Courtesy of Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics has us dreaming in green.

Teaghan Skulszki  – July 30, 2021

With the debut of many new sporting events and the recent engineering achievements using locally harvested, sustainable timber, the Tokyo Olympics have been nothing less than impressive. But it’s not just the athletics and architecture making waves at this year’s Games. The beauty behind Japanese landscaping and design is inspiring us to take a closer look at the Japanese gardens near our homes.

Luckily, we have a few ways you can embrace the spirit of Tokyo 2020 without leaving the country.

Japanese gardens are an important part of Japan’s art and culture. They are many different styles, but each garden is crafted with a main goal in mind: to bring people peace. During the early 1900s, with the influx of Japanese immigrants and the spread of travel, Japonism (the influence of Japanese art and design) flourished, and Japanese gardens and landscapes started making their way all over the West.

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Designer Kinzuchi Fujii, for example, created Japanese landscapes across Southern California in the early 20th century, including the Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden in Pasadena. Today, it’s his “only remaining garden,” according to the venue’s website, and “the only intact example of a major Japanese-style garden created before World War II for a residence in Southern California.”

There are myriad other Japanese gardens across the West, from Oregon to Washington and beyond. We are lucky enough today to experience how these gardens grow here and incorporate all different types of flora and fauna.

If these gardens inspire you to bring a piece of Japanese art and design into your home, make sure you have the right tools. But first, keep scrolling for a few of our favorite Japanese gardens.

Huntington Japanese Garden: Los Angeles, CA

If you’re a SoCal local, you’re bound to have heard of The Huntington, a library, museum, and sprawling botanical gardens in San Marino. Our favorite gem at the 120-acre property is the Japanese garden within the grounds. Known for its moon bridge, this garden also features a Japanese house, ceremonial tea house, bonsai collection, and zen court.

Ganna Walska Lotusland: Santa Barbara, CA

Picture Elvis’ Graceland, only a lot greener. Lotusland is the estate of the late Madame Ganna Walska, a Polish opera singer and socialite. Her Japanese garden is perched in front of the picturesque background of Santa Ynez Mountains and highlights Japanese horticulture with a reflection pond and miwatasu (scenic overlook).

Hayward Japanese Garden: Hayward, CA

As the poetic Shakespeare once bellowed, “Though she be but little she is fierce.” Hayward’s smaller-scale Japanese garden is filled with Japanese flora, fauna, and trees to offer a secluded place to take in some fresh air.

Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden: Pasadena, CA

Visit a piece of living history at the Sorrier Stearns Japanese Garden. The Sorrier site is home to the only remaining garden from renowned Japanese landscape artist Kinzuchi Fujii, who designed around Southern California in the early 1900s. This private garden in Pasadena is open for tea ceremonies and visits by appointment.

Shinzen Friendship Garden: Fresno, CA

The Shinzen Friendship Garden is more than a Japanese garden. The oasis features an accumulation of bonsai trees and charming sculptures, curated so you can experience pure tranquility.

Seattle Japanese Garden: Seattle, WA

Located within the Washington Park Arboretum, the Seattle Japanese Garden was designed as a traditional stroll garden based on the principle of shizensa, or the essence of nature. The grounds take you through the various environments of Japan (mountains, forests, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, islands and the sea) with a Pacific Northwest twist. Landscape designer Juki Iida scouted the Cascades for granite that hugs a waterfall inside the garden.

Portland Japanese Garden: Portland, OR

Considered the holy grail of Japanese gardens in America, the Portland Japanese Garden was once heralded as “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan” by Nobuo Matsunaga, a former Ambassador of Japan to the United States.

Sasebo Japanese Garden: Albuquerque, NM

The Sasebo Japanese Garden is a synthesis between New Mexico and a traditional Japanese garden. Along with native Japanese fauna and flora onsite, the garden also has native New Mexican trees that are pruned and sculpted in the Japanese aesthetic.

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