A Little Slice of Japan

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A hilltop vantage point allowed me to take some great photos!

It’s free week once again at Four Foxes, One Hound! This time I thought I’d take you along on a picture tour of a wonderful new place in my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Grand Rapids is fortunate to have several generous benefactors. Among them is Fredrick Meijer, son of Hendrik Meijer, founder of the chain of grocery/department stores found throughout the Midwest. The Meijer family’s contributions to the city include a state-of-the art heart center downtown and a lovely botanical gardens located just east of the city. The gardens include several iconic sculptures, and hosts a concert series each summer. This month a brand new feature opened: The Japanese Garden. My mother and I were fortunate to be included in a tour of those gardens last week. And since two of my books feature people of my Japanese ancestry (hopefully more, soon!) I thought I’d share some of the pictures I took.

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Volunteer docents are on hand to make sure things run smoothly at the gardens.

Our tour met in the lobby of the main building in this 158-acre park. Mom and I were part of a tour sponsored by the World Affairs Council of West Michigan. First, we met with a pair of docent volunteers, and we observed a lot of Japanese artifacts sent from Grand Rapids’ sister city of Omihachiman, in the Shiga prefecture (on the main island of Honshu). After that we were directed outdoors, where signs directed us to the Japanese Garden. It was a bit of a walk, but there’s plenty to see – we passed the Children’s Gardens, part of the sculpture park,   the amphitheater, and arrived at the gates to the new section.

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The zen garden.

From the time we entered the rather unimposing gate, we were immersed in a canopy of peace and tranquility. Even though two interstate highways intersect only a mile away, here there was nothing but green plants, running water, and a winding path. We came to a bonsai garden, and then to a zen garden (slightly reminiscent of the zen gardens I saw in Kyoto, but this one is made of small pebbles rather than sand). Continuing along the path, we went down to the man-made pond, where a small tea house is set up to host traditional Japanese tea ceremonies. The path continues around the pond, each twist and turn revealed another picture perfect setting. There were lots of benches for people to sit, rest, and reflect.

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The yatsuhashi, or zig-zag bridge.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago when the topic was gardening, I am hopeless when it comes to keeping plants alive. But I certainly enjoy walking through them. It calms me, especially if there’s water nearby. And this excursion definitely calmed me. A zig-zag bridge, or yatsuhashi, goes over the north end of the pond, and a smaller arched bridge takes you to a gazebo on a small island in the middle. Waterfalls trickle down from a rocky hillside into the pond. I think the soothing atmosphere lifted the spirits of all the people in the group. Even though it was a forty-minute walk, my eighty-one year old mother was still smiling as we left.

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Mom and I stand in front of the plaque listing donors. Thanks to the Wyoming Historical Society, my parents and grandparents are included!

The opening of the Japanese Garden has had a ripple effect on local interest in our culture. Since my father’s parents were the first Japanese in the area, we’ve been contacted by the genealogical society as well as the historical society requesting information for articles they plan to put in their publications in the near future. Mom and I are quick to comply—I’m learning more and more about the grandfather I never met! The gardens are only a half hour drive from my home, so I’m hoping to visit again soon. Thanks go to Mr. Ron Strauss for his tireless work in getting recognition for my family, and for arranging the tour!

Oh, and since it’s free week, I get to mention my own books! Here are the two that reflect my Japanese heritage. Click on the book covers to learn more about them:

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About Patricia Kiyono

During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level. She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her five children, nine grandchildren (so far), and great-granddaughters. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures. Check out her sweet historical contemporary romances at her Amazon author page: http://www.amazon.com/Patricia-Kiyono/e/B0067PSM5C/
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16 Responses to A Little Slice of Japan

  1. Kristen says:

    Beautiful! I’m going to have to plan a visit. And your lovely mother seriously doesn’t look a day over 65.

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I know your family would enjoy a visit, Kristen! And I agree, mom often looks younger than me. Thanks for stopping in!

      Like

  2. jeff7salter says:

    Wonderful that your family is playing a significant role in recording the history of that community.
    I love bridges — all types. All lengths, all configurations and (when younger) all heights. Nowadays, I’ve got the phobia about heights.
    Cool that you’re learning more about grandpa in this history project, too.
    I’m not big on gardens, per se, but I’m gratified that wealthy families see fit to reinvest in certain cities or areas, for the benefit of others.

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      These bridges wouldn’t bother you, Jeff! As you can see, they’re not that far above the water – and the water isn’t deep. Yes, it’s a real gift to have these other people looking into my background for me! I didn’t realize there was so much information available. Grandpa first came to America in 1914, and it seems like each day we find out more about him!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. melissakeir says:

    I believe the Michigan Taiko drum group was there recently. I loved how amazing they were when I saw them in concert. I highly recommend that people sign up for Taiko. It’s a great exercise and wonderful piece of culture.

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    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      I wish I’d been able to attend that concert, Melissa! My other grandpa (mom’s dad) was a taiko drummer in Japan. I can imagine it was great exercise – and a lot of fun! Thanks for visiting.

      Like

  4. How wonderful! It is so good to see that someone gives back in a significant manner when they have made their fortune.I fell in love with Meijer stores when I moved here to KY.Unfortunately, the nearest one is about 40 miles from me…but we make sure we stop there when on our way home when we are nearby.
    A taiko drummer! How fascinating! I love to watch and hear them!
    And your bookcovers are simply beautiful!

    Like

    • Patricia Kiyono says:

      Thanks, Tonette! Around West Michigan it’s hard to imagine life without a Meijer store nearby. The Meijer family has done a lot for this area, and we’re hoping Fredrick’s sons continue his legacy.

      Like

  5. What a lovely post. The photos are wonderful, this makes me want to visit Grand Rapids. I’m glad you and your mother were able to go.

    Like

  6. Diane Burton says:

    What lovely pictures, Patty. Thanks for the reminder to visit Meijer Gardens more often now that we live so close.

    Like

  7. Sounds beautiful! Now I want to go to Michigan.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: A Day at the Gardens | Four Foxes, One Hound

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