North American Japanese Garden Association To Host Philadelphia & New York Heritage Tour & Workshop

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.

“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.

“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.

This event is open to the general public. To learn more and to register, visit

North American Japanese Garden Association To Host Philadelphia & New York Heritage Tour & Workshop

Nikka Yuko Japanese Garden Through the Seasons

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 for more details and to register.

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Photos by Cody Fong


Aesthetic Pruners’ Association Presents Intensive Pruning Workshop

The Aesthetic Pruners Association (APA), a member organization of the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA),  is conducting an intensive, hands-on pruning workshop from November 3 to 5, 2016 at the Gardens at Lake Merritt in Oakland, California. Experienced teachers will present aesthetic pruning principles and practices and guide workshop participants in applying these techniques in Lake Merritt’s seven acres of beautiful themed gardens. Participants will come away with pruning skills and concepts which will both challenge and enhance their existing knowledge. All horticultural professionals regardless of specialization and level of experience are welcome to attend.

The difference that aesthetic pruning can make.   

Curriculum Highlights

Day 1Aesthetic Pruning Basics– morning lecture, hands-on pruning in the afternoon

  • Defining pruning
  • Assessing a tree’s health and history
  • Learning the three pruning cuts and knowing the tree’s response
  • Making a seasonal plan
  • Pruning coarse to fine and up and out, finding the good, considering context and environment

Day 2Aesthetic Pruning Principles: Focal Point, Essence and Garden Context- morning lecture, hands-on pruning in the afternoon.

  • Identifying and enhancing a tree’s essence using structure, texture, hide-and-reveal and branch definition
  • Finding the good, making space and creating a sense of age
  • Reading a garden using style, flow, topography and viewing points
  • Separating background, mid-ground and focal point using movement, line, flow and perception
  • Achieving scale and proportion.

For more information and to register to attend the workshop, please visit the APA website:


Aesthetic Pruners’ Association Presents Intensive Pruning Workshop

North American Japanese Garden Association

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.

Join as a member or become one of our supporters! Visit our website at

NAJGA 2016 Group Shot
2016 NAJGA Conference in Delray Beach, Florida. USA
North American Japanese Garden Association

Art Meets Medicine at the Harn Museum’s Asian Rock Garden

by Martin McKellar, Ph.D, Asian Garden Specialist and Volunteer, Harn Museum 

The University of Florida’s Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, in Gainesville, Florida, has an Asian Rock Garden designed by Kurisu International.

Click HERE to find garden location. 

Dr. Kendall Brown, while Board President of the North American Japanese Garden Association, visited the garden in 2015. It was my good fortune to be the one to introduce him to the Asian Rock Garden. Preparations for the 2016 Biennial Conference, Towards A Healthier World: Japanese Gardens as Places of Health and Well Being, were in progress. When I mentioned the existence of the University of Florida (UF) Health Shands Arts in Medicine program (AIM) , Dr. Brown was enthusiastic. Dr. Brown’s enthusiasm made me wonder if the Harn’s Asian Rock Garden could be formally used in a healing manner.

Photo: Martin McKellar

Cleaning a Zen garden is a soothing activity. The calming and meditative practice might be appropriate for a patient dealing with an illness, with one caveat: raking the gravel in the garden can be physically demanding, more so if one’s energy is diminished by illness. What if the patient is physically unable to visit the garden?

The  Arts in Medicine program  works with patients who are at  the nadir of their illness, unable to leave the hospital, or in some cases, their hospital room.

Tina Mullen, director of AIM, and myself have developed a program that splits the garden activity into two parts: the patient develops the meditative design for the gravel in the Harn’s Asian Rock Garden and I rake the design into the gravel.

Photo: Aaron Wiener

First, AIM’s trained artist in residence identify a receptive patient in the UF Health Shands Hospital. The artist and patient discuss the concept of the garden, and where appropriate, read about traditional Zen gardens. The culmination of the patient’s reflection on the garden is the creation of a design to be raked into the garden’s gravel. There is one difficulty to overcome. The garden is dotted with boulders, ground level lighting and seating. The wooden garden rake is 30 inches wide. Will the patient develop a configuration on paper that can be duplicated in the garden with the 30 inches wide rake? The solution was to make a map to the scale of the garden in a size that fit on the patient’s overbed table,  and to create a multi-leaded pencil that is the equivalent to 30 inches wide in relationship to the map.  Then, the completed design is forwarded to me and I rake the configuration into the gravel.

A Skype session is organized between the artist and the patient in the hospital room, and the Harn museum staff in the garden on the other end. Museum staff with an iPad walk through the garden, stopping to talk about specific features with the patient.

Click HERE to view a video of a session.

A surprising commonality was revealed with the first patient. The patient found the pencil rake to be awkward and difficult to use, just as I found the heavy, 30 inch wooden rake to be an awkward raking tool. We understood each other.

The program gives the patient and the gardener the opportunity to consider new and creative ideas, to solve problems, and to engage in a satisfying exchange. The trial period for the program will be one year, during which four patients will participate. After the patient’s configuration is put into the garden, it is maintained for four to eight weeks. This time period dictates the speed with which the program can accommodate the next interested patient.

Questions or suggestions are welcome. They can be posted at this site or you are welcome to directly contact Martin McKellar at

Art Meets Medicine at the Harn Museum’s Asian Rock Garden

Florida Conference Explores Japanese Gardens As Places of Health, Wellness and Social Change

The North American Japanese Garden Association and the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens To Host Experts from Six Countries

The North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA) is bringing together international garden specialists from Japan, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, China and Australia for two days of learning, exchange and camaraderie that focuses on understanding and utilizing Japanese gardens as nature-based therapeutic settings. NAJGA is a non-profit promoting the art, craft and heart of Japanese gardens in the US and Canada.

NAJGA’s 3rd biennial conference, “Towards A Healthier World: Japanese Gardens As Places For Wellness and Transformation,” will take place on March 7 and 8, 2016 at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, Delray Beach, FL. The conference is open to the general public and will appeal to persons interested in Japanese gardens, and in broader issues of how landscape can positively transform lives and society.

Click HERE to visit conference webpage.

Conference logo with photo

The more than 40 conference presentations include research findings, case studies, best practices and garden histories related to designing, fostering and utilizing Japanese gardens as havens of healing. Speakers will talk about a wide range gardens from backyard gardens, public and university gardens, spas and other leisure industry venues, to hospices and hospitals. For garden practitioners who wish to improve their level of understanding of Japanese gardening, there will be topics related to Japanese garden design, maintenance, and fostering more creative engagement with the garden.

Click HERE and HERE for a preview of conference presentations and meet the speakers.

Photography Workshop, Garden Talk and Tours

There will be a twilight photography workshop by noted landscape and garden photographer David Cobb on March 7. Cobb is the photographer of the book Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Gardens of North America, 2013 Home & Garden book of the year for the Independent Book Publishers Association. Other special events include a lecture at the banquet by multi-awarded Morikami garden designer Hoichi Kurisu on Japanese garden design and healing, and a chance to participate in the Morikami’s pioneering “Stroll For Well-Being” program. A March 6 pre-conference bus tour visits garden and museum locations in Delray Beach and West Palm Beach.

“Wellness and Japanese gardens have been inextricably linked for centuries and there is now a growing global movement to understand the therapeutic value of nature-based settings,” said NAJGA Board President Kim Andrews. “NAJGA will connect these two historic developments through a conference that paves the way for practical applications in personal wellness and supports the well-being of whole communities.”

Palm Beach County Parks and Recreations Director Eric Call welcomes participants to Morikami. “Ensuring health and wellness opportunities for both mind and body is a core service of the department and I can’t think of a more beautiful and tranquil setting (for the conference),” he says.

Special thanks to our conference partners and sponsors:


MORIKAMI_LOGO         PJG logo       Anderson JG_logo

KSM-logo-web2       ZEN_logo_CMYK_KO

Kurisu,LLC Logo JPEG     Logo Fondation du jardin et du pavillon japonais de   Mtl

Florida Conference Explores Japanese Gardens As Places of Health, Wellness and Social Change

Cultural Crossing By Way Of Portland

Steve head shot IIPortland Japanese Garden CEO and past NAJGA Board President Steve Bloom fills us in on some notable facts  about the garden’s Cultural Crossing expansion project.

NAJGA: When and what was the turning point when the garden management first became serious about pursuing the Cultural Crossing project? How did the garden management first make the case for launching it to the garden’s various constituencies?

SB: Since 1963, the Portland Japanese Garden’s audience has grown 11-fold—from 30,000 visitors per year to almost 300,000 in 2015. In 2007, the Board of Trustees began to plan in earnest for the long-needed expansion, and launched an international design competition in 2010. One submission clearly exceeded the others in comprehensively addressing the site’s challenges, while keeping focus on our original garden spaces and understanding the unique aesthetics of a Japanese garden in a native Northwest forest. The proposal combined beauty, native materials, Japanese craftsmanship and design, and environmental sustainability with the highest level of functionality and comfort for the people who would use the spaces. The architect who submitted the proposal was Kengo Kuma, one of Japan’s premier designers.

KKAA - Village House Living

 NAJGA:  In terms of the architecture, how is Kengo Kuma adapting the monzenmachi concept to the Portland Japanese Garden’s particular context? How would you describe his design thesis for this project and the highlights of the project, in terms of design innovation and craftsmanship?  And what will happen to the existing visitor facilities in the garden?  

SB: In the past, Kengo Kuma has been entrusted with many culturally sensitive designs around the world, including beautiful iconic buildings valued especially for their appropriateness to site and function. Kuma and his team created a design for the Portland Japanese Garden that maximizes every inch of space on our hilltop, answers the Garden’s operational needs, and is beautiful in a particularly Japanese, understated way. The design blends seamlessly into the landscape. The new buildings will be designed according to the objectives of traditional Japanese architecture, using temples’ monzenmachi as inspiration.

KKAA - Cultural Village Entry, Rain

Traditionally, monzenmachi was the place for activity, for pilgrims and visitors of Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples to rest after the journey, to eat, and even to socialize. Monzenmachi literally means “town in front of the gate,” and our design for Portland Japanese Garden is a contemporary example of this.

The monzenmachi concept will preserve the essential experience for each individual visitor, spreading out needs such as admissions, information, education, events, orientation, restrooms, shopping, eating, sitting, and sharing their experiences—outside of the 5.5-acre Garden. Temples in Japan traditionally use this approach to preserve the sanctity of the shrine beyond its gates.  In our case, the spiritual destination is more nature-oriented rather than overtly religious. This idea of the village—a series of smaller buildings arranged around a casual but important shared or public space—allows programmed activities to be separated appropriately from the tranquility of the existing gardens, something not possible for Portland Japanese Garden until now.

The Garden’s new buildings will be designed according to the objectives of traditional Japanese architecture, in which the design blends seamlessly into the landscape.


The original garden space will remain untouched and unaltered. After the new buildings are completed, our existing Pavilion can be used more efficiently for extended exhibitions and events, such as the monthly Moonviewing. Our current Gift Store space will be repurposed for volunteer needs, with lockers, break room, tool storage, and an office for the Assistant Volunteer Coordinator. As our volunteer corps grows, this kind of space and access for volunteers is key to ensuring the Garden’s long-term success.

 NAJGA: What do you think will be the highlights of the new garden spaces for lovers of Japanese gardens? 

SB: The original five gardens blend into each other effortlessly, linked by the water that runs through them—including the dry “waves” raked into patterns in the Sand & Stone Garden. In the new gardens, which will surround and protect the original Garden, the flow of water will provide a connection throughout the entire 12-acre hillside. These breathtaking new spaces will offer a taste of diverse aesthetic design.

Cascading ponds and water terrace

For fifty years, the Garden’s front entrance in Washington Park has remained relatively invisible – a challenge for visitors to find their way to the Garden at the top of the hill. Cascading ponds will welcome visitors with a strong first impression.  The journey to the Garden will begin here, at the water’s edge, as if the visitor were setting foot on land from a voyage across the Pacific from Japan or disembarking from the Willamette or Columbia River, the original highways of this region.

From the water’s edge, visitors will meander along a zigzag path rising through a series of terraces with low native trees and shrubs, moving towards the forested hillside. This space will emulate the experience of moving up towards a Northwest forest from the lowlands of an Oregon riverbank, while the terraces are reminiscent of the tanada (rice paddy terraces) of rural Japan. This part of the journey begins the transition from the City to the tranquility of the Garden.

Moss hillside

Towering firs and cedars grow naturally along the hillside. The tall trees growing out of moss-covered slopes will create a space to quiet the mind and refresh the spirit. Water running down the hill will collect in a symbolic creek bed, full in winter and drying out during summer.  Just before the final leg of the ascent, a transparent bridge will span a portion of the hillside, creating an elevated view of the forest.

Tsubo-niwa At the top of the hill, visitors will arrive at the courtyard in the center of our new Cultural Village. The focal point will be an example of the modern Japanese garden style known as tsubo-niwa (tiny urban garden). Even though it occupies very little space, our tiny urban garden will incorporate each essential element of a Japanese garden – stone, water, and plants – and unobtrusively make nature the central focus of the Cultural Village.

KKAA - Tateuchi Courtyard from Village House

Ellie Hill bonsai terrace They say that the art of bonsai is the creation of a miniaturized landscape that fulfills the human yearning for a connection to nature in the smallest of spaces. This terrace will showcase seasonally resplendent specimens of these tiny trees, throughout the year.

Bill de Weese Chabana Garden Here, our gardeners will cultivate Japanese wildflowers, to be used in our regular tea ceremony demonstrations.  Chadō (tea ceremony) is a social ritual intended to restore harmony between individuals and between humanity and nature. This will be the only place in North America devoted to cultivating traditional Japanese tea flowers.

Oregon basalt terrace This will mark the highest point of the hillside. Traditionally, this spot is considered a symbolic space, where heaven and earth might meet.  Stone columns of Columbia River basalt will suggest the summits rising above the steep slopes of the Columbia Gorge and Takachiho Gorge in southern Japan.

NAJGA: What is the timeline/schedule for opening the expansion areas to the public? Is it happening all at once or in stages?  

SB: The Garden is closed for the first phase of construction, which is primarily excavation. We will reopen the main Garden on March 1, 2016. Construction will continue outside the gates until Spring 2017, when we expect the project to be fully complete.

 NAJGA: Can you run us through how a typical visitor experience to the garden will play out, with the addition of the Cultural Village and the new garden spaces? 

SB: The visitor experience of the primary Garden will remain unchanged. It will be the same serene space so many people connect with. The difference after Cultural Crossing will be how visitors approach the Garden, and how they’re guided into that space.

KKAA - Entry Along Ticketing Pavilion

We provide frequent updates on our progress on the Cultural Crossing blog at We encourage potential visitors to join us when we reopen in next March, just in time for viewing the cherry blossoms.

The Garden is a magical place any time of year, and we know that adding the frame of Japanese culture, art, and education will help even more people enjoy this special place in a fresh, new way.

Cultural Crossing By Way Of Portland