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(June 20-25, 2006)

Ricardo Cambón

Torre de Hercules - Gardens

Craig A. Busch

Japanese Garden - Hermann Park

Houston, Texas, USA

June 25, 2006 13:35

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© 2006 Craig A. Busch, All Rights Reserved.

The City of Houston has a website with the following description of the Japanese Garden in Hermann Park.

"The Japanese Garden in Hermann Park is operated by the City of Houston, Parks and Recreation Department and was created by the efforts of American and Japanese businesses with grants from many foundations and individuals. The City of Houston donated the land and helped with the construction. It is a symbol of friendship between this country and Japan.

This particular garden is a daimyo style, and includes a tea garden, a kaiyushiki stroll garden, and a scroll garden. The entry garden is a dry landscape garden. Imagine you are standing on the sea (black moonstone) and the boulders are the rising landscape of Japan. The bamboo flowing in the wind represents the sound of the ocean. The boulders were moved from a former Japanese garden at the downtown Houston Lighting & Power building downtown.

Through the gate straight ahead there is a welcoming lantern, a gift from the city of Chiba, Japan. This five-piece lantern was carved from solid granite. The aperture of the lantern focuses the spirit of the garden. There are three stone lanterns, ishi-doro, in this garden.

Curved pathways in the garden are covered with crushed stone similar to moonstone. The arbor is a place to sit, meditate and clear the mind of other thoughts. It is also special place to wait until called to tea ceremony in the teahouse. Across the pond, one can see the yukimi lantern given by Houston's sister city - Chiba. Imagine that it is a lighthouse placed on a stone beach, with the pond as an ocean and the rocks in the water symbolizing ships being guided by the lantern. The cascade or waterfall makes one think of melting snow from a mountain stream. The hill is landscaped in cherry-blossom-pink crape myrtles, which bloom in the summer. Crape myrtle trees, which originated in China and Japan, are common in Houston.

Leaving the arbor, proceed to the right along the flat stones through the tea garden gate or niwakido. Before entering the teahouse, tea ceremony guests walk along this path which the host will have moistened to appear damp with morning dew. This path is hence called the dewy path or roji.

The tsukubai, at the end of the dewy path is used to purify oneself before going into the teahouse. This tsukubai arrangement includes the water basin, three flat rocks surrounding it and a bamboo dipper to dip water from the water basin. A beautiful sound is created when water falls through the small stones into the mizukoto or water harp below.

Near the teahouse are two viewing stones. When the teahouse is open and one stands on these viewing stones to look through the teahouse, one can see a living picture of the waterfall with the distant pine trees creating a borrowed landscape or shakkei. This living picture resembles a Japanese woodblock print or ukiyoe. It is important to note, the teahouse was placed first and the garden view was then created around it.

This teahouse was donated by the Commemorative Association of the World Expo Fund of Japan with the initiative of former Prime Minister Kaifu who visited Houston in 1990 for the World Economic Summit. It was built in Japan and reassembled here by Japanese craftsmen. The teahouse is made from hinoki, or Japanese cypress beams. Hinoki is famous for its smooth, fine grain and is an essential element in Japanese wooden construction. Inside, the crossbeams, which support the ceiling, are made of a special Japanese red cedar tree called Kitayama-sugi from Kyoto, Japan. This wood is carefully cultivated so knots do not develop. Made without nails, the teahouse is an excellent example of Japanese wooden mortise and tenon construction. Architects are interested in the special way the teahouse is constructed. The rice paper of the shoji windows and doors is encompassed in glass for protection. The roof is made of copper. A raised platform of tatami, a woven straw mat, is where the tea ceremony is performed and the remainder of the teahouse is used as a gallery for learning.

In the north part of the garden is another yukimi or snow viewing lantern (that's irony - a yukimi in Houston! r.c.) and an arbor. Beneath the lantern is snow mound spirea and overshadowing it is a snowbell tree. When the snowbell tree is dropping its blossoms, it resembles a winter scene in which snow is falling on the lantern. Across the path is an arbor surrounded by iris. Many people come to this iris arbor to rest and view the scene across the garden. "

I have always loved going to this garden. It is always beautiful even in the heat of Houston summers. It represents more than an arrangement of plants, trees, flowers, and stones. It is a cultural refuge that transports you to a peaceful, serene environment representing both another way of life and a sharing of two cultures. It is as if someone lifted this little garden from another place and set it down in another part of the world.

USA-Canada / USA-Texas

Lat: 29° 43' 11.89" N
Long: 95° 23' 33.76" W

→ maps.google.com [EXT]

Precision is: Medium. Nearby, but not to the last decimal.

Nikon D200 w 17mm Lens Stitched with Panorama Factory

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