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Japanese Gardens brings out the Sister Cities in all of us

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Yuriko Mizumoto in her traditional Japanese kimono. Her history of support for the Japanese Stroll Garden dates back to an act of Congress.

Yuriko Mizumoto in her traditional Japanese kimono. Her history of support for the Japanese Stroll Garden dates back to an act of Congress.

In a year of remarkable anniversaries, the 20th Annual Japanese Fall Festival scheduled for Sept. 11-13 in the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden, will mark the 30th anniversary of the garden’s oldest creation, and now the number one visitor destination in the gardens and Springfield according the Trip Advisor.

Beginning in 1985, the Botanical Society designed many of the plantings and landscaping in the central area of the garden and other areas. Back then, the main entrance was through the Zen Garden on the south side of the 7.5 acres.
An extraordinary friend of the gardens will come to mind. The garden’s namesake, Yuriko Mizumoto Scott, born in Yokohama, Japan, came to the United States in 1950 as the first war bride after World War II, and moved to the Ozarks in 1951. She still lives on a farm near Elkland, north of Marshfield. It took an act of Congress to allow her to come to the Ozarks. By one estimate, 300,000 foreign war brides moved to the United States following the passage of the War Brides Act of 1945. She remains a passionate supporter of the gardens.

“This is my home. I have lived here so long, and I’m involved with a lot of church activities,” she explains. “I enjoy sharing my culture with visitors to the Mizumoto Japanese Garden.”

The Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden began as a cooperative effort 30 years ago between the Springfield/Greene County Parks Department and what was then the Botanical Society of Southwest Missouri (now incorporated into Friends of the Garden), and now is part of the 114-acre Springfield Botanical Gardens, which includes Nathanael Greene Park and the Close Memorial Gardens.

Assistance in park development was received from Springfield’s Japanese Sister City of Isesaki, Japan. In 1990 members of the Isesaki Garden Association designed and installed the small dry bed that is located by the Moon Bridge.
The Moon Bridge and Tea House are replicas of the bridge and tea house found in the Japanese Garden in Fort Worth, Texas. The bridge was built in Louisiana of cypress. Tile for the roof came from Japan.
The ponds were stocked with Japanese Koi that were only found in the Imperial Garden of Japan until after the end of World War II. Koi means “brocaded carp.”

Expansion of the Meditative Garden was completed 2011, along with numerous other garden projects. Admission is $3; and free for children ages 12 and younger and members of Friends of the Garden. Fish food is available for sale.

The 2015 Japanese Fall Festival Poster celebrates the 20th year of the event first staged in 1995, as well as the Japanese Stroll Garden's founding in 1985.

The 2015 Japanese Fall Festival Poster celebrates the 20th year of the event first staged in 1995, as well as the Japanese Stroll Garden’s founding in 1985.

Funds for the purchase of plants, the construction of the Moon Bridge, Tea House, Bonsai Shelter, Moon Viewing Deck, Meditation Garden, Entrance gate, Water Garden and the purchase of the 13-level carved stone tower were raised by the Botanical Society from many sources that include the Missouri Department of Conservation, Springfield Area Garden Clubs, the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, the Close Foundation, the Springfield Water Garden Society and members of the Botanical Society through their dues. And, of course, Yuriko Mizumoto Scott.

Visitors to the garden will discover a 10-ton Alaskan Jade Rock brought to Springfield by the late Joe Green, who hired a specially reinforced plane to transport the boulder to Seattle and then to Springfield by train. On several occasions, Japanese gardeners from Isesaki have worked extensively in the stroll garden to help refine the design and prune plantings.

For information about the festival, events and hours of operation, visit the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden on Facebook.

– Compiled by George Freeman

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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