Japanese Garden Road Trip: Friendship In Fredericksburg, Texas

Japanese garden road trip: Friendship in Fredericksburg, TexasWar memorials come in all shapes, from towering monuments to low-lying gardens. The 40-year-old Japanese Garden of Peace in Fredericksburg, Texas, is a living memorial to friendship and a gift from the people of Japan to the people of the United States.

Trees have been carefully arranged around water features in the Ishin-no-Ike style, "pond of one heart," to represent loyalty. Raked gravel symbolizes ocean waves where stones and plantings stand in for Pacific islands.

A meditation structure resembles one in Maizuru City, Japan, once owned by the Imperial Japanese Navy's Marshal-Admiral Marquis Togo Heihachiro.

The square wood structure with a gable roof and shoji screens was assembled without nails in the style of a house of the early 1900s Taisho Era. A pool is shaped into Japanese characters that mean "one heart."

Water dripping from a bamboo pipe represents purifying actions and words, and the Bamboo Spring symbolizes a single raindrop that contributes to a stream, then a large river and finally the sea, according to original garden designer Taketora Saita of Tokyo.

The garden, which honors U.S. Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, is part of the National Museum of the Pacific War complex, which includes the Admiral Nimitz Museum.

The "tranquil oasis for solace and reflection" is a respite from the military history museum, which "brings to mind violence, destruction and loss — the price of freedom paid with human life," according to the garden's website.

The Japanese Garden of Peace is one of the stops in The Oregonian's road trip series to spotlight members of the Portland-based North American Japanese Garden Association while the Portland Japanese Garden was closed for six months to start its $33.5 million expansion.

The 53-year-old Portland garden, which is considered one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan, reopened Tuesday, March 1.

The Texas garden was also temporarily closed for renovations. It reopened Feb. 19.

Trees were replaced that had grow to 70 feet, towering over the garden, which is a narrow slice of land at the end of the city-block-long museum grounds. Wide tree trunks pushed against stone walls that hold plaques dedicated to U.S. sailors, like members of the Navy Academy Class of 1925, who lost their lives defending our country.

Along the walls are benches for visitors to pay tribute to the sailors and notice a stone garden — large rocks on a sea of white pebbles — that represents the rhythm, tempo and harmony of the Pacific Ocean, which links the two countries.

Taketora found the stones in Fredericksburg fields, some colorized by lichen. He said at the time that he selected and placed each one in the garden as if he were picking up diamonds.

In the mid 1970s in Texas, Taketora wanted authentic garden elements, not "Japanism, which is often overdone in America," he said, according to the garden's self-guided tour brochure.

He chose Japanese-style dwarf maples, flowering apricots, corkscrew willows, magnolias and crepe myrtles that were grown in the U.S. and donated by residents of Fredericksburg.

"It is my hope that as the Admiral Nimitz Park is visited by people from all parts of the world, it will be praised as a small oasis of cool, green beauty in Texas," Taketora said. "The prayers of many people, those who gave money as well as those who had a part in building the garden, are directed to this objective."