Kurimoto Japanese Garden
The Kurimoto Japanese Garden began with the approval of a proposal by Dr. Marion Shipley and the Friends of the Devonian Botanic Garden in 1978. The garden is named after Dr. Yuichi Kurimoto, who was the first Japanese national to graduate from the University of Alberta's Faculty of Arts in 1930. The two Mayday trees, located on the centre hill, were planted by Hiroshi Kurimoto in memory of his parents in 1993.
The Kurimoto Japanese Garden's main purpose is to provide a cultural exchange between the Japanese and Canadians. This exchange has created a place for meditation and contemplation, rather than just another pretty garden. The garden is the creation of the designer, the late Tadashi Kubo, Kubo and Associates, Osaka, Japan. It was implemented by his representative Kozo Mitani, Japan. An attempt is made to idealize or make abstractions of the surrounding nature. There are subtleties left untouched in the garden where visitors are left create images in their own minds. Thus, each person entering and leaving the garden gates forms his or her own interpretation of the garden.
The garden is in kaiyou style (i.e. a strolling garden). Great care was taken so that the garden is revealed slowly. The design interprets the vast geography of Alberta (the mountains, forests, grassy hills, streams, ponds and lakes).
The design is authentically Japanese, but utilizes native and introduced hardy plant species. Existing scenery provides a sense of age and well being. The garden is open and airy, reflecting the geography of Alberta. The garden is to be enjoyed for its aesthetic values instead of its scientific merits. Adding to the overall feeling are authentic Japanese ornaments and structures such as lanterns, pagoda, entrance gate, belfry, asumayas (viewing shelters), and the Ozawa Pavilion.
The garden is a place for renewal. Upon each visit different aspects will be discovered. Gardens, and nature, are not static. As the season change, so do the gardens and nature.
Ornaments and Structures
The Japanese take geography on a grand scale and shrink it to human proportions in their garden designs. The entrance is located on the highest point of land (mountain). After leaving the entrance gate one strolls through a valley to another mountain, the Bell Tower Hill and finally to the flood plains (Pond area) bordered by tsukiyamas (grassy knolls). The Japanese have also perfected the use of borrowed scenery by utilizing the natural geography and plants of our region. This makes their work have a sense of being and age. Without this technique, it takes a long time to make the garden look as if it has always been here.
The entrance gate has been constructed in authentic Japanese style with limited use of nails. Examine the fancy joinery on the large overhead beams. The clay tiles on the roof are from Japan. To withstand our harsh Alberta winters, they had to be double fired.
Within the garden are five authentic stone lanterns that were hand carved from solid granite. Originally these lanterns were utilitarian; they were actually used for lighting before the advent of electricity. A candle or oil lamp was placed in the chamber, and this radiated a dim light. Since the light was dim, lanterns had to be placed close to the edge of the street or path. Today these lanterns are used primarily as ornaments, but may still be used for accent lighting.
The small azumaya (shelter) by the waterfall is a place for meditation or contemplation, and is where the tea ceremony can take place. From the iron hook in the ceiling a kettle is suspended over preheated rocks brought into the building to warm the water for the tea.
The top of the bell tower has a black ornament on the top. This is called a giboshi that is said to represent the top of a Buddha's head. The 1 500 pound bell symbolizes the bonds of friendship between the University of Alberta and the university founded by Dr. Kurimoto, Nagoya Shoka Diagaku. The goal they share is to foster mutual understanding among Canadians and Japanese. Each time the bell is rung bonds of friendship are strengthened.