HOUSTON — Sometimes the places you go can transport you half a world away. The Japanese Garden in Hermann Park is one of them.
“Two words that come to mind are peace and tranquility," says Doreen Stoller who's the President of theHermann Park Conservancy.
Within eyesight of the bustling Houston metropolis, the park gives you the feeling that you're somewhere else entirely.
“The busy Medical Center is just outside the park, downtown is just two miles away. But when you come in here, you feel like you can take a deep breath and life just slows down," Stoller said.
Part of it's power and beauty is the Garden's ability to engage the senses, in part, because it's designed to take a very intentional passage through winding paths and hidden sounds.
"There's a very specific journey to take through the Garden. Sometimes you'll hear the waterfall before you see it, and there's a surprise waiting at every turn," Stoller told us.
For what it gives to visitors, it seems fitting that the Hermann Park Japanese Garden itself was a gift.
"It was a gift to the city of Houston by a group of Japanese and American business people who raised the money," Stoller said.
But after its conception 30 years ago the garden began to lose its sense of tradition. The city didn’t have Japanese gardeners on the payroll and so they formed a committee.
Yuzuru Nagawa is originally from Japan and currently works in Houston. He serves as the Chair of the Japanese Garden Advisory Board.
Nagawa-San has served on the Garden committee for six years, and since 2007 teams from Japan have come in to assist the everyday team in Hermann Park to help return the garden to it’s Japanese roots.
“You can see the mountains or river flow, water flows, plants or buildings," Mr. Nagawa explains. "Big rocks represent mountains and the small rocks are actually river, water."
Every detail flows into a larger meaning.
“We create in the garden – in small pieces – so people can enjoy the peace of Mother Nature."
It’s why – in commemoration of the garden’s 30th anniversary – the Japan-America Society of Houston has created the Houston Japanese Garden app to guide visitors – old and new – through its many vantage points.
The project is made possible with funding from the Japanese government and is supported by Houston Parks and Recreation Department and Hermann Park Conservancy.
“I think this Japanese garden is symbolic of a bridge between Houston and Japan," Mr. Nagawa said.
And as it looks into the future, the garden hopes to continue to build its most important connection.
“By having a Japanese garden, we can get together within those communities to work together to the present Japan.”
The Garden turned 30 on May 4.
Click here to learn about volunteering with the Garden.