click on the image. Unless otherwise noted in captions, photos are by K.T. Cannon-Eger. Please be nice and do not copy without permission and attribution.
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[NOTE: The following article was prepared in mid-2012. Since that time, this garden has a new name: “The Garden of the Phoenix.” To learn more about activities planned for the 120th anniversary celebration March 31, 2013 please go to the garden friends’ group’s web site: http://gardenofthephoenix.org/ ]
From the first “Great Exposition” of 1851 in London, more than 90 world’s fairs have been held — most of them in Europe, the United States, Canada and Japan.
Though the themes may have differed, the motives were strikingly similar: “to commemorate a historic event, to educate and entertain, to sell new products, to peer into the future, and, although it’s rare, to turn a profit for the sponsors,” as noted by Norman Bolotin and Christine Laing in their 2002 book The World’s Columbian Exposition: The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 published by University of Illinois Press.
To this day, we can enjoy remnants of those fairs: The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco dates back to an 1854 fair; the Japanese Friendship Garden in San Diego at Balboa Park dates from a tea pavilion at a 1915 fair. The present Osaka Garden had its beginning as Wooded Island in the 1893 World’s Columbia Exposition with additions following the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair: A Century of Progress.
In looking at all the world’s fairs, Bolotin and Laing noted: “when it comes to pure scope, grandeur and far-reaching legacies, the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 outshines them all. Twenty-eight million visitors (in six months). Buildings stretching a third of a mile long. The world’s first Ferris Wheel — with cars the size of buses! The first amusement section ever at a fair. Replicas of a full-size battleship and Columbus’ three caravels. Architectural impact reaching into the new century.”
Looking southeast from the Illinois Building on the 1893 fair grounds, a bridge led to Wooded Island, a peaceful retreat for fairgoers amid 200 buildings constructed for the six-month fair. The present Osaka Garden site is in the wooded area to the left of the Ho-o-den buildings. photo from The World’s Columbian Exposition: The Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, the White City Artfolio
Wooded Island was at the center and provided respite from the bustle of the fair. On the north end, three buildings were constructed representing Japanese architecture from the 12th, 16th and 18th centuries. They were connected to form the shape of Ho-o, a mythical bird like the phoenix. Some suggest the phoenix was used as an emblem for the City of Chicago, reborn from the great fire of 1871.
To get an idea of where this park is located, take a look at Google maps:
The red pin marks an approximate location for Osaka Garden on Wooded Island in Jackson Park on the south side of the Museum of Science and Industry. It is easily reached by bus or car. (Google Maps)
In a history for the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference Parks Committee, Gary Ossewaarde wrote:
“The 1893 Ho-o-Den consisted of three structures joined by covered walkway to form the shape of the phoenix bird, which it did resemble from ground level). The beams and joinery were part of the beauty and ornament. Inside were artifacts and treasures from three periods of Japanese history-scrolls, vases, decorative screens, writing materials, and musical instruments. A major feature was the lanterns– both the elaborate stone ones and the paper lanterns at ceiling level. The elements and art were designed and crafted in Japan and brought over by steamer and train, along with carpenters, stone workers and gardeners. The construction itself was an activity that drew many visitors. A reporter wrote, ‘They move about serenely as if it were a pleasure to work’.
Another view of the Ho-o-den on Wooded Island at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. (Dream City: A Portfolio of Photographic Views of the World’s Columbian Exposition)
“The Japanese exhibit and pavilion also helped introduce Americans to Japanese culture, religion, arts, and architecture at a time (post-Meiji Restoration) when Japan was especially anxious to show the world its power, modernization, and accomplishments. Frank Lloyd Wright was but one of several architects and artists influenced by the Phoenix Pavilion, but the impact on him was arguably transformational leading not only to prairie houses but large structures such as the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, and it influenced his decorative arts. It’s not only the exterior look and visible (“unmasked”) structure with form following function, and combination of fine craftsmanship with simple, everyday materials, but also the interconnecting corridors and holistic flow of the “rooms” that influenced Wright and others.”
The Palace of Fine Arts for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition is now the Museum of Science and Industry. (photo by Bill F. Eger)
It remains a place of tranquility between the University of Chicago to the west and the Lake Michigan shore to the east, a baseball field, marina and golf course to the south and the Museum of Science and Industry to the north. The Museum of Science and Industry is the last remaining structure on the site of the 1893 fair. Built as the Palace of Fine Arts, it was of more substantial, fire-proof construction to protect the art.
The Ho-o-den was donated by the Japanese government at the close of the 1893 fair with the intention that it remain as a lasting memento. In 1933, for the Century of Progress World’s Fair, Chicago and the government of Japan constructed a traditional tea house on Chicago’s near/mid-south lakefront and also created a garden on Wooded Island’s northeast side and refurbished the Ho-o-den. The garden was designed by issei Taro Otsuka, a garden builder based in the Midwest. After that fair closed, a torii gate, the Nippon Tea House and lanterns from the Century of Progress were moved to Wooded Island in 1935.
The Noh Stage style pavilion will serve as a gathering spot for cultural displays and presentations. It is located on the same spot as the 1933 tea house. The waterfall offers several points from which to view cascading water. A flat rock crossing below the waterfall offers an even closer view. (photo by Bill F. Eger)
More work on the Japanese garden was done by George Shimoda and built with assistance from Japan. As it does today, the garden consisted of a double pond with islands, a cascading waterfall, stone walkway, flowering cherry trees, iris, lilies, a moon bridge, rock formations and stone lanterns.
The garden and buildings fell prey to public fears during World War II and several fires destroyed the buildings from 1941 to 1946. Gradually, the site became neglected and overgrown.
One rebirth began in 1973 with the formalizing of a Sister City relationship with Osaka, a relationship that went back to the 1950s. Also in 1973, Douglas C. Anderson began leading bird walks “in part to reclaim them for birders and the communities of Hyde Park, Woodlawn and South Shore. Gradually, thanks in good measure to Doug and to picnics/People in the Park events held by the Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference and Open Lands, citizens and birders returned, rediscovered Osaka Garden and demanded its restoration,” Ossewaarde wrote.
“Also, by 1974 Jackson Park had been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. During that decade, the Park District added new landscaping, stabilized the shoreline and either restored or reconstructed most of the original features.”
Pine, bridge and stones — all carefully placed — are reflected in the surface of the pond below the waterfall (behind and to the right of this point of view).
Another rebirth occurred in the 1980s when designer Kaneji Domoto was brought in. He was known for his work designing Japanese gardens at the 1939 world fairs at both Treasure Island in California and in New York. Nissei Domoto (1913-2002) worked at his parents’ Northern California nursery and later was interned at the Granada War Relocation Center during WWII. He studied at Berkeley and with Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin and had a 50+ year career as an architect and landscape designer. In 1974, he authored Bonasi and the Japanese garden. In 1983, Domoto received the Frederick Law Olmsted Award for his redesign of the Japanese garden at Jackson Park. George Cooley, formerly a JPAC officer and Hyde Park-Kenwood Community Conference officer, shepherded planning and secured grants including federal funds for the Garden restoration.
The designs of the 1970s and 1980s followed the original paths designed in 1893 to provide a stroll through the wooded area.
Text of the sign reads: “The Osaka Japanese Garden is a culturally authentic site, designed to create a feeling of peace and tranquility. Please stay on the paths and refrain from activities that will disrupt the special experience for other patrons. Your pets are welcome if they remain leashed and you pick up after them. Thank you for your cooperation.” (photo by Bill F. Eger)
The next phase was in 1992 and 1993 when the 20th anniversary of the Sister City relationship was celebrated and the Garden was renamed Osaka Japanese Garden (1993). In 1994-95 a new traditional formal gate and fence, were dedicated, funded by the City of Osaka and constructed entirely without nails and by hand using tongue and groove methods. A major historical study and report were produced in 1992.
Yet another rebirth began in 2000 with the direction of Sadafumi Uchiyama in creating a master plan for the garden. Uchiyama is a third generation Japanese gardener from southern Japan, His family’s involvement in the business dates back to the Meiji era (1909). He served as secretary of the International Association of Japanese Gardens from 1996 to 2000 and currently is garden curator of the Portland Japanese Garden and a member of the board of directors of the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA). Uchiyama received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in landscape architecture from the University of Illinois and is licensed in Oregon and California.
Initial work was completed in 2001 with steel retaining walls that line the banks of the pond, 100 tons of new boulders to shore up the edges of the pond and lagoon, and resetting of 120 tons of rock. Uchiyama picked jagged stones to redesign the “behavior of the water” in the waterfall. It flows into the pond at 600 gallons per minute.
Stone from Wisconsin was chosen to augment stone already in the garden.
“In 2008, after a hiatus in reestablishing a maintenance contract, and some less than satisfactory catch up pruning, parties including the City of Osaka Chicago Office, new contractors Clauss Brothers, expert pruning supervisor Bill Koons, CPD supervisor Karen Szyka and Department of Planning and Development took action. Main improvements included repair and cleaning of the torii gate, numerous cherries, replacement of a burr oak blown down in a storm, and most important replacement of the waterfall pump,” Ossewaarde wrote.
“Rededication on October 18, 2008 — the 35th anniversary of the Sister City partnership — included dedication by the Vice Mayor of Osaka and performances of a traditional sit down comedy–Kaishi and two Rakugo.”
This lantern may date back to the 1893 fair. (photo by Bill F. Eger)
“Everyone is aware that some shoring up will still be needed, and such gardens need permanent funding to make the intensive maintenance sustainable– and high level of security. Any permanent oversight group will have to look at which garden template is to be the goal, bearing in mind that a Japanese garden is meant to be changing and evanescent through the seasons and years– a never-ending work of art.
“The Garden’s theme, from 1893 to the present, is peace–between humans and nature, within people, with the spiritual realm, and between peoples. These themes are dear to the people of Osaka, Chicago, and the park’s neighboring communities. Long may this garden continue. As the Osaka Garden Committee of Sister Cities International wrote, ‘A garden develops over time….it is lasting. The same is true of the relationships between people, nations and cultures. Every gardener knows that quiet observation and attention to nature facilitate the success of a garden. Likewise, peace and understanding facilitate our future’.”
A waterproof box under a sign pointing the way to the entry bridge holds a history of Wooded Island and a guide to trees planted along the entire island’s paths.
On a personal note: This area of Chicago holds many memories for both my husband and me. Bill attended the University of Chicago in the mid-1950s. For me as a youngster living in Michigan, a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry was a really big deal. On this trip we spent the afternoon at the Museum until closing then were met by Osaka Garden docent Sonia Cooke.
It was a true delight to be in her presence wandering from the museum to the bridge leading to the garden and all through every part of this lovely jewel. Her lifetime knowledge of architecture and her current enthusiasm for the garden made our visit most enjoyable. Thank you Sonia. And thank you Robert Karr and William Florida of the Friends of the Japanese Garden for putting us together.
On the list for repair is this traditional arched bridge. (photo by Bill F. Eger)
Photos not otherwise credited in this blog are by K.T. Cannon-Eger. To see a full size image, click on any photo. Comments on this and other articles are welcome.
Frank Lloyd Wright and the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893
from Frank Lloyd Wright: A Biography by Meryle Secrest, published by The University of Chicago Press in 1992, pages 185-187
“Most writers agree that Wright’s interest in Japanese art probably began with the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, if not before — one recalls that, as a member of [Louis] Sullivan’s office, he would have had detailed knowledge of the advance planning — and, in particular, with one of the most popular exhibits, “The Ho-o-den,” a wooden temple of the Fujiwara Period, which the Japanese government erected on a small plot of ground set in an artificial lake. It was the first real introduction of Japanese art and architecture to the Middle West. In terms of the enormous interest in all things Japanese that had followed Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s trip to Japan in 1845, this discovery must be considered rather late. Bronzes, lacquers, fans, ceramics, and above all, prints had been flooding to Europe for twenty or thirty years, and artists as disparate as Redon and Steinlen had drawn new inspiration from these exotic and unfamiliar objects, seizing on the lessons they had to teach as a way to revitalize their imagery.
“Architects were just as susceptible and, after the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876, where Japanese pavilions had been built, and especially after publication of the first English-language book on Japanese architecture in 1886, they focused their attention on this aspect of Japanese culture. For Americans oriented toward the Arts and Crafts Movement, Japan offered ‘the example of an indigenous culture that embodied the organic quality they found in the middle ages,’ as Richard Guy Wilson wrote. He added, ‘Japanese motifs from curved gable ends to nearly wholesale replication of pagodas and torii gates, appeared in Arts and Crafts houses and bungalows from coast to coast.’ One believes Wright’s new interest to have been at least partly connected with the exhaustion White had noticed and remarked upon just before his employer left for Japan [in 1905]. It began the year before, White wrote, when Wright seemed very ‘petered out.’ However, in the last three months it had been impossible to get Wright to give his office any attention at all. In fact, Wright had been confined to bed for several weeks that winter with a case of tonsillitis that had made its way around the family. He returned from Japan in May sounding more like his old self. … His interest was entirely genuine and his visit would have a lasting influence.
“Several writers claim to see a more or less direct connection between the Japanese temple that Wright saw at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 and some of his own buildings. Vincent Scully demonstrated that the treatment of exteriors in the Willits house resembled those of the Ho-o-den, and Wright’s use of light-colored stucco panels edged with bands of darker wood seemed to suggest Japanese models as well. Scully published copies of the two floor plans to support his assertion that the house Wright designed for Willits was modeled almost exactly on that of the Japanese shrine. Another authority on Wright believed he had been most influenced by the Japanese print, and he had certainly begun to collect ukiyo-e (pictures of the floating world) sometime before his first visit to Japan, because photographs of his interiors showed such prints prominently displayed. He returned from Japan with over two hundred woodcuts by Hiroshige, considered the artist to have had the greatest influence on the West, and lent them to the Art Institute of Chicago a year later for the first ukiyo-e exhibition to be held in that museum. He bought them as investments, making no bones about being a dealer, and was so successful that he had a sizable collection of Japanese prints on hand all his life, to be cashed in when necessary, and some famous collectors as clients. But he was also passionately interested in the subject, almost obsessed, and would talk endlessly about the exquisite qualities of these prints, their serenity, simplicity, sense of the natural world and reduction to essentials. While on that first trip he wore native robes and took extended trips into the interior to collect his prints and porcelains. All of this indicates that the feelings aroused by Japanese art were wholehearted, yet there is a suggestion that, at some level, Wright was made acutely uncomfortable by that most conformist, ordered and rigidly circumscribed culture that he apparently admired for its spirituality.”
Wright returned to Japan for many months during the years 1916 to 1922 building not only the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo but also residences such as that for Aisaku Hayashi in 1917.
The Isamu Taniguchi Garden at Zilker Botanical Garden undoubtedly has the best view of Austin, Texas.
“The best view in town” according to one garden volunteer is from the Isamu Taniguchi Garden at the Zilker Botanical Garden. (photo by Bill F. Eger)
Many thanks are due Marion Alsup for her hospitality during our recent visit to the Taniguchi Garden at Zilker Botanical Garden in Austin, Texas. She greeted us at the train station, hung cool scarves around our necks, pressed bottles of water into our hands, plus she organized other garden personnel to meet us on site to answer additional questions . Alsup is vice president of the Austin Area Garden Center with responsibility for education and president of the Docents of Zilker Botanical Garden. She provided running commentary as we toured the winding trails.
Marian Alsup and Donna Friedenreich explain the Sister City relationship with Oita, which gave this stone gate to the garden. (photo by Bill F. Eger)
Three acres of rugged caliche hillside were transformed into a garden in the late 1960s by Isamu Taniguchi when he was 70 years old. Working for 18 months with occasional help from two parks and recreation department staffers, Taniguchi brought forth his gift to the city of Austin first in gratitude for the education that his two sons received there and second in an aspiration for peace.
lantern at top entry to the garden (photo by Bill F. Eger)
Taniguchi was born in Osaka, Japan. By the age of 16 he was raising bonsai. Migrating to Stockton, California in 1915, he farmed vegetables and fruit, returning to Japan only once to marry. During World War II, he and his family were interned in California and Texas. The family moved to the Rio Grande Valley at the end of the war to continue farming.
The Austin Area Garden Center and the Parks and Recreation Department could not turn down his generous offer of a garden. Working without a salary, a contract or a written plan, Taniguchi showed up for work, rain or shine, and created paths and streams, waterfalls and ponds, stone arrangements and plantings. The garden opened to the public in 1969. Taniguchi’s son Alan was Dean of the UT School of Architecture that year.
An essay by the elder Taniguchi – The Spirit of the Garden – describes not only the garden, but its builder:
“It has been my wish that through the construction of this visible garden, I might provide a symbol of universal peace. By observing the genuine peaceful nature of the garden, I believe that we should be able to knock on the door of our conscience, which once was obliged to be the slave of the animal nature in man rather than of the humanity which resides on the other side of his heart. It is my desire for the peace of mankind which has endowed this man of old age the physical health and stamina to pile stone upon stone without a day’s absence from the work for the last 18 months. It is my desire for peace of mankind which encouraged me in my voluntary labor to complete this long-dreamed gift for the city of Austin – this Oriental Garden. It is my wish that you have pleasant communion with the spirit of the garden.”
A small lantern and a hidden waterfall are part of the ponds that spell out “Austin.” (photo by Bill F. Eger)
Several garden ponds spell out the word “Austin.”
(photo by Bill F. Eger)
A rustic wooden log Togetsu-kyo or “Bridge to Walk Over the Moon” is nearby.
The final pond holds lotus Taniguchi raised from a seed from Japan and several varieties of water lily. There is a small central island in the shape of a boat with stepping stones through the pond in the shape of the boat’s chain and anchor.
The lowest pond features a boat-shaped island with wisteria, water lilies and lotus grown by Mr. Taniguchi. The story of the lotus seed — Journey of the Third Seed — is recounted as a children’s story by Jane Scoggins Bauld. (photo by Bill F. Eger)
Taniguchi continued to be involved with the garden leading occasional tours. He died in 1992.
Terry Ward, bonsai master and garden volunteer was present for the planting of many of the older trees in the garden. “I’ve helped train several garden staff in the art of pruning the trees.” New staffer Robert “Spider” DeVictoria came to the Taniguchi garden two and a half years ago from Brooklyn where he recalled falling in love with Japanese gardens at the botanical garden there.
Terry Ward enjoys the view from one of several comfortable benches throughout the garden. (photo by Bill F. Eger)
There are some outstanding maples and 21 kinds of bamboo in this 3-acre garden.
Thirty different garden clubs such as the Austin Pond Society, Texas Bamboo Society, the Austin Bonsai Society, the Austin Ikebana Study Group and other associations were organized into the non-profit Austin Area Garden Center in 1955. The Austin Park and Recreation Department owns the land. The Garden Center built the building, organizes volunteers, trains docents and staffs the gift shop, according to Donna Friedenreich, president of AAGC.
The Heart O’Texas Orchid Society donated a Japanese teahouse with a view of the Austin skyline beyond the bamboo. It is named Ten-Wa-Jin (Heaven, Harmony, Man) to convey once more Taniguchi’s message that man exists in harmony with nature and that a “garden is the embodiment of the peaceful coexistence of all the elements of nature.”
Ten Wa Jin teahouse at the Taniguchi Garden (photo by Bill F. Eger)
interior detail (photo by Bill F. Eger)
Local materials were used in tea house construction. The bamboo society helps every year. (photo by Bill F. Eger)
detail of roof (photo by Bill F. Eger)
view from the teahouse (photo by Bill F. Eger)
Stone gates flanking a newer slate path were a gift from Austin’s Sister City Oita, dedicated in November 1999 to mark the lasting friendship between the two cities.
English text is on the interior of the western gate.
“Once a year, a garden festival is held, usually during the last weekend in March. In 2013, the garden festival will be held the first weekend in April due to the Easter holiday,” said Marion Alsup, Docent Club president.
new gate at the north end (photo by Bill F. Eger)
The garden recently received a generous donation from the Orton family, which was used to reconstruct an existing path to meet ADA requirements, adding a new gate at the north end.
detail of new gate (photo by Bill F. Eger)
In addition, the garden receives welcome support from the Japan America Society of Greater Austin.
The city books weddings to be held in the garden and retains the revenue. Other events are partnered with AAGC and the proceeds are split. According to Friedenreich, one highly successful event funded repair of leaking ponds with Dragon Coat.
Each year, the garden hosts several hundred thousand people. Thousands of school children are reached by the Zilker Botanical Garden’s educational outreach programs and many school groups come for a visit. It was a delight to see the school children enjoying the waterfall, lanterns, niche in the stone tea house for tea cups, resident snake, and trimmed bushes all with respect and deepening calm.
One group of school children enjoyed the garden while we were there. (photo by Bill F. Eger)
For more information on how those of you in the Austin area can support the Zilker Botanical Garden, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 512-477-8672.
Taniguchi garden at the Zilker Botanical Garden may be found at:
Walter Imahara in the conference center surrounded by his father’s poetry carved on cypress wood. (photo by Bill F. Eger)
In retirement, some begin an “encore” career, others volunteer in a field of personal interest and others put time and effort into achieving a life-long dream. With his 54-acre botanical garden in St. Francisville, Louisiana, Walter Imahara is doing all three.
I first learned of Imahara from a family member who was his classmate in Baton Rouge at Istrouma High School in 1955.
“You’ve got to see what he’s doing,” our cousin insisted, when we told her we were coming to New Orleans. So, on Friday June 1, my husband Bill and I drove to Baton Rouge, picked her up and continued on to St. Francisville where we met a vibrant and fascinating family.
Imahara family history
Walter’s parents, James and Haruka Imahara were among several “Cajun Nikkei” – Japanese American settlers in the New Orleans area following release from a World War II internment camp in Arkansas. Born in 1903 in Watsonville, California, James was the son of immigrants from Hiroshima. In California the family owned farm land and raised strawberries, grapes, and fruit trees.
In 1941, James was in his Model T when he heard of the attack on Pearl Harbor, an event that altered the lives of every American. “My family lost everything, including the family home and farm we worked so hard for 20 years to improve only to get locked into concentration camps for more than three years,” he said in his later years.
As son Walter remembers it, “From May 1942 to 1945, we were relocated to Fresno Assembly Center in California and then to camps in Jerome and Rohwer, Arkansas. After the war, Pop moved his family of 10 to Louisiana to start a new life.”
James worked for a nursery business in New Orleans propagating houseplants and raising vegetables on the side that were sold Villa in St. at the French Market. Within a few years, he was hired by the owners of Afton Villa to restore gardens in St. Francisville and then moved to Baton Rouge to begin his own business.
In a book about their family, Family Dreams, Journey of the Sansei, author Diane Koos Gentry recounts the Imahara story, gathered in interviews over 20 years. Many of the quotes that follow are from this book. Copies are available from Imahara’s Botanical Garden.
Family Dreams: Journey of the Sansei was written by Diane Koos Gentry and copyright 2008 by Walter Imahara.
When working at Afton Villa, “James drove all the way to Mobile to buy Japanese cherry trees for the grounds. ‘When they were in bloom, there is nothing more beautiful,’ James said. ‘But when their time comes, all the blooms drop. It’s symbolic. The Japanese way is to forgive without a grudge. Afton Villa made me start forgetting the days of internment and our losses. It’s all over with now. I don’t feel any bitterness at all.’
“Restoring the gardens of a well-known and much loved historic home in a place like St. Francisville, which is known for its lovely homes and plantations, is a great accomplishment in the South. The name Imahara became associated with horticulture and landscape design.”
Baton Rouge and the beginning of Imahara’s Landscape
When restoration at Ashton Villa was complete, the family moved back to Baton Rouge where James took a job at a nursery then started James’ Gardening Service.
“For the most part, it was just me and Mama,” said the elder Imahara in the Family Dreams book. “Mama was the backbone of all our business. The kids were in school. We started with a wheelbarrow, a broken-down pickup, a hoe and a shovel and, of course, my pruning shears.”
Walter chose a major in horticulture at the University of Southwest Louisiana at Lafayette where he discovered another passion in his life: weightlifting where he is described as being a fierce competitor and national champion.
As the 1950s drew to a close, James Imahara received a small percentage of his requested claim for compensation on the loss of California property and farm land during World War II. That settlement was enough to purchase several acres and a home in Baton Rouge.
James and Haruka began planting grass to sell sod. “Baton Rouge was growing and prospering as the Imaharas were starting their mom and pop business. Growth meant new subdivisions to landscape,” Gentry writes.
James was able to purchase a greenhouse from his former employer at Afton Villa. The couple propagated their own stock. The business grew as they waited for Walter with his degree in horticulture to come home. The year he graduated, 1960, the Army sent him to Germany for three years.
“My father always told us, ‘Get an education, serve your country and buy land.’ Service in the military was expected of his sons,” Walter said. The year he graduated, 1960, the Army sent him to Germany for three years. Walter enlisted as a private, went to officer candidate school and came out a first lieutenant.
In Germany, Walter met Sumi Matsumoto, an elementary school teacher from Berkeley, California. Sumi and her parents had been interned in Arizona. In 1963 they were married in Munich. When it was time to leave Germany, they moved home to Louisiana. The day we visited, Walter and Sumi celebrated 49 years of marriage.
Pelican State Nursery
Walter joined his parents’ enterprise on the eight and one-half acres they owned, which was renamed Pelican State Nursery. Walter added three more greenhouses and assembled them on the property making 10,000 square feet of greenhouses and worked to grow small plants and vegetables, wholesale and retail.
“James also grew specimen plants one couldn’t find anywhere else like large junipers and topiary trees.” By 1968, Imahara’s included a retail garden center and landscape business.
“This garden center was distinctly Japanese, both in design and operation. James carved the name Imahara’s in Japanese characters on a huge cypress board. Walter and [his brother-in-law] Sam hung the sign on a tall wooden archway that marked the front entrance. Behind the entrance, decorative vertical wooden boards lined the front of the building, adding to the simple but beautiful Japanese design.”
James Imahara at age 86 when he likened his life to Daruma — “we may get knocked down seven times, but we get up eight times.”
Walter sold the landscaping location in 1984 and built a second more modern garden center on Perkins Road in Baton Rouge. The old location was 5,000 square feet. The garden center on Perkins Road totaled 17,500 square feet. In addition, there was enough land to build 35,000 square feet of retail space in the future.
The new garden center was designed to Walter’s specifications with concrete walkways and an automated sprinkler system. Such innovations reduced labor costs and maximized profit. His leadership extended to nursery and landscape associations such as the Baton Rouge Nursery and Landscape Association, the Louisiana Association of Nurserymen, the State Horticultural Commission, the Southern Nurserymen Association and the National Landscape Association and in 2002 Walter was named to the National Landscape Association Hall of Fame in Louisville, Kentucky.
All was not peaches and cream. Shortly after the new center opened, Walter’s sister May was diagnosed with lung cancer. Within three months, the financial stalwart of the company was dead. For the next few years, Walter tried to coax family members into joining the firm. Niece Wanda, is sister Lilly’s daughter, had completed the five-year landscape architecture program at LSU and was working at a high paying job in Washington DC.
Three Generations of Landscaping
“Though it may not have been evident to either of them at first, Walter and Wanda, who had very different personalities in 1987 and clashed frequently, proved to be ideal partners in the landscape company. Each had individual strengths and talents and complemented the other, forging a stronger business,” Gentry writes.
“The first big commercial landscaping project Wanda tackled was the new Blue Cross/Blue Shield headquarters in Baton Rouge. ‘I saw the building nearing completion and talked to Uncle Walt,’ Wanda remembered. ‘Imahara’s had not put in a bid. I called and asked for the opportunity to bid on landscaping the building inside and out.
‘Uncle Walt and I stayed in the office until 7 or 8 p.m. working together until I could draw the plan and put prices to it. The secret to securing the job you design is using plant material that is readily available to you, the best looking plants that will continue to look good as they grow and mature. Uncle Walt and Grandpa both told me to work hard and be honest, and that would make me successful. Part of being honest is not to put in plant material that will cost a client an arm and a leg or material that will freeze and die in the winter. We believe in spending [a client’s] money wisely by using plants that are native to this area’.”
Wanda’s enthusiasm, drive and creativity added maintenance contracts on the larger commercial projects they installed to provide a more steady income stream and to provide service to those customers.
Imahara’s Botanical Garden
“An active man like Walter Imahara never retires; he just stops coming in to work every day.”
Walt handed over the reins of the landscape enterprises to Wanda and kept busy with real estate ventures. A long-time dream to own property in St. Francisville came true with the purchase of their second home on 15 acres in 2001, which he landscaped with camellias, azaleas, cherry trees, crepe myrtle, many varieties of magnolia and holly, weeping yupon and yew, palms, crab apples and weeping mulberries, among others. The entire residential property is served by irrigation and every plant is labeled.
Another dream is three years along the path to realization. Walter bought 54 acres on Mahoney Road in St. Francisville and spent a great deal of time clearing wilderness, rutted by Mississippi River floods and erosion.
Walter Imahara gestures across the camellia collection toward sugi pines planted on the far gully.
Three days a week, Walter and two workers planted a hundred or more plants a day. To minimize erosion, centipede grass sod was installed plus tree logs and treated poles are used to edge beds and create a terraced effect. Three year old camellias are starting to fill in along the edges of the forest. Two and a half year old ginkgo trees, three-gallon pots when planted, are now taller than I am. The years of landscape experience are bearing fruit in this infant garden – all the beds are prepared to receive and nourish plants. Garden materials were planted in groups of threes and fives. “The landscape was designed by sight so that a great view can be seen from anywhere in the garden. A 225-foor deep well, with a four-inch pipe installed, provides substantial volume and pressure to allow as many as 10 sprinklers to run at once,” according to a garden flyer.
Three of nine connecting ponds are visible in the distance — one pond for each child of James and Haruka Imahara.
In the camellia garden, varieties include Funny Face Betty, Gunsmoke, Purple Dawn, Royal Velvet, and more than 90 other cultivars. More than 3,000 azaleas are planted, some to eventually develop into a huge karikomi on one hillside. Varieties include Judge Solomon, G.G. Gerbing, George Tabor and the Encore series.
Collections of magnolias, weeping trees, hollies, maples, purple leaf plums, crape myrtle and a stand of Cryptomeria japonica (Sugi pine) are among other major plantings. Nine connecting ponds have been installed, one for each child born to James and Haruka Imahara.
The Japanese garden “is still in the thought stage,” Walter said. He’s collecting stone and is pulling together ideas from his and his wife Sumi’s travels. “You have to come back in two or three years and see what it looks like then!”
“Come back …” Oh yes, I want to see this garden as it grows and matures.
Already the area includes a conference center, snack shop and gift store along with equipment storage buildings. The conference center holds a collection of James Masaru Imahara’s poetry carved on cypress boards. “For a long time, we were curious about dad’s hobby,” said Lily. “Now we realize this is his legacy. We know who we are and where we came from.”
For more information on Imahara’s Botanical Garden, visit their blog site imaharasbotanicalgarden.blogspot.com or to schedule a tour or special event, contact them at email@example.com or (225) 635-6001. The mailing address is P. O. Box 605 St. Francisville, LA 70775.
Thank you Wanda and Walter for your hospitality and thank you cousin Ruby for bringing us together.
Wanda, Walter and Ruby enjoying the tour of nearby plantation properties. What a wonderful visit to St. Francisville!
Active in the Jerome and Rohwer internment camp reunion groups, Walter recently released several YouTube videos on the family, their experience, their resilience, their businesses, and the current status of Imahara’s Botanical Garden. Here is one: