The Seattle Garden goes to Japan
By Mark Bourne
A display board about the Seattle Japanese Garden is the newest exhibition at the Hyogo Prefecture Museum of Nature and Human Activities, near Kobe. For those familiar with the history of the Seattle Japanese Garden, this will be recognized as a homecoming of sorts. Many of the supporters and advocates for this garden were involved with the Seattle-Kobe Sister City Foundation in the mid-1950’s. Although this garden was ultimately supported by the Tokyo Metropolitan Parks department and designed by a team of designers who were all from Tokyo, the impetus to create the garden has roots in the sister-city connection between Kobe and Seattle.
This exhibition is the work of Dr. Hiroki Akazawa, a senior researcher in Landscape Architecture from the Museum of Nature and Human Activities in Hyogo Prefecture. When I was introduced to Dr. Akazawa last Autumn, we decided to visit the garden together to compare notes. Luckily, our visit was on one of the last sunny days when the fall foliage was still making an excellent show. During our leisurely stroll around the pond and through the garden, he remarked that the Seattle Garden was superb as a garden that captured the feeling of a Japanese garden – the clear focus of the garden avoids the “variety-pack” effect, the sensation of overload produced by trying to mimic the entirety of Japanese garden styles in one site. We continued to meet through the winter, collaborating on various research projects, and when Dr. Akazawa returned to his home institution he decided to produce an exhibition about the garden here to share with the museum audience in Japan.
Aurora Santiago graciously allowed the museum to use one of her photographs to capture the spirit of our garden for the Japanese audience.