The 120th Anniversary of the Japanese Garden in Chicago

Garden of the Phoenix historical photo

Fig. 1. The Phoenix Pavilion on the Wooded Island, Jackson Park, Chicago, 1893 (courtesy of The Chicago Public Library, Special Collections)

The Japanese have long believed that when a phoenix descends from the heavens, a new era of peace and prosperity will begin1.  On March 31, 1893, Japanese and Americans gathered together in the heartland of America, on the Wooded Island in Chicago, to prepare for the opening of the World’s Columbian Exposition2.  They gathered to celebrate the arrival of a Phoenix that would take the form of a pavilion (Fig 1), which they hoped would teach the world about Japan, and, in turn, would lead us to learn about each other and ourselves.

For the past 120 years, enduring through the highs and lows in the U.S.-Japan relationship, Chicago has maintained the site of the Phoenix Pavilion on the Wooded Island as a place for Americans to experience Japanese culture3.  In the 1930s,

1. Kakuzo Okakura, The Ho-o-den (Phoenix Hall): An Illustrated Description of the Buildings Erected by the Japanese Government at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Jackson Park, Chicago (Tokyo: K. Ogawa Publishing Co., 1893; printed by C.D. Arnold and Co., Chicago).
2. “In Japan’s Temple. Building of the Nation Is Dedicated to Fair Uses,” Chicago Daily Tribune, April 1, 1893, p. 9.
3. The site of the Phoenix Pavilion is the earliest enduring site in the United States dedicated by Japan and the United States as a symbol of the two countries’ friendship and place for Americans to experience Japanese culture. On February 11, 1892 representatives of the Japanese Exhibition and South Park Commissioners concluded a written agreement whereby Japan would build the Phoenix Pavilion and gift it to the City of Chicago, and the City of Chicago through the South Park District (Chicago Park District) would maintain the building permanently and properly on its site on the Wooded Island as a symbol of the relationship between the two countries and as a place to experience Japanese culture. See Chicago Park District, Special Collections. See also, “Permanent Japanese Exhibit – The One Prepared for the Fair to be turned over to the City of Chicago,” Chicago Daily Tribune, February 19, 1892, p. 8

昔から日本人は、鳳凰が天から舞い降り てくると、平和と繁栄の新時代が到来する と信じてきた。  1893年3月31日、世界コロ ンビア万国博覧会(以下、「シカゴ万博」と 呼ぶ)開催の準備のため、アメリカの中心 地であるシカゴ市のウーデッド・アイランド (Wooded Island)に日本人とアメリカ人が 集った。  そして、パビリオンという形をと る鳳凰(図-1)の出現を祝う一方で、そ の鳳凰が世界に日本という国について教 えると引き換えに、人々を相互理解と自 己理解に導いてくれるよう祈った。 シカゴ市は、 これまで120年もの間、日 米関係の浮き沈みに耐えながら、ウーデ ッド・アイランドにある鳳凰殿の地をアメリ カ人が日本文化を体験するための場所 として維持してきた。

1930年代には、鳳 凰殿に添う形で壮大な日本庭園が増設さ れた。しかし、第二次世界大戦を受けて、 鳳凰殿および日本庭園ともに消失したた

an extraordinary Japanese garden was added to accompany the Phoenix Pavilion. Since the Pavilion and garden were lost following World War II, the garden has risen again from the ashes to become one of the most important sites in the United States that reflects both the past and future of U.S.-Japan relations. In 2013, to commemorate the 120-year history of the “Garden of the Phoenix,” 120 cherry blossom trees are being planted to celebrate the mutual understanding and respect enjoyed today between these two nations. The newly planted trees will also commemorate the two nations’ hopes to begin a new era of even greater cooperation. As they grow in size and number to be enjoyed each spring in the Japanese tradition of hanami, or cherry blossom viewing, the trees will inspire new opportunities for cultural exchange and learning for generations to come.


On February 24, 1890, the City of Chicago was selected by the United States government to host one of the most important international events in the country’s history – a world’s fair to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of the New World in 14924.  Located in the middle of the country, at the crossroads of transportation and commerce, Chicago rose quickly from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1871. By 1890, Chicago’s population exceeded one million, and its skyline had begun to take shape with the world’s first skyscrapers. Selected over New York,

4. J.B. Campbell, Campbell’s Illustrated History of the World’s Columbian Exposition (Toledo, Ohio: Carothers Pub. Co., 1894), and Donald L. Miller, City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America (New York: Touchstone, 1997).

め、日本庭園は灰の中から復元され、ア メリカ国内で日米関係の過去と未来を象 徴する最も重要な場所の一つとなったの である。
2013年には、「鳳凰の庭園」の設立から 120年を記念して、今日におけるこれら二 国間の相互理解と尊重を祝うべく、120本 の桜の木が植えられる。新植される木々 は、より大きな協力の時代の到来という両 国の希望をも記念するであろう。また、そ れらが大きさ・数ともに成長し、日本の風 習であるお花見で毎春楽しまれるように なるにつれ、次世代のための文化交流・ 文化伝達の新たな機会がもたらされるで あろう。
1890年2月24日、シカゴ市は、アメリカ政 府により、国が始まって以来最も重要な 国際イベントの一つの開催都市に選ばれ た。それは、1492年のコロンブスによる新 大陸発見から400年を記念する万国博覧 会であった。4
アメリカのど真ん中に位置するシカゴ市 は、交通と交易の交差点として、シカゴ 大火(1871年)の廃墟から迅速に復興し た。1890年までには、シカゴ市の人口は 100万人を超え、建物の景観も世界初の 摩天楼と呼ばれる形になり始めていた。
ニューヨーク市、ワシントン市、そしてセン トルイス市を差し置いて選ばれたシカゴ 市は、今や「太平洋から大西洋」にまたが るこのフロンティア国の野望と不屈の精神 の象徴であった。
ミシガン湖の南岸にあるシカゴ市のジャク ソン・パーク (Jackson Park) は、まるで一 晩にして、砂と湿地からシカゴ万国博覧 会のための巨大な新古典主義建築物が 立ち並ぶ電気の街へと化した。「ホワイト・  シティ」として知られるようになったシカゴ 市には、その時代の工業的・科学的・芸 術的な才能の最たる例を一目見ようと、

Washington D.C. and St. Louis, Chicago represented the ambition and fortitude of this frontier nation that now spanned from “sea to shining sea.”

Seemingly overnight, Chicago’s Jackson Park, on the south shore of Lake Michigan, was transformed from sand and marshland into an electrified city of gigantic neo-classic buildings for the World’s Columbian Exposition. It was there, in what became known as the “White City,” that more than 27 million visitors would come from around the world to see the best examples of industrial, scientific, and artistic talents of the day.

Nearly every nation participated in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Although everyone understood the importance of making a positive impression in Chicago, perhaps no foreign nation understood this more than Japan. Until 1853, Japan had maintained a centuries-old policy of self-imposed isolation from the world. After its shores were forced open by the United States, Japan began to take bold steps to replace its weak feudal government, and rapidly adopted Western science, technologies, and social systems.5 By the time of the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, Japan was ready to demonstrate to the world how far it had progressed in only 40 years, and prepared the largest budget and the most elaborate plans of any foreign nation participating at the exposition in Chicago.6

Japan’s primary goals were to establish itself in the eyes of the world as a modern, industrial nation that was open to trade and commerce with other nations, and to overcome the unequal treaties that had been imposed upon it. Soon after being invited to participate, in June 1890, Japan organized its resources and began sending leaders to Chicago to negotiate

5. Marius B. Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2000) especially 371-473.
6. Masahiro Mishima, “The Factors and Motivation of the Ho-o-den’s Construction in the World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893,” [in Japanese] Journal of Architecture, Planning, Environment, Engineering, No. 429 (November 1991).

シカゴ万博には、ほぼ全ての国が参加した。どの参加国もシカゴで自国をアピールすることの重要性を理解していたものの、それを最も理解していた国は日本以外にはなかったであろう。日本は、1853年まで数世紀もの間、世界からの鎖国政策を維持した。アメリカ合衆国により開国が強制された後、日本は衰退した封建制度の改革に向けて大胆な措置を取り始めるとともに、西洋の科学、技術、および社会システムを急速に導入していった。5 そして、シカゴ万博が開催される頃には、たった40年間のうちに成し遂げた進歩はもちろん、万博参加国の中で最高の予算額と最も綿密な計画を世界に対して示す準備が日本にはできていた。

Fig. 2. The Phoenix Pavilion. The United States Pavilion and the Manufacturers Building in the background, 1893 (courtesy of The Chicago Public Library, Special Collections)

日本の主な目的は、諸外国との交易と商業に開かれた現代国家・産業国家としての存在感を世界に示すとともに、押し付けられた不平等条約を克服することにあ った。1890年6月、シカゴ万博への参加を招待されて間もなく、日本は人的・物的資

for the best locations for its exhibits.7 After securing sufficient space in the main exhibit halls to display the fruits of its rapid modernization, Japan sought a site where it could construct a building (Fig. 2) that could properly introduce the world to its rich artistic heritage, culture, and traditions.

The Wooded Island, located at the center of the exposition, was the most idyllic site because, for the Japanese, this island resembled the physical characteristics of Japan.8 It would not only be the perfect natural setting for a traditional Japanese building, but such a location would elevate Japan’s status by being at the center of the grand iconic buildings representing Western civilization.

The role of the Wooded Island, as designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted (1822-1903), America’s foremost landscape architect and the chief of the exhibition’s landscape design, was to provide exposition visitors a quiet sylvan setting, unencumbered by buildings, in which to escape the hustle and bustle of the exposition. In February 1892, following lengthy negotiations between the Japanese and exposition officials, Daniel Burnham (1846-1912), the exhibition’s chief of construction, enthusiastically wrote to Olmsted to explain that the Japanese “propose to do the most exquisitely beautiful things . . . and desire to leave the buildings as a gift to the City of Chicago.”9 Shortly thereafter, the Japanese Commission was granted permission to build on two acres at the northern portion of the fifteen-acre Wooded Island.



On March dedicated 31, 1893,the Ho-o-den (Phoenix P the United States aand Japanvilion) on

7. “Space Japan Wants,” Chicago Daily Tribune, November 1, 1891, p. 2.
8. “What the Japanese Propose to Do,” Chicago Daily Tribune, December 5, 1891, p. 8. After assessing various options, the Japanese government officially requested two acres of space on the northern portion of the Wooded Island for a building of the “most ancient style of architecture of Japan, and to make to the City of Chicago a gift of the structure at the close of the World’s Fair.”
9. Letter from Burnham to Olmsted, February 5, 1892, The Daniel Burnham Papers, The Art Institute of Chicago. See also, Thomas S.Hines, Burnham of Chicago: Architect and Planner (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1974), 107; and, Kevin Nute, Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1993) p. 53.

源を整える一方で、最適な展示場所を交渉するために代表者達をシカゴに送り込み始めた。7 そして、日本の急速な近代化の産物を展示するための十分な場所をメイン展示会場内に確保すると、次にその偉大な芸術遺産、文化ならびに伝統を世界に適切に紹介するための建築物( 図-2)の敷地を探した。
博覧会の中心部に位置するウーデッド・アイランドは、日本人にとって自国の物理的な特徴と似ていたため、最適な場所とされた。そこは、日本の伝統的建築物に理想とされる自然環境が存在していただけでなく、西洋文明を代表する巨大な象徴的建築物の中心に建設されることで日本の立場を引き上げるものでもあった。アメリカで最も著名な造園家であり、万博の景観設計部長でもあったフレデリック・ロ ー・オルムステッド(1822-1903)が設計したように、ウーデッド・アイランドは、建物に邪魔されず、万博の喧騒からも逃れられる静かな緑の空間を訪れる人々に提供する役割を担っていた。日本側関係者と万博主催側関係者との長期に及ぶ交渉が終了した1892年2月、万博の建設部長を務めたダニエル・バーナム(1846-1912 )は、オルムステッド宛に熱心に手紙を綴り、「(日本人は)極めて美しい建築物を作ることを提案した・・・そして、それをシカゴ市への寄贈物として残すことを希望している」9 と説明した。 間もなくして、日本の博覧会事務局は、面積15エーカーのウーデッド・アイランドの北側、2エーカーの敷地に建設を許可された。



the Wooded Island. Never before had the nation been given such a locus for learning about Japan, nor did a building ever have so many meanings and hopes cast upon it.

The Phoenix Pavilion was deliberately designed to showcase for the first time in America the greatest achievements of Japan’s artistic heritage. For the millions of visitors to the World’s Columbian Exposition during its six-month run beginning May 1, 1893, the building – and the canon of Japanese art that it contained – would begin to transform their understanding and appreciation of Japan and its people. At the close of the Exposition, the Phoenix Pavilion was gifted by the Emperor of Japan to the City of Chicago to serve not only as a symbol of the relationship between Japan and the United States, but to be a place for future generations to continue to learn about Japan.

The Phoenix Pavilion in Chicago was modeled after a noted building called the Hōōdō, or Phoenix Hall, located in Uji, near Kyoto. Built in 1052, the Hōōdō is recognized as one of the most important examples of classical Japanese architecture, and remains a symbol of Japan today.10 The Chicago version was given the name Ho-o-den, or Phoenix Pavilion, signifying that it was modified from a sacred Buddhist worship hall to one of secular purpose. The Phoenix Pavilion consisted of a central hall with two identical smaller structures situated on each side that were connected by a roofed pergola. The arrangement of the buildings was intended to represent the head and body, and flanking wings, of the Phoenix.

The interior of each building was elaborately decorated to display the distinct style of a significant period of Japanese art and architecture.11 The north

10. The Hōōdō, or Phoenix Hall, was constructed as a sacred building for religious purposes upon the 1500th anniversary of th death of Buddha. In 1994, UNESCO listed the Hōōdō as a World Heritage Site as part of the “Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto.” The Phoenix Hall, and its statue of Amida, have been designated as National Treasures by the Japanese government.

11. Mishima, “The Factors and Motivation of the Ho-o-den’s Construction in the World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893;” and Masahiro Mishima, “The Factors Surrounding the Form of the Ho-o-den in the World’s Columbian Exposition, 1893,” [in Japanese] Journal of Architecture, Planning, Environment, Engineering, No. 434 (April 1992).

ig. 3. The Phoenix Pavilion Dedication, March 31, 1893 (courtesy of The Chicago Public Library, Special Collections)

職人24名により建設された。見物人達は、彼らの規律性と職人技にすぐさま虜になった。14 耳あての付いた青い帽子をかぶり、厚めの綿製ジャケット、ぴったりとしたズボン、そして親指と人差し指の部分で二つに分かれた地下足袋を身に付けた大工職人達は、風変わりな手工具を使いながら、はしごも使わずに地面から屋根に機敏に上 った。

軽量木材を用いた伝統的な建築工法によ って完成した建物(図-3)には、開閉・取外し可能な障子窓が用いられ、自然光が十分に利用されるとともに、低めのひさしとむき出しの梁があった。西洋における耐力壁の代わりに支柱を用いることで、内部の空間が柔軟かつ開放的になり、建物の外観と周囲の自然環境との流動的な空間を生み出した。このような建築様式は、万博内の主たるボザール様式とは著しく異なっており、アメリカ建築の今後の発展に関しての議論と想像の両方をかき立てた。15