The North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 2011 by leading Japanese gardens in the US and Canada. Our members are based in different parts of North America and overseas, and include garden institutions, professional societies, businesses and individuals with either a professional or a personal interest in the field of Japanese gardening.
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NAJGA member Greg Kitajima helps uncover history in a Japanese internment camp garden plot in Colorado and opens a door to his own family’s story as a Japanese-American.
I had not looked through the schedule of speakers at the 2016 North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA) conference in Delray Beach, Florida. this past spring. I almost skipped the conference but decided to finally attend. I had no idea until five minutes before her presentation that Dr. Bonnie Clark of Denver University would be giving a presentation on the archaeology field school that she runs at the Amache Internment camp, in Granada Colorado, the camp where both my parents and their families were interned from 1942-1945. Funny how things work out the way that they should.
As is very common among former internees of the detention camps, no one in the family had ever really spoken about their experience about that time. In Japanese culture, there is a belief and practice that you do not complain about bad things that happen to you in life. You accept it and move on.I knew that my family had been interned at Amache, but knew little beyond the name of the camp, so the opportunity to visit the site and work with an archaeology field school studying the gardens that were built there was something that I could not have ever imagined happening.
For one whole week in July, I volunteered with Dr. Clark’s field school. The field school was split into two groups, one excavating garden plots and the other focusing on camp life, searching for artifacts. All of the artifacts that they find are electronically plotted on a map, photographed and documented, then returned to the specific site of discovery.
For the first 3 days, I worked helping to excavate what was believed to be a garden plot. Over the last seventy-odd years, the shifting sands of the plains have drastically altered the existing grade. This particular site was identified by two pieces of concrete that protruded from the ground, obviously purposely placed. At this camp, the barracks were built on poured cement foundations, and as there are no native rocks in the surrounding area, except for small sized stones from the Arkansas river about a mile away, the internees broke off pieces of the concrete over pour and used them as stones in their gardens. In my one square meter plot, approximately 10 centimeter below grade, I uncovered a planting hole, which appeared as nothing more than a 20-inch dark shaded circle with a slightly darker 12-inch diameter circle inside of it. Later, through soil analysis and other lab testing, it has been determined that this was where a plant had been transplanted from the Arkansas river. Garden archaeology of this type is all interpretive, so this is just one piece of a puzzle that may take years to piece together, due to the limited time that they have. In the future, they will return to this plot and do more excavation.
Although the archaeology work was fascinating and directly tied to my work in Japanese-style gardens, it was the last two days that I spent with the group that were the most meaningful.During their second to last weekend, the field school holds an open house for former internees and their relatives. There were about 60 people who attended this event, including my mother and her sister who were 8 and 5 years of age, respectively, when they entered the camp.
This was their first return to Amache since their release in 1945. As part of the program, Dr. Clark took us to the foundation of the barrack where they were housed. The flood of emotions that I experienced standing in the exact spot where my mother’s family was housed was pretty overwhelming. I also had the opportunity to meet and hear stories from other internees, two of which had very vivid memories of camp. One woman spent the larger part of her high school years in camp.
I look forward to 2018, when the next Denver University Archaeological Field School will run, and I am already planning to return for a longer stay this time. Were it not for NAJGA, it is very possible that I might never have made the connection with Dr. Clark and that dark portion of my family history may have remained a mystery.
NAJGA members Tom and Laura Dufala combined an educational experience in Japanese gardening with a road trip to remember from the Pacific Northwest to the Canadian Rockies and back.
It was a gorgeous, autumnal journey crossing the Canadian Rockies to find Lethbridge on the southern edge of Alberta. My wife and I gave ourselves two days to cover the distance from our home in Boring (Portland), OR, arriving in a prairie landscape very different then imagined. A wind gust immediately gripping us as we stepped from our vehicle. We wondered if we’d come to the right place?
After a restful sleep, I stepped out of my hotel room and bumped directly into Masa Mizuno, the garden designer/consultant for the Nikka Yuko Garden. At that moment I sensed good energy and knew we were in for some fun! My wife and I followed him to a gathering of 20-25 garden enthusiasts anxious to understand how a remarkable Japanese garden was conceived, designed, constructed and then resurrected on the grassy plains north of the Montana border! We were warmly greeted by garden staff and welcomed with friendly Canadian hospitality for the next couple of days. Michelle Day gave a brief overview of the garden’s fifty year history. She was followed by an detailed garden restoration presentation by Al White and Masa on the gardens’s renaissance, which began in 1991.
After a hardy lunch, we walked to Henderson Park, home to Nikka Yuko Garden, Henderson Lake, a rose garden and numerous trails and park amenities . A long formal angular walk leads your eye to the Nikka Yukko garden gate with a two story pavilion rising directly beyond. Once through the gate, the garden slowly revealed its bones. How could you not be overwhelmed with the hardy Amur Maple’s oranges and reds reflecting on to the streams and pools. All of the vegetation, including the grass berms, were in wonderful harmony with the various structures and garden elements. The masterfully cloud-pruned Mugo and Scotch pines were testament to the skill of the gardening staff.
Later that evening, as the super-harvest moon rose over Henderson Lake, garden guests were again drawn to Nikka Yuko by the rhythm of taiko drumming. At the close of the evening we “viewed” the garden again, but with eyes closed in a unique journey in the “Art of Stillness”.
Following a second full day of horticulture, garden demonstrations and a lovely banquet at the Galt Museum, my wife and I continued exploring the magic of the region. In forty-five minutes, we found ourselves hiking and enjoying the Rockies at Waterton-Lakes National Park then south to Glacier and Yellowstone Parks.
Thank you, Nikka Yuko for exposing us to a week of the cultural and natural discoveries!
The third issue of The Journal of the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA) is now available in print. The Journal is FREE to members and also available for purchase by members who wish to get additional copies and to the general public.
Member Price: $16.00 (within US), $20.00 (Canada, Japan and other countries) General Public: $20.00 (within US), $25.00 (Canada, Japan and other countries). Prices include postage. To order, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From NAJGA Journal 3 Editor K.T. Cannon-Eger:
EDITOR’S MESSAGE: New Pathways Toward a Healthier World
“The first issue of the Journal of the North American Japanese Garden Association concentrated on “Connections,” the theme of the first biennial convention held in Denver in 2012. Journal two was organized around the theme of “Lessons Learned.” Following the 2014 biennial convention in Chicago, Illinois, and with an eye toward the 2016 conference in Delray Beach Florida, this issue was organized around the theme of “New Pathways Toward a Healthier World.”
The initial hope of the first Journal to encourage landscape specialists and enthusiasts to explore articles outside their immediate areas of interest continues in this issue while we maintain a dedication to the NAJGA goals of advancement in Horticulture, Human Culture, and Business Culture.
In horticulture, we draw on one of the stalwarts of NAJGA, a garden designer and gentle speaker on the benefits to human well-being of Japanese-style landscapes. His remarks are followed by a case study of a hospital in Oregon. Delving further into horticulture, is an article on moss and its uses in gardens in Japan and around the world. This is accompanied by an excerpt from a new book of short stories, one of which speaks to remediation by moss.
Connecting several gardens is the human culture question of how gardens attract volunteers, how the volunteers are trained, and how their interest is maintained.
The business culture portion of this issue tackles two subjects. First, how do public gardens attract visitors and maintain their interest? Second, how do public gardens prepare to handle crises such as fire, flood, or storm damage?
Articles of historical interest, a book review, and obituaries round out the contents of Journal number three.
I am full of gratitude for the guidance and direction of the Board of Directors Past President and first Journal Editor Kendall H. Brown, whose knowledge and dedication are above and beyond. He has skillfully taken editorial scalpel to overly long manuscripts. His artistic sensibility and devotion to history are among other great assets to the organization and to this Journal. This issue could not have happened without the work of the editorial board. Thank you Dr. Seiko Goto, Ben Chu, and Edzard Teubert. And a great big tip of the hat to Grace Roxas Morrissey of NAJGA who keeps us all on track. Deep gratitude to all the authors, photographers, and graphic artists who have contributed their talents. Readers will find more information about the authors on a subsequent page. Welcome to Brian Pendleton of Vancouver, B.C. who is taking on editorial responsibilities for the next issue.”
On 2016 September 16-17, the North American Japanese Garden Association held its regional conference in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. It was a small and intimate conference that discussed Japanese gardens using the local Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden as an exemplar.
The Garden opened in 1967 as an expression of appreciation for the cultural ties Lethbridge has with Japan thanks to its citizens of Japanese ancestry. Conference attendees learned about the history of the Garden’s conception and building, its “dark period” of overgrowth, and its reclamation and repair leading to discussions around cultural preservation, placement and proportion of plants and structural elements to achieve views and the aesthetic and physiological benefits of pruning. Demonstrations of ikebana and bonsai provided context. Interactive sessions on rock placement and stepping stone path construction provided practice. Of note was a session on experiencing the Garden using senses other than sight: hearing, feeling, smell.
I attended this conference not really knowing what to expect. I am in the process of reclaiming my overgrown garden and I hoped the conference might inspire my thinking about this project. Mission accomplished! Conceptually, the conference was an excellent reintroduction to the Japanese aesthetic which I will use to inform my own garden reclamation project. More to the point, however, is what I learned about the Nikka Yuko itself. While I have always appreciated our Nikka Yuko Garden, I now have a much deeper appreciation for this oasis in the middle of our city. For me, the conference was time well spent.
The renowned Scottish landscape architect and ecological planning pioneer Ian McHarg was once quoted as saying that if Manitoga was built in Japan, it would have been a “national monument.” “Japan has many such sites, but the United States has only Manitoga, the temple to managed succession, inspired ecological design.”
Manitoga in Garrison, New York has since achieved that distinction and more. It is a National Historic Landmark, an Affiliate Site of the National Trust for Historic Conservation and a World Monuments Watch Site. Officially known as the Manitoga/ The Russell Wright Design Center, it is a place still strongly animated by the vision of its original owner and creator, Midcentury modern designer Russell Wright whose work was strongly influenced by Japanese aesthetics, not least in the way he conceptualized his home / studio (Dragon Rock) and the woodland garden around it.
Dragon Rock at Manitoga
Manitoga studio interior
Wright’s Japanese connection apparently runs deeper than is commonly thought. He also contributed to the cross-fertilization of American and Japanese sensibilities in Modernist aesthetics by serving as an adviser to the post-World War II Japanese government on handcraft design that would resonate with the US export market, according to Japanese Modernist design scholar Yuko Kikuchi.
In Manitoga, which Wright considers as a pinnacle of his career, the Japanese touch is everywhere evident and seamlessly integrated into his nature-centered instinct for design and even his taste for theatrics as a former theater set designer. Dragon Rock is said to be reminiscent of Japanese temple architecture, as executed by architect David L. Leavitt with whom Wright shares a fondness for Japanese design. Leavitt has worked in Japan with the architect Antonin Raymond whose students include the Japanese architect Junzo Yoshimura, creator of the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden in Philadelphia and the traditional teahouse at the Japanese garden in Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate, Tarrytown, New York.
Dining area from above
Window sill detail
While Dragon Rock has often been compared to the famous Fallingwater house of architect Frank Lloyd Wright (no relation), it seems to fall back more into the landscape, despite a name that’s evocative of a far more conspicuous presence. From the green roofs — revolutionary for a structure built in the early 1950s — to the floor-to-ceiling windows and the tree trunk and natural boulders that define the interiors of the space, Wright was intent on blurring the boundaries between the outdoor and indoor spaces and synthesizing the natural with the man-made, a design sentiment that is also characteristically Japanese. The name of the house itself, derived from the innocent fancy of Wright’s young daughter Annie who imagined a dragon shape in the rock formation, recalls the convention for naming rocks in a Japanese garden for mythical animals.
The great outdoors that Wright and Leavitt sought to bring in through this organic architecture is a 75-acre expanse that simultaneously evokes the experience of a stroll garden from Japan’s Edo Period (1603 – 1867) and taps into Wright’s penchant for drama as a former stage designer. Even as the house maximizes the view outside, the forest garden is also meant to be journeyed into.
Here, the Japanese garden design principle of miegakure (hide and reveal) also becomes a device in Wright’s nature theater for building up a dramatic effect as one traverses through the path of the woodland garden.
“Along each path, the landscape and its themes unfold sequentially. There is an introduction, a dramatic build-up, elaboration of a theme, and then a climax or a goal; the building of tension and its dramatic release – the whole design a musical composition.”
A rock in the middle of the driveway, for example, slows movement and forces contemplation of the immediate surroundings. The sound of an unseen water feature at an entrance builds anticipation.
This theatricality also plays into the notion of a Japanese garden as an idealized re-creation or distillation of nature. Landscape architect and Wright’s cousin Carol Franklin notes Wright’s manipulation of naturally occurring elements, particularly native plant species, to create the moments of denouement in the garden: a moss garden on top of the quarry pond, masses of mountain laurels and dogwoods in bloom, a fiery corridor of backlit autumn foliage. Design historian D.J. Huppatz also speculated about Wright’s use of “borrowed scenery” (shakkei) to provide points of interest along the walking paths.
And then, there are the rocks. In the course of the 35 years since first acquiring the property as an abandoned granite quarry in 1942, Wright bided his time studying and working with the natural rock formations in the area to distill its essence as a “place of great spirit” (the English translation of “Manitoga,” an Algonquin word). A mountain stream was diverted and a 30-foot, multi-level waterfall created to form a swimming pond. There are also a variety of rock groupings and stepping stone paths found all over the property. These rocks, ancient as they are in these parts, found a new purpose in the nexus of the natural and built environment in Manitoga.
Manitoga is part of the Garden Architecture Tour on October 7, 2016 co-hosted by the North American Japanese Garden Association and the Japan American Society of Greater Philadelphia. The tour is part of a two-day event on October 7 and 8, “Modernism, Japanese Carpentry and the Garden: Preserving the Architecture of Junzo Yoshimura.” For details and to register, visit http://najga.org/Philadelphia-2016
Two-Day Event Focus On Modernist and Traditional Japanese Design In the Garden
Philadelphia, PA – On October 7 and 8, the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA) is teaming up with the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia (JASGP) to explore the adaptation and preservation of Modernist and traditional Japanese design in several garden settings found in New York and Philadelphia. NAJGA is a non-profit that promotes the art, craft and heart of Japanese gardens in USA and Canada.
The coach heritage tour on October 7 will feature prime examples of Japanese and Mid-century modern architecture in two garden estates: Kykuit at the Rockefeller estate in Tarrytown, New York with its century-old Japanese garden, and the Manitoga / The Russell Wright Design Center in Garrison, New York with its Japanese-influenced woodland garden. Also included with the tour registration is a box lunch and free admission to the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden in Philadelphia, which will be the assembly point for the tour.
Yoshimura Teahouse at Kykuit
Dragon Rock at Manitoga
“Autumn is one of the best times to be in a Japanese garden and as the leaves turn and fall away, we are better able to isolate and appreciate the architectural aspects of the garden, particularly the buildings that exist in its context,” says NAJGA board president and JASGP executive director Kim Andrews.
The work of revered Japanese architect Junzo Yoshimura will be a prime focus of this event. Aside from being the acclaimed designer of Shofuso, he also built a traditional teahouse for the Japanese garden in Kykuit. The tour will include a lecture about Yoshimura’s works as well as a viewing of the exterior of the Marcel Breuer House in Kykuit.
On October 8, Yoshimura’s legacy at Shofuso will be further scrutinized through the lenses of an ongoing heritage preservation project in a workshop that includes a Japanese carpentry demonstration, practicum on historic preservation reporting, and hinoki roof demonstration. Shofuso’s heritage preservation project aims to uphold Yoshimura’s rigorous standards for designing Shofuso using traditional Japanese design, and one of its most major components is the restoration of the roof made from the bark of the hinoki cypress. Heritage preservation experts and craftsmen skilled in traditional Japanese techniques will serve as lecturers and facilitators during the workshop.
Shofuso Japanese House and Garden
Hinoki bark roof restoration
“Our ongoing effort to meet the preservation challenges presented by Yoshimura’s uncompromising standards is also an excellent learning opportunity for everyone else interested in heritage conservation and the modern adaptation of traditional Japanese design,” says Andrews. “Knowing about how to properly report on conditions for heritage structures, for example, is a must for community custodians of these structures inside and outside the garden setting.”
The two-day event will be occurring during one of the busiest weeks in the Philadelphia design scene as it is also part of the 2016 DesignPhiladelphia festival (October 6 to 16), the oldest open-source event of its kind in the United States, and of the Docomomo US Tour Day 2016 (October 8), an annual event for raising awareness of and appreciation of buildings, interiors and landscapes designed in the US during the mid-20th century.
The Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden in Lethbridge, AB exemplifies pride of place as a “Canadian garden in the Japanese style,” as originally envisioned by its creator Prof. Tadashi Kubo almost half a century ago. The expansive spirit of the surrounding Canadian prairies and the rugged beauty of the Canadian Rockies are both reflected in this merging of Canadian and Japanese culture. Despite the challenges of climate and environment, this garden carries its pride through the different seasons and times of day.
NAJGA board member and Alberta-based garden professional Cody Fong captures the garden in its different moods in the series of photos below. Learn how this garden represents the versatility of the Japanese garden aesthetic in a regional conference “The Adaptability of Japanese Gardens: Lessons Learned From the Canadian Prairies,” September 16 to 18 in Lethbridge, Alberta. Visit http://najga.org/Alberta-2016 for more details and to register.