Features of the Garden
Welcome to the serene and beautiful Shinzen Japanese Friendship Garden. Located within Woodward Park adjacent to Freeway 41, it is designed to present an atmosphere of elegant simplicity (shibui) and quiet beauty. Designed by Saito Associates, construction of the Garden began in 1975 and was first opened to the public in May, 1981. The originally flat and dry Valley floor has been transformed with man-made mountains, waterfalls, streams and a lake. The lush plants have turned it into an oasis of distinctive beauty. The design is guided by the original principles of the Japanese garden while incorporating elements of the regional landscape and climate. It is a 5 acre "stroll" garden accenting the four seasons.
These are some of its features (numbers are from the map)
#1) Entrance and Mon:
The Entrance Plaza with its flower design was donated by the Fresno Chapter of the Japanese American Citizen's League (JACL). Garden Designer Kodo Matsubara designed the front entrance consisting of the primary gate, wrought iron fence and the stamped concrete paved area. He chose the Flower as the important theme pattern. Also in front of the Ume-bayashi fence, eleven Matsubara-sakura plum trees, donated by Dr. Kukuo Taira, were planted as part of Mr. Matsubura's front entry design.
The large Gate or Mon was a gift of Fresno's Sister City, Kochi City, Japan. It was built and dedicated in May of 1981. A delegation of over 40 Kochi residents was present, including their Mayor and the Chairman of the Sister City Program in Kochi. Fresno's mayor, Dan Whitehurst, and other dignitaries gave speeches of welcome.
The Mon is constructed so as to give the appearance of being built with no nails. The gate is built with nails, but they are concealed for the most part. The word "mon" refers not only to a gate, but also to an identifying insignia or hallmark. (The chrysanthemum is the "mon" of Japan's royal family.) The leaf pattern was chosen as our "mon" by our sister city. The leaf pattern is that of a Thompson Seedless Grape, because the area is known for its grape industry.
Photo above by Paul Saito.
#5) Tea Garden and Tea Ceremony House
Our Garden is home to a ceremonial tea house that was completed in September, 1989. It is only the second tea house in the continental United States with an authentic thatched roof that is open to the public. The tea house was assembled from pieces pre-cut in Japan by three Japanese master carpenters. The thatched roof was installed by a master roof thatcher who arrived with the carpenters. Yamamoto-san is one of the probably fewer than 200 people in Japan who still practice this skillful art.
Prior to thatching, the roof of the tea house was prepared with bamboo stems so that small bundles of the thatching materials would be tied to it with heavy, tarred twine. Layers were built up to make the thatching about 18 inches thick. The ridge was covered with the bark from the Cryptomeria tree and finished with a superstructure of bamboo to prevent leaking. A final shearing or "haircut" to even any rough spots completed the roof.
The Tea House is a replica of an authentic "Sukiya" style Japanese Teahouse. Typical of all Japanese Teahouses which are solely used for Cha-No-Yu (the Japanese Tea Ceremony), it is small is scale and fragile in appearance. It is approximately 325 square feet in overall size. There are 3 rooms - a small preparation room, a guests' anteroom and the main tearoom, plus the "tokonoma", which is an alcove in the main room in which a "kakemono" (scroll) is hung. All of the floor coverings are Tatami mats. Also featured are Shoji screens and sliding Amado doors to protect the Shoji screens from the elements.
The Teahouse has its own "Roji", a garden surrounding a teahouse. Uji Rotary of Japan (our Fresno Rotary's sister Rotary there) sent us the proper stone lantern and Water Basin for placement with the Roji.
Teahouse photo above by Paul Saito.
#6) Double Moon Bridge and Koi Pond:
The arched Double-Moon stone bridge is typical of bridges in gardens in Japan and is a symbol of double good luck. Our bridge has two arches, resulting in a "double-moon" reflecting on the waters of the koi pond and on the Park Lake beyond. The bridge acts as a barrier between the koi pond and the Park Lake, with a screen to keep the koi in their pond and the lake fish out.
The Koi Pond is part of a typical Japanese garden. Koi, pronounced "KOY", are a Japanese carp that have developed into many colors through selective breeding. The koi pond and streams are a separate system from the other lakes in the park. The water is pumped through an elaborate filtering system under the double moon bridge to the top of the waterfall.
Koi represent longevity and virility in Japan. Though the average age of koi is between 20 to 30 years, they can live up to 200 years. Pine Island, in the koi pond, has been re-named "Angel's Island" in honor of long-time Secretary and friend to the Garden, Angel Abajian.
Photo of Double Moon Bridge above by Samantha Rogers.
#17) Historical Lantern:
A massive stone lantern, brought from Japan for the Fresno County Young Men's Association was erected and dedicated on September 12, 1939 on an island in Washington Lake at Roeding Park. The lantern was to serve to symbolize the spirit of closer relationships between the Japanese and the American people and the common causes of both living in America. The light from the Japanese lantern continued to glow until its top mysterionsly toppled into the lake and the lantern subsequently disappeared from the Roeding Park maintenance yard. In 1999, the lantern was found, carefully and lovingly restored and has now been placed in the serene surrounding of the Shinzen Garden at Woodward Park. In the spirit for which this lantern was originally dedicated, it is now presented as a memorial to the Japanese and American people living together in this community.
Photographer for these two photos is unknown.
#23) Tembo Dai
This Tembo Dai (Viewing Shelter - one of several in the Garden) is part of the Taira Ume Grove. In 1992, Dr. Kikuo Taira donated 82 ume (flowering Japanese apricot-plum) trees and an authentic tsukubai (for hand washing). The trees were planted in a previously undeveloped 1/2 acre area just west of the parking lot. Since then, the trees have grown to maturity and, when blooming annually, during the months of January and February, they are a focal point of the Garden. Paul Saito, FASLA, was commissioned by the Shinzen Garden Committee to design the grove. He presented and donated a plan that encompassed a walkway system around and through the existing trees, a large waterfall, streambed, two bridges, koi pond and the Garden shelter in the photo (left). In addition to the ume trees, Japanese cherry (shown in bloom here) and Japanese Maple trees were added.
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Photo above by Paul Saito.