Posts Tagged With: teahouse

Progress at Shoroan with help from Kyoto

Tsukubai-2

restoring the tsukubai at Shoroan began with a survey of present conditions

Tsukubai-6

Takuhiro Yamada and Philippe Nault check everything while board member Kenji Kuroshima looks on

Visiting landscaper Takuhiro Yamada, principal of Hanatoyo Landscape in Kyoto, brought a wealth of knowledge about Urasenke tea ceremony to the task to restoring the tsukubai at Shoroan. A tsukubai is an arrangement of stones, a water basin and a lantern set in a very precise manner.

First, a survey of the grounds surrounding Shoroan — the tea house built in Lili`uokalani Gardens and opened in 1997 — was conducted with all attending a hands-on workshop designed for landscapers, County park maintenance personnel, and Master Gardeners.

Next, the tsukubai area was studied in detail. It was discovered that the basin was set too low. The drain rocks were compacted and did not drain. The bamboo spout was too high. The plumbing was in need of repair. Surrounding bushes were in need of pruning. The lantern’s fire box faces the wrong direction. Most of these challenges were solved with several hours work by Hilo and Waimea landscapers under the direction of Mr. Yamada.

David Tamura and his son Troy and Robert Frost re-set a stone at Takuhiro Yamada's direction

David Tamura and his son Troy and Robert Frost re-set a stone at Takuhiro Yamada’s direction

 

The basin was lifted, shifted, and leveled

The basin was lifted, shifted, and leveled

 

Clara Koga sensei, Takuhiro Yamada, Russ Oda and Amy Nishiura test the finished stone arrangement

Clara Koga, sensei, Takuhiro Yamada, Russ Oda and Amy Nishiura test the finished stone arrangement

Plumbing repairs were completed by the County a few days later. Drainage was improved with the addition of smooth river rocks courtesy of Clayton Amemiya matching a few river rocks that were uncovered during excavation of the basin.

Comments to these articles are welcome, but please do not waste your time trying to post spam. All comments are reviewed before they are published. Be nice.

Photos otherwise uncredited are by K.T. Cannon-Eger. If you choose to share this blog, please give credit.

Mahalo and arigato

Categories: Hawaii, Hilo | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Enthusiastic Denver garden curator tours Hilo’s Lili`uokalani Gardens

On Saturday, May 18, the board of directors of Friends of Lili`uokalani Gardens welcomed Ebi Kondo, curator of Sho-Fu-En the Japanese garden at Denver Botanic Gardens and a board member of the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA), to Hilo’s bayfront park along with several Hilo community leaders with long-time ties to the garden.

Ebi Kondo, curator of Sho-Fu-En at the Denver Botanic Gardens
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Kondo was enthusiastic about Lili`uokalani Gardens. “This is an old-style pleasure garden,” he said. “You have so much history here. This is a great event  to be shared with all who visit.

“There is such a good feeling to this garden, both casual and elegant. I see a welcome, peaceful, casual, approachable, carefree environment. This is a great combination of American-Japanese garden with Hilo Hawaii flavor.”

Ebi Kondo of Sho-Fu-En Japanese Garden in Denver Colorado explains the benefits of membership in a public garden organization. Nearby are Friends of Lili`uokalani members Harvey Tajiri and K.T. Cannon-Eger.

Ebi Kondo of Sho-Fu-En Japanese Garden in Denver Colorado explains the benefits of membership in NAJGA a non-profit public garden organization. Nearby are Friends of Lili`uokalani members Harvey Tajiri and K.T. Cannon-Eger.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Kondo worked on the revitalization of the Japanese garden in Denver. “It takes everybody working together,” he said.

Sho-Fu-En now features a new roji (dewy garden path) to the tea house as well as a separate ADA compliant path. The tea house in Denver is like the one in Hilo in one respect: there are two areas for practitioners and participants — one more traditional with tatami floor and one Western with folding chairs.

Della Allison Yamashiro of Friends of Lili`uokalani Gardens, listens to Hiroshi Suga, president of the Japanese Community Association of Hawaii, speak of cooperation to promote and preserve Japanese culture and foster harmony and fellowship in Hawaii County.

Della Allison Yamashiro of Friends of Lili`uokalani Gardens, listens to Hiroshi Suga, president of the Japanese Community Association of Hawaii, speak of cooperation to promote and preserve Japanese culture, and foster harmony and fellowship in Hawaii County.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Russ Oda speaks of Shoroan and the history of Urasenke in Hawaii.

Russ Oda speaks of Shoroan and the history of Urasenke in Hawaii.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Kondo also was enthusiastic about the role of public gardens in communities. “To me, garden is a place to make memories. Happy people come here and are more happy. Sad people who come here are lifted.”

The casual tour wandered over to shade by the bamboo grove..

The casual tour wandered over to shade by the bamboo grove.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Dwayne Mukai, president of Kumamoto Kenjin Kai, and Rev. Jeffrey Soga, Rimban for Hawaii Island's Hongwanji join in the conversation. (photo by Bill F. Eger)

Dwayne Mukai, president of Kumamoto Kenjin Kai, and Rev. Jeffrey Soga, Rimban for Hawaii Island’s Hongwanji join in the conversation.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

KT&Ebi-Basin-5577

K.T. Cannon-Eger, Ebi Kondo and Philippe Nault ponder an ancient stone basin.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Sho-Fu-En at Denver Botanic Gardens is one of the leadership gardens in the formation of the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA). Kondo took time to emphasize to the group the importance of sharing information. “There will come a time when you have a question and you need to find resources. That is the reason we have this association of public gardens…to be of help to each other with workshops on horticulture, stonescaping, pond building, fund raising, message presentation and all of the things you will face.”

NAJGA offers two regional conferences later this year. Woodworking skills and traditional hand tools will be held August 13-16 in Oakland, California with site visits to several gardens in the area. Constructing Japanese water features and selection and care of koi will be held September 20-21 at Shofuso in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Registration is open now for the woodworking conference in Oakland. More details on the regional conference in Pennsylvania will be available in July. Go to the NAJGA web site for further information. http://www.najga.org

For additional stories in this blog on Denver or NAJGA, check the category and tag lists to the right side of the screen.

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Categories: California, Colorado, Denver, Hawaii, Hilo, Oakland, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Sho-fu-en, the Garden of the Pine and Wind, in Denver makes great use of native plants

Denver Botanic Gardens

(photo by Bill F. Eger)

After obtaining his degree in horticulture in Japan and interning at the Chicago Botanic Garden, Akiyoshi (Ebi) Kondo joined Denver Botanic Gardens as a Horticulturist in April 2000 and was in charge of the display gardens and collections.

In 2003 Ebi was promoted to Senior Horticulturist and took responsibility of Sho-Fu-En, Denver Botanic Garden’s Japanese Garden. Originally designed by Koichi Kawana, construction on the two acre garden began in August 1978. Sho-fu-en, Garden of the Pines and Wind, was dedicated June 23, 1979.

“This was designed to be a provincial garden. Gifu-ken and Takayama-shi are next to the Nagano mountains, a very rugged area. Here we are amid the Rocky Mountains, also a rugged area,” Kondo said.

Shibui

A simple clean pond edge, a clear reflection, careful maintenance, the contributions of garden designers and gardeners since 1978 all add up to the shibui feeling of Sho-fu-en.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

“This was one of Kawana-san’s last major gardens. It’s very shibui, very quiet.”

Koichi Kawana designed gardens in St. Louis, Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; Memphis Tennessee; Los Angeles and San Diego, California among others. The Hokkaido native who became a U.S. citizen in 1971 died in 1990 at the age of 60.

Koichi Kawana

Garden designer Koichi Kawana
(photo from City of Los Angeles Department of Public Works)

In 1979, the tea house was constructed in Japan “very mountain style,” said Kondo. “Not an ostentatious display; very good size for demonstrating tea ceremony.”

tea house gate

Ebi Kondo holds open the gate to the 1979 tea house at Sho-fu-en.

Built by Kumo Construction Company in Nagano, the tea house was disassembled and shipped to Denver. Company president Mr. Toshitame Hirabayashi and eight co-workers reassembled the teahouse along with the bridge and entry gate in 14 days. The teahouse was donated by the Eleanore Mullen Weckbaugh Foundation.

tea house interior

tea house interior with chairs set up for demonstration audience to the right

When the garden started, more than 130 character pines were moved from nearby Estes Park by the Rocky Mountain Bonsai Club. Permits were obtained from the U.S. Forest Service to collect Ponderosa pines. “Japanese gardens encourage the use of native plants. We have about 50 percent natives in this garden,” Kondo said.

Kataoka and Kawahara select pines

Bob Kataoka and Kai Kawahara inspect pines near Denver for possible inclusion in the garden.
(photo from Rocky Mountain Bonsai Club history)

In 1977, Bob Kataoka, Kai Kawahara, Harold Sasaki, Floyd Sunshine, Bob Krueger, Keith Jepson, Larry Jackel and Malcolm Correll manned the first flatbed truck collecting eight or ten pines that trip. Kai Kawahara, was a gardener at Sho-fu-en from 1980 to 1993. He was one of eight founding members of the earlier Denver Bonsai Club that merged to form RMBC.

Kai Kawahara

Head gardener Kai Kawahara in Sho-fu-en in 1987
(Denver Post photo archive)

As sometimes happens in the history of Japanese gardens in America, there came a period of disinterest, low funding and lack of maintenance. By 2000, the garden was in disrepair. “A garden without maintenance for even one season may take ten seasons to reclaim,” Kondo said.

He undertook the initiative of the garden’s restoration reaching out to Mr. Seki the Consulate General of Japan in Denver and ultimately partnering with Mr. Sadafumi Uchiyama from Portland Japanese Garden.

Sadafumi Uchiyama

Sadafumi Uchiyama at a NAJGA regional meeting in Chicago, September 2011

Sadafumi Uchiyama created a master plan for the development of Sho-fu-en in 2003. Phase one included a minor repair of the Tea Ceremony House/garden path ways and phase two encompassed restoration/ renovation of the existing lake and was completed over the following years.

lantern

Some lanterns are designed for display near water.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

In 2007 with help from the Hosokawa Grant, Kondo founded Denver Botanic Gardens tea ceremony guild Sho-Fu-Kai. The guild’s mission is to expose the public and garden patrons to Japanese Tea Ceremony and support the Sho-fu-en. A new machiai, rojimon (gate), obote senko design, uchi roji (inner path), and soto roji (outerpath), were added to the tea garden, opening to the public in mid-June this year.

new well

Sadafumi Uchiyama arranged for the new well at the tea garden to be shipped from Portland, Oregon.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

new gate

humble gatetea garden gate

Now, Sho-fu-en is one of a few signature gardens at Denver Botanic Garden.”We work hard to keep our volunteers happy and enthusiastic,” Kondo said. “We have monthly cultural nights, and regularly scheduled nature hikes and movie nights.

“We need to continue developing and implementing a program, a vision for our garden,” Kondo said. “Otherwise, it is an ornament, not a garden.”

Future programs in development at Sho-fu-en include the Horticultural Therapy Program and Volunteer Docent Program.

Kondo and Uchiyama are among the leadership members of the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA), an organization newly formed for the purpose of networking public Japanese Gardens in North America. Kondo also is a member of the Japan America Society of Denver.

NAJGA holds its Connections conference in Denver this weekend (October 2012) with a full slate of workshops at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Also on the program is the premiere of David Slawson’s new film “Evoking Native Landscape Using Japanese Garden Principles” at the Sheraton Downtown on Friday evening. For further information, contact NAJGA at http://www.najga.org

Please feel free to comment on your experience with Denver Botanic Gardens and Sho-fu-en in the comment box below.

Other exhibits at Denver Botanic Gardens:

In addition to the Japanese garden, there are displays in other parts of the botanic garden grounds.

bonsai show

The bonsai club continues to hold juried shows and sales at Denver Botanic Gardens. This one was held Father’s Day weekend 2012.

Kizuna — West Meets East, a series of site specific bamboo installations by Tetsunori Kawana from Japan and Stephen Talasnik from America, continues through November 4.

bamboo installation

bamboo wave

close up of work by Tetsunori Kawana

Also in mid-June 2012, a bonsai pavilion and courtyard opened as a memorial to the late news writer Bill Hosokawa. It was funding from the Alice and Bill Hosokawa Fellowship that helped Sho-fu-kai, the tea ceremony guild, form in 2008.

Hosokawa bonsai pavilion

the new bonsai pavilion shortly before it opened to the public June 2012

Hosokawa courtyard

The Bill Hosokawa Bonsai Courtyard after a rain storm, Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012.

To view a full size image of any photo, just click on it. Photographs not otherwise credited in this blog are by K.T. Cannon-Eger.

For more information on bonsai history and World War II internment camps, please see
http://www.magiminiland.org/BigPicture/Internment.html

For more information on Denver Botanic Gardens, please visit
http://www.botanicgardens.org/

[updated 8/6/2016 with new website for bonsai history and World War II internment camps]

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Categories: Colorado, Denver | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Seiwa-en — Garden of pure, clear harmony and peace in St. Louis

2014 Note: 2013 winter renovations in the Japanese garden were completed and the garden re-opened in the spring on 2014. To view some of the work accomplished please view the garden’s Flicker site.

Boat Landing under construction

 

 

pagoda visible from Magnolia Avenue, plaque at the left side of the base reads “In Loving Memory Edwin L. Lopata 1909-1998
The Lopata Family”
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Our photographer friend drove us along Magnolia Avenue where we peeked over the fence to the edge of the Japanese garden at the Missouri Botanical Garden. Beautifully trimmed trees accented the drive from there along Alfred Avenue to the main parking area.

inside the Climatron, we watch the rain pour down

We arrived at the appointed time and so did a massive Midwestern thunderstorm complete with heavy rain that drove us into the Climatron and with lightening strikes that sounded very close. We all agreed to postpone our scheduled tour of the Japanese garden for a few hours. It was a somewhat tense few hours as we waited for the storm to pass. This is a big garden and we didn’t want to miss out. It was as close as we came to getting rained out on this heavily scheduled month long garden adventure.

Upon our return in the early afternoon, I asked a worker driving an electric maintenance cart where we might find Teresa Pafford.

“You mean Teresa in the Trees?”

Well, that nickname makes sense to me. Teresa and I got to know each other during the 6th International Symposium on Japanese Gardening in San Diego during a black pine pruning class. But this gentleman was referring to her delight in getting up inside big trees and pruning them properly. It turns out that the trees I noticed as we drove along the first couple of blocks of Alfred Avenue are among trees in Teresa’s care.

Teresa shows K.T. a large piece of tree bark that came down in the storm.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

As described on the Missouri Botanical Garden web site. “Teresa Pafford started working at the Missouri Botanical Garden in June 2003 as a gardener after graduating from Truman State University with a B.S in Agricultural Business. Most of her horticulture knowledge has been acquired here at the Garden from many experts and through conferences and seminars. She took a strong interest in trees, shrubs, and pruning within her first couple years of working at the Garden, which led her to arborist certification through the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA). She is now one of the primary tree climbers/pruners on Garden grounds. Her pruning mentor was and still is Ben Chu, who helped guide her through Japanese style pruning. One of her favorite things about pruning is seeing the results over time, whether it’s something as simple as seeing a wound callus over properly or something as advanced as training a branch to grow a certain direction. She truly is addicted to pruning.”

a waterfall leads to a stream
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Her mentor, Ben Chu, joined Missouri Botanical Garden in 1982 after completing his education in Horticulture at St. Louis Community College at Meramec and working for a tree service company from 1978 to 1982.

and the stream meanders
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

“At Missouri Botanical Garden he worked in landscape construction doing site preparation and planting large trees and shrubs for the Ridgway Building plantings, the Rhododendron Garden, and Swift Vista near the Linnean House,” as the Missouri Botanical Garden web site describes him.

the stream meanders past a gravel river bank and a touch of color
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

“In 1985 Chu became the supervisor of Seiwa-en and worked with its designer, the late Koichi Kawana. He currently supervises a staff of nine full-time horticulturists, including three staff members in the Japanese Garden, and six additional staff members in other parts of the Garden. Ben encourages his staff to design and implement their own designs and helps to evaluate the results. He wants their jobs to include learning opportunities.”

and the stream empties into the large reflecting pond with an island that holds a tea house for special occasions
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

This year, Chu was awarded the Foreign Minister’s Commendation from the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, recognizing his outstanding contributions to Japan-U.S. relations. The award was presented during a sakura planting ceremony in April, which marked the 100th anniversary of plantings at the Tidal Basin in Washington DC and the gift of 20 new cherry trees to Missouri Botanical Garden.

karesansui and display area for fall chrysanthemums
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Seiwa-en at Missouri Botanical Garden

Seiwa-en began as the dream of the Japanese American Citizens’ League in St. Louis in 1972. JACL secured the services of garden designer Koichi Kawana who supervised construction and development until his death in 1990. Seiwa-en was dedicated on May 5, 1977. Kawana was born in Hokkaido in 1930. He became a naturalized American citizen in 1971.

secluded path in to rustic tea house
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Kawana was a professor and lecturer on Japanese landscape architecture, Japanese art and environmental design at UCLA for 24 years. He is credited with major garden designs in several U.S. cities including Chicago and Denver.

a gift of Nagano to Missouri
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

A four and a half mat tea house was donated byMissouri’s Sister State Nagano. Nearby is a yukimi-doro, snow viewing lantern donated by St. Louis’ Sister City Suwa.

To see a satellite view of the Missouri Botanical Garden and the ponds of the Japanese garden, go to

http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&tab=wl

Iris were donated by Adolph Vogt, a respected hybridizer of Japanese iris of Louisville, Kentucky, who passed away in 1992.

iris by the zig zag bridge

view of the zig zag bridge for seeing blooming iris up close as seen from across the pond

Using this modern view, it’s easy to spot the round stone beach, zig zag bridge and iris plantings, several karesansui, the foliage of the plum viewing area, bridges and paths leading to the tea house, even the wavy line of the lotus plantings at one end of the pond.

For a more extensive article on Seiwa-en, visit the Missouri Botanical Garden web site:

http://www.mobot.org/hort/gardens/japanese/intro/index.shtml

color and texture surround a lantern
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

The land now known as Missouri Botanical Garden started as the estate of retired businessman turned horticulturalist and philanthropist, Henry Shaw.

Born in Sheffield England in 1800, Shaw joined his father’s business making and selling iron and steel products. When a shipment of goods to New Orleans went astray in 1819, Henry traveled to the United States, located the missing products and, not finding buyers in New Orleans, took a paddle wheel steamer up the Mississippi to a small French village barely 50 years old – St. Louis.

plum viewing pavilion
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

This was a booming time as vast territories of the Midwest were opened up just a few years earlier by the Louisiana Purchase, which nearly doubled the size of the United States. Shaw opened a hardware store and found ready customers in the trappers, settlers and pioneers heading west. He was so successful in the next 20 years that he was able to retire at the age of 40 to travel and pursue his interest in botany.

summer is the season for lotus
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Returning from his travels to St. Louis in 1851, he engaged an architect and several botanists. He planned, funded and built what is now known as Missouri Botanical Garden on the land around his home. Among botanists he consulted were Sir William Jackson Hooker, director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, Dr. George Engelmann, a respected amateur botanist from St. Louis, and Asa Gray of Harvard University. Shaw’s garden was donated and opened to the public in 1859 making Missouri Botanical Garden one of the oldest botanical institutions in the United States.

across the lotus patch looking toward the plum viewing area
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Shaw’s philanthropy included endowment of the School of Botany at Washington University and assistance in founding the Missouri Historical Society. He died in 1889 and is buried in a mausoleum on the grounds. The 79 acres of Missouri Botanical Garden include Seiwa-en, a 14 acre Japanese garden built in the pond and strolling style.

large basin at the entry of Seiwa-en

St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904

Seiwa-en was not the first public Japanese garden built in St. Louis. That distinction may belong to the three-plus acre Japanese garden at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, more popularly known as the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904, which opened a year late to allow for more participation by states and foreign countries. Like the World’s Columbia Exposition of 1893 in Chicago, also a year late, many of the structures were constructed to be temporary.

parts of this lantern date back to the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

The Fair opened on April 30 and, through the closing ceremonies on December 1, nearly 20 million visitors availed themselves of this opportunity to see the world, revel in “palaces” dedicated to progress and have some fun. And as was true with expositions or world fairs in Philadelphia and Chicago, more people were exposed to the Japanese aesthetic presented in these collections of historic garden styles.

1904 World’s Fair Japanese garden in St. Louis
(collection of the Missouri Historical Society)

To see what the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition Japanese garden looked like from the air, take this visual ride in the Ferris Wheel: http://exhibits.slpl.org/lpe/data/lpe240022874.asp?thread=240029909

details, details

Photos not otherwise credited in this blog are by K.T. Cannon-Eger. Click on any image to see it full size.

outer gate to the tea garden

A personal note: Much gratitude is due professional photographer Scott Lokitz who picked us up near Union Station and drove us around all day. There’s something wonderful about being in the company of a person who loves their town. Scott was full of special spots and history, insight and genuine delight. There’s also something inspirational about being in the company of an accomplished professional. Scott showed us his studio, a beautifully restored brick building on Russell Boulevard at Mississippi. Anyone in the St. Louis area needing a high school senior portrait, event documentation, architectural photos, etc. should consider Scott Lokitz. http://scottlokitz.com/services.html

The Sister State relationship between Nagano and Missouri

A news article from Kansas City in the Lawrence Journal-World on April 27, 1964 announced the sister state relationship between Nagano Prefecture and the state of Missouri.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2199&dat=19640427&id=naZAAAAAIBAJ&sjid=_OUFAAAAIBAJ&pg=5648,2210584

A plaque outside the tea garden gate memorializes this Sister State relationship. The teahouse was dedicated on an auspicious date with a Shinto ceremony.

“The citizen of Nagano Prefecture, Japan, Sister State of Missouri, presents this teahouse to the citizen of Missouri as a memorial of the nice friendship between both states on the occasion of American Bicentennial year.”

Governor of Nagano Prefecture

Gonichiro Nishizawa

May 5, 1977

Addenda 27 August 2013

While scanning photos for a family tree at the behest of my sisters and brothers, I chanced upon a photograph from my grandfather’s trunk. His family lived in Frankfort, Kentucky. After graduating from Harvard University in 1905, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and enjoyed a 30 year career with postings in China, Japan, Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Washington DC and many other places.

At first glance, I thought this image might be from one of those foreign locales, but with the aid of a magnifying glass I caught English words on the buildings. With confirmation from my friend Ken Brown, a world’s fair buff if there ever was one, I now add this photo of the Japanese exhibit at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, popularly known as the St. Louis World’s Fair of 1904.

St. Louis 1904

Kendall H. Brown, professor of Asian art history at California State University Long Beach, identified my grandfather’s photo as “the ‘dragon gate’ at the Fair Japan exhibit at St. Louis. The Japan bazaar was on the left, the restaurant on the right.”
The restaurant bears the words “Roof Garden.” Photo courtesy of the Weitzel Family archives.

For additional views and information on the fair, visit

http://exhibits.slpl.org/lpe/data/LPE240024653.asp?thread=240029396

Categories: Missouri, St. Louis | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Taniguchi’s gift to the city of Austin

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 info@zilkergarden.org or phone 512-477-8672.

Taniguchi garden at the Zilker Botanical Garden may be found at:

http://www.zilkergarden.org/gardens/japanese.html

Should you wish to view a very sweet video of the Taniguchi Garden, check out this one created a year ago by Austin Otaku.

http://vimeo.com/austinotaku/isamu-taniguchi-japanese-garden

Unless otherwise credited, photos in this blog are by K.T. Cannon-Eger. Click on any image in order to see it full size.

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