Japanese Garden Art Research Department at the Kyoto University of Art and Design is a professional research institution founded in 1996. The mission statement recognizes that the culture of Japanese gardens was born and grew over the years interwoven with the close relationship between nature and people. And that by making many changes to natural environment modern civilization has accomplished a truly swift development resulting in many contradictions between the individual, society, and the earth. Through working with Japanese gardens the department is trying to find clues to resolve these contradictions.
Far from Kyoto is a garden designed by Nagao Sakurai, the first landscape architect to graduate from the Imperial University of Japan. He was selected by the Japanese Government to design the Japanese Exhibit at the 1939 Golden Gate and New York International Expositions. After the expo he returned to Tokyo, but later immigrated to the U.S. in the 1950s. One of his earliest commissions in California was the design of a garden called Shikyeon (now known as the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden), in Los Angeles.
Nearly 100 people gathered recently at a public meeting to save the Hannah Carter Japanese Garden at UCLA. The university recently sparked controversy in the community when it announced its plans to sell the property, including a house, despite the original intention of donors. Among the first to speak was Dr. Kendall Brown, an expert on Japanese gardens described the garden as an important symbol of Japanese culture in America. “It established a relationship with Japan after the war and added cultural richness and depth to UCLA.”
“We’re horrified that the garden’s future is at risk,” Garden Conservancy President Antonia Adezio said. “It’s a gem.” A coalition of concerned groups is asking for a show of support (US residents can sign a petition, others can email support) for this place of natural beauty and quiet retreat. Every garden has a story, and this is one is filled with bridges connecting individuals, nations and indeed, the earth. We hope it will be preserved, and perhaps even invigorated.