I would like to welcome and recognize seven new Board members: Ron Yamabe, Chris Tange, Mayuko Russell, Tammy Lau, Ralph Kumano, George Takata and Jerry Palladino. Each one has already become active in the various committees of the Shinzen Board and I thank them for their dedication and willingness to volunteer their valuable time between very busy work and service schedules to serve as members of our Board.
Because the City does not provide a full time gardener to maintain the nearly six acres of specially trained trees and shrubs as featured in Japanese Gardens, our Landscape Committee Chairman Ron Yamabe, assisted by Chris Tange, Richard Kassabian, Judy Shehadey, Donna Schiefer, Ralph Kumano, and Roger and Karen Tsuruda, plus many volunteers, including students, service clubs and master gardeners, have done an outstanding job maintaining our Garden for our visitors to enjoy.
In order to support the programs, services, and events Shinzen Friendship Garden provides we are dependent upon the time, talents and donations of many. With the addition of the Clark Bonsai Collection at Shinzen, the updating of the ceremonial tea garden and house, plus the construction of the new roof for the tea house, we were fortunate to secure significant donations above the funds raised through memberships and fundraising events. The needs continue for our garden. In time, working with the City and their planning team, a much needed new irrigation system is needed to sustain our beautiful landscape. We continue to focus on our vision as an exemplary North American Japanese Garden and inspiring cultural destination.
Through donating to Shinzen, the generous citizens of Fresno and the central valley, have helped to build and secure our garden. Continued giving of time, talents, and gifts will address sustainability now and in the years to come. Thank you for commitment to the future of Shinzen Friendship Garden. 


The arrival of a new season is acknowledged and enjoyed, almost like a holiday, in the Japanese culture. In the colder regions of North America, the arrival of autumn and the “fall color” is likewise prelude to the unique beauty of the hardwood forests. In both regions this is a tourist attraction all its own.

Here in the Central Valley we can enjoy the gorgeous color display of a handful of deciduous tree species. Some of these trees are selected for bonsai simply because of their spectacular fall colors. The gingko, for example, will show us intense yellow-gold autumn foliage. The Bald Cypress will present both gold and orange foliage. We may see bright yellow hornbeams.

After the Fall Color display has passed, bonsai show us another image entirely; the Winter Silhouette. When deciduous bonsai have shed all their leaves, we see the artistic skill that formed the structure of the tree. Only now can we appreciate the angularity and refinement of the branch structure. This is like the study of architecture or anatomy. Some bonsai exhibits are exclusively devoted to showing the trees in their Winter Silhouette, particularly for the appreciation of the patience and skill required to develop a beautiful skeleton, as it were.

Falling into Winter will be the next bonsai exhibit at the GSBF-Clark Bonsai Collection. The exhibit will open October 13, 2018 and run until February 17, 2019. The bonsai for this display will be selected for their fall color and winter silhouette. The collection will be open to the public weekends and holidays from 10:00am until 4:00pm. Private tours may be arranged through the Shinzen Garden website.


This year’s Shinzen Garden Toro Nagashi Lantern Ceremony was hindered by the above normal temperatures and poor quality air caused by mountain fires. However, due to the perseveranace of our wonderful volunteers we were able to proceed in a fairly smooth manner – from the opening of the Fresno Gumyo Taiko’s rhythmic performance to the ringing of the bell by Rinban Kakei Nakagawa signifying the last lighted lantern floated in Wookward Lake. In about two hours, participants were able to cast about 250 paper lanterns, guiding the souls of loved ones back to their homes. The paper lanterns in the lake made a beautiful sight.
Our event followed the various Fresno area Obon Festivals put on by the Buddhist churches in July during the summer heat to call back and honor the sprits of one’s ancestors.
To put on such a program like this every year takes the cooperation and hard work from many people and as chairman of this year’s event, I want to personally thank everyone who helped make this cultural ceremony so special. 
Ralph Kumano, Toro Nagashi Chair


You are needed! Choose your volunteer opportunity and make a difference!

Meet people from across the U.S. and the world. See a child smile as they spot the Koi, recognize a Japanese Maple, or hear the story about the large lantern in the Garden. Take pride in digging in the dirt, pulling weeds and restoring the beauty of an area in the Ume Grove or Tea Garden. Join friends in serving food to guests at the Spring Cultural Festival, helping children with arts and crafts that reflect the Japanese Culture, or helping to float lanterns at Toro Nagashi.
You could be a docent guiding a tour at Shinzen and sharing this gift with others. You could serve as a host in the Clark Bonsai Collection and witness people’s awe over the beauty and art of bonsai. 
Please consider becoming a Shinzen Volunteer and experience how you can make a difference, connect with other members and meet new friends, support our Garden and help us grow – enjoy the beauty of this peaceful, serene, ever-changing Garden and Fresno treasure.
Call the Office at (559) 840-1264 and speak to Susana Figueroa or J Schirmacher or click button below to fill out an interest form and we will contact you!

Here are some options:
Docent   |   Event Volunteer  |   Horticulture and Landscape Volunteer   
Bonsai Host, Guardian or Tree Tender   |   Bonsai Docent  |   Outreach Volunteer

Pictured: Fresno Joggers, Central West Students and Toro Nagashi Volunteers

Welcome to the Garden.

Shinzen emerged in the era of sister-city gardens, following World War II, with the building of Japanese gardens to forge friendship and to recognize the significant role of early Japanese immigrants and citizens in the founding and development of our community. An early connection with the Fresno Sister City Kochi, Japan, provided a key link to further identify the importance of friendship and international brotherhood in the creation of this notable feature for Fresno.

The initial development of a Japanese garden was envisioned in 1967 and the donation of land by Ralph Woodward to establish Woodward Park helped launch the establishment of the Woodward Park Japanese Development Committee led by Ben Nakamura. Design work was started by Kodo Matsubara and was added to by Paul Saito and Shiro Nakagawa. The City of Fresno was also a key participant in the design and development.  Funding for the Garden was a combination of individual, community and city support.

The incorporation and dedication of the Garden occurred in 1981 and a Board of Trustees, now Directors, which serves as the non-profit 501(c)(3) that, in partnership with the City, oversees the maintenance and management of the services and programs of the Garden.

The Garden provides cultural and educational events for the community with a Fall Festival, Spring Blossom Festival, Toro Nagashi Lantern Event, as well as workshops and classes in aesthetic pruning, and the art and culture of Japan. With the renovation and renewal of the Tea Garden and Tea House, Shinzen will offer opportunities for visitors to learn more about the significance of tea ceremonies and tea houses to the Japanese.

The Clark Bonsai Collection which was opened in the fall of 2015 added a major new display area to Shinzen. This notable collection of over 100 special bonsai has enriched the experience and learning for many who visit Shinzen. Serving as a “living museum” of the art of bonsai, the Collection offers lectures, training and workshops to share and advance this notable art form.