You have reached the website of the Japanese Garden Foundation of New Orleans. Here you can find information about New Orleans Japanese Garden located in beautiful and historic City Park. Here is a short history of this tiny treasure.
The dream of building a Japanese Garden in New Orleans first took root in 1985, when four visionary women — Colleen “Co” Thian, Betty Lyons, Coralie Nesser, and Madeline Jones — founded the Japanese Garden Society. For decades these four special New Orleans women carried the dream forward, planning, working, and fund raising. Without their energy and tireless dedication, Yakumo Nihon Teien would not exist today.
After years of fund raising, an ideal spot was obtained within the Botanical Garden section of City Park. The garden is located just beyond the Train Garden, near the Garden Study Center and the Lathe House. Surrounded by a beautiful bamboo fence, visitors enjoy the garden as an oasis of calm and tranquility. The pictures elsewhere on this website will hopefully give you a sense of what a special place the garden is.
The garden celebrates some important connections between New Orleans and Japan. The formal name of the garden is Yakumo Nihon Teien, an unusual name that bears some explanation. Nihon means Japanese and Teien means garden, so that much is clear. Yakumo refers to a New Orleans writer, Lafcadio Hearn.
Originally born in Greece, Hearn was a renowned author and journalist who lived and wrote in New Orleans for many years in the late 1800s. A substantial collection of his work is housed at Tulane University. He was dispatched by Harper’s Weekly magazine to Japan in 1890, to send back a series of articles. There he fell in love with the culture. He married into a Japanese Samurai family and assumed the name Koizumi Yakumo. Here is a picture of his tombstone in Japan.
He wrote eloquently about Japanese culture, and was influential in introducing it to the west; he is widely read and respected in Japan to this day. He lived for many years in Matsue, which happens to be New Orleans’ sister city in Japan. It is renowned throughout Japan, and indeed the world, for the fine quality of its stoneware. Matsue has donated three massive pieces of stone art to the garden: two lanterns and a water basin, which alone are worth a visit.
The garden was designed by local landscape architect Robin Tanner, an acknowledged expert in Japanese-garden design. Ground was broken in 2003 and completed in 2005, just in time for Katrina. While many of the plants were lost in the flood, there was no major damage to the physical elements in the garden. The garden was quickly restored and, in fact, improved by the addition of a small structure that serves as a tea house, and a backdrop to cultural events. It has even served as the site of a wedding.
The garden is one of the most visited and popular sites in the Botanical Garden. We recently expanded the garden more than doubling it in size. The Japanese Garden Society also recently changed its name to the Japanese Garden Foundation, which is more in keeping with our mission of expanding and maintaining this tiny treasure in City Park.
You can see pictures of the recent expansion, as well as our past accomplishments on our “digital diary” page. If you’re interested in gardening, experiencing other cultures, or could just use a few moments of quiet contemplation, you might want to visit the Japanese garden in City Park.
The Japanese Garden is located in the Botanical Gardens
Stones for our Japanese Garden
When we first began the design of the Japanese Garden, I learned from Vaughn Banting, a distinguished member of our design team, that stones are considered to be one of the most important elements of a Japanese garden. As I learned more about Japanese gardens from reading books on the subject, I became more deeply impressed by the importance of stones.
Work on our Japanese Garden has progressed slowly but surely, and the acquisition of the appropriate stones and the placement of them in the garden site have become important milestones for us. The main entrance of the garden, along with several other features of the garden, could not be completed until the stones were in place because a big machine, namely a Bobcat, needed to be used to enter the garden with these heavy stones. Thus, we needed to maintain a large opening until the stones were in place.
The achievement of these milestones began to become a reality on the weekend of April 3, 2005, when Robin Tanner, board member and landscape architect for the garden, and Vaughn drove from New Orleans to Crossville, Tennessee, in Robin’s truck to a rock quarry. They had selected this particular quarry after investigating sites in Virginia, the Carolinas, and Tennessee. They had talked to the owners and operators of the quarry before their visit about having someone from the quarry send the stones to us, but decided instead that it was important to visit the quarry personally to make the selection. Robin and Vaughn arrived on a Sunday night so that they could go to the quarry early on Monday morning to review and select the stones for our garden. On Monday, they went to the quarry, loaded the truck, and left Tennessee about 3:00 p.m. The truck was so heavily laden that they were required to drive slowly, and they didn’t arrive back in New Orleans until Tuesday morning about 6:30 a.m.
Knowing how important this effort was and not having been in touch with Robin since the previous week, I was delighted when I got a telephone call from him saying that they had just arrived with the stones and telling me the story of their adventure. He was speaking from his cell phone as he was driving the truck with the stones to the garden. He told me that his Bobcat was needed to handle the stones, but he had no room on the truck for the machine, so his associate was bringing the Bobcat in another truck.
Both Robin and Vaughn are very pleased with the stones, and think they are just right for our garden. Now that the stones have been placed, I hope that you will have a chance to visit the Botanical Gardens and go to the garden site to see them.
Jack Perry Strong, M.D.
Past President, Japanese Garden Foundation