Japanese garden may arrive sooner than expected


A rendering of the special tram tour around the planned Japanese Garden at Meijer Gardens. Courtesy Meijer Gardens

The first boulder is now in place at The Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden, located within Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

Scheduled to open in full in the spring of 2015, construction on the $22 million project is ahead of schedule thanks to a successful fundraising campaign that garnered enough money to start the project early.

Located on eight-and-a-half acres in the northeast corner of the gardens, the Japanese Garden will have six main features for visitors to enjoy: a viewing hill, teahouse, main island, water, two waterfalls and the boulder placement site.

The viewing hill is poised above the Japanese Garden so that once situated at the top visitors can look out across the full expanse of the tranquil space. It will offer a significant vantage point, according to Steve LaWarre, director of horticulture at Frederik Meijer Gardens.

The teahouse, which is an integral aspect of Japanese culture, will sit on a constructed peninsula and will be a place for visitors to stop for a break as well as a location for special events and activities. The teahouse is being constructed in Japan and then will be disassembled, shipped over and reassembled in its new location.

There also will be three islands, with the main island accessible by a walking bridge and located in the center of the garden. Visitors will find benches and a gazebo on the main island where they can sit and reflect.

Water itself is a main feature of the Japanese Garden and there will be rock outcroppings as well as pebble beaches. Water lilies and lotus flowers, as well as various forms of wildlife, are expected to make their home in the vast water system.

Two waterfalls will create a peaceful soundtrack for those strolling through the garden while providing a sound barrier from surrounding areas.

The site of the first boulder will serve as a backbone for the garden and offer an opportunity to watch how it evolves throughout the years.

The garden will be home to a permanent sculpture collection and the first works already have been secured: A piece by British sculptor Anish Kapoor and another by Chinese artist Zhang Huan, who also works out of New York.

“There will likely be about seven permanent pieces installed,” said Joseph Becherer, vice president and chief curator of horticulture and sculpture collections and exhibitions for the Meijer Gardens.

The Japanese Garden was designed by Hoichi Kurisu, president and founder of Kurisu International Inc. He has more than 40 years of experience designing and building gardens. He supervised construction of the Portland Japanese Gardens and designed the Anderson Gardens in Rockford, Ill., and the Morikami Museum and Japanese Garden in Delray Beach, Fla.

“The Japanese Garden is one of the most celebrated and revered garden styles in the world,” Becherer said. “Certainly the reputation of Hoichi Kurisu and Meijer Gardens combined, people will make a special journey to visit.”

Becherer expects that attendance will grow as a result of the new addition, but wasn’t able to project by how much. He noted that 595,000 visitors came to Meijer Gardens during the last fiscal year.

“We are looking at how to serve ever larger audiences with the hospitality and quality experience people have come to expect of us,” Becherer said.

In addition to strolling through the garden and enjoying its reflective atmosphere, tea ceremonies will be available at a fee and Becherer expects that over time additional rental opportunities will likely develop.

The Japanese Garden should enhance Meijer Gardens’ reputation, which has been included on “Art Newspaper’s” list of the top 100 most-visited art museums worldwide and was named one of the “30 must-see” museums in 2009.

“It will certainly rank among the finest in the United States, and as the garden matures, we hope the finest,” Becherer said. “With the inclusion of modern and contemporary sculpture, it will certainly be the most unique.”

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