Considered to be one of the top traditional Japanese gardens in North America, Nitobe Memorial Garden honours the Japanese scholar, educator and diplomat Dr. Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933).
Nitobe is meticulously designed and maintained, down to each pebble; every leaf and stone. And everything is infused with meaning.
There is tranquil harmony here, in the careful balance of masculine and feminine forces traditionally attributed to natural elements: waterfalls, rivers, forests, islands and seas. Grab a pamphet on your way in – it directs you on a self-guided tour.
A number of stone lanterns, strategically placed, grace the two-acre oasis. Stone lanterns appeard in Japan during the Asuka period and were used to light the front of Buddhist temples. Their decorative use in gardens began with the rise of the tea ceremony and the need to illuminate the roji path to the tea house. This Nitobe family crest lantern (shizen doro) was not in garden designer Dr. Mori’s original design but was added later as a gift from the city of Morioka. The stone is local to Morioka district and it bears the crescent moon and stars of the Nitobe family crest.
Stones, which have many symbolic meanings in Japanese gardens (female, male, child; alarm, sensory awareness, etc.), anchor and provide the “bones” of the garden.
I love the serenity inherent here. I really want to create a Japanese-style garden when we move to our new place, but I’ve never been good at self-restraint. Maybe it will serve as an exercise in that.
Heavy Petal is on holiday until August 9. This article was originally posted September 18, 2005.