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Mr. Ken Nakajimas’s design was based on Zen philosophy that “one creates new values and beauty by the appropriate means while treasuring the value of existing things”. Nakajima incorporated existing large native Texas pines and oak trees into the Garden, working “with nature to create a new space and sense of beauty”. He wanted to express tranquility and natural elements of the landscape in various forms, i.e. water, rocks, and seasonal plant changes. Specific features include a Nagayamon gate, a teahouse donated to the Garden by the Commemorative Association for the World Exposition through the initiative of former Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu on his 1990 visit to Houston, designed for a traditional tea ceremony. Texas pink granite rocks with distinctive characteristics were quarried from a site in Marble Falls, TX. Major plants include azaleas, crepe myrtles, existing oaks and native loblolly pines. A wisteria trellis overlooks a koi pond, one of three ponds in the Garden. In preparation for the upcoming 25th anniversary of the Garden in 2017, renovations are being made including pond repair and fence replacement, a new gate (Kabuki-mon) to improve accessibility, and a dry stream garden (karesansui 枯山水).
The 22,000 square meter site was provided by the City inside Hermann Park, a 445-acre regional Park just south of downtown Houston, surrounded by the Texas Medical Center, the Museum District and Rice University. The Japanese Garden was made possible by the support of the City of Houston, the Consulate-General of Japan, the Commemorative Association, Houston’s sister City of Chiba, Japan, and donations by many local organizations, and individuals from the Japanese and American business communities in Houston, TX. In 2007, the Garden began an annual renovation by renowned Japanese landscape designer Mr. Terunobu Nakai, who undertook the design of the renovation after Mr. Nakajima’s passing. The need for the 2007 renovation became evident after the Garden had begun to slip into a Texas-style Japanese Garden rather than a Japanese style Japanese Garden. The renovation is ongoing and is monitored by the Japanese Garden Advisory Committee formed by the Hermann Park Conservancy and consisting of members representing the Japanese community and businesses in Houston, TX.
Data and photos contributed by Barbara Jo L. Harwell, Conservation Director – Hermann Park Conservancy