Digital Diary

Japan Fest 2018

Over 3,000 visitors had a great time at this year’s Japan Fest. Held in and around the New Orleans Museum of Art, Japan Fest in New Orleans is the largest celebration of its kind in the Gulf South. Here are some pictures of folks attending this fun festival, including a display of Samurai armor courtesy of the Japan Society, a cosplayer (one of hundreds!) and Board member Richard Cranford working at the display of the Ikebana Society. As always we conducted two free guided tours of our newly expanded garden, conducted by JGF Board member Taylor Williams. 

And it’s always an honor when we’re joined by the Japanese Consul General in Nashville. Standing on the balcony are CG Hiroyuki Kobayashi and his wife. Shown talking to JGF Vice President Tetsuo Nakamoto is Itsuroh Abe, an assistant to CG Kobayashi. The third picture below is of a zen ceremony conducted by a local Buddhist temple. 



Nearing the Finish Line!

The expansion we’ve been working on is nearly done, and we know the results are going to be fantastic. We’ll be reopening the garden soon, and look forward to showing off the results to visitors and friends of the garden. Check back soon for updates, or visit us on our Facebook.


The Work Continues

We are in the midst of a major expansion of the garden and despite the brutal New Orleans heat the progress is amazing. Here are some interim construction pictures. As you can see our tea house is now a staging area for equipment! The deck is being expanded and lengthened. There will be additional benches, new plantings, and other significant improvements as well.

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Through it all, our stone lantern seems to be watching the work serenely. It seems to approve.









Silence in the Midst of Construction

Even though the sounds of construction were all around them, student visitors to the garden were able to enjoy the garden. Major work is being done, and the garden has now been temporarily closed (see the article under the News tab) these students were able to try and concentrate on the sounds of wind in the bamboos. Here Susan Copley, in charge of educational tours in the Botanical Garden, helps the youngsters find their inner peace.

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Time for Renewal

Warm weather has arrived. It’s not yet the (sometimes brutal) heat of a New Orleans summer, but cooler weather is pretty much gone. Our trees are full of leaves, the azaleas are full of blooms, and the garden looks magnificent with one exception — the bamboos still show the effects of our unusually cold winter and will need work. Our landscape architect, Robin Tanner, will be cutting back the dead limbs to allow for new growth. They will look fine again in no time, but for now the other plantings are the ones that hold our attention. 

Here are a few pictures of the garden as it is at the end of April and the start of May.

Hurry Spring!

Like so many landscapes in the New Orleans are, the Yakumo garden was  really battered by the multiple, rare (for us) freezes that we endured. The azaleas still look fine, but the bamboo, Japanese maples, and other plantings are all pretty rough right now. Fortunately for us Spring is just around the corner. The new season will bring new growth, buds, flowers, and excitement. We’re hoping to use this “interim” time between to make some upgrades and improvements to our infrastructure. Stay tuned for more exciting news! In the meantime here are some current pictures that show that — even in the dead of winter — there is still an almost ethereal beauty to our garden.

Japan Fest 2017

This year’s Japan Fest was in danger of getting off to a rocky start — at the last minute, sponsors of a bike marathon changed its schedule to coincide with our Festival, blocking access to streets that lead to the Museum. Fortunately, security was able to shepherd enough cars through at the breaks in the marathon that everything went off seemingly without a hitch. In fact, the crowds were as big or bigger than ever.

Tours of the Garden are one of the most popular events at Japan Fest; this year our tours were especially well attended. The Garden itself has never looked better. This past summer several important renovations took place: several large sections of the bamboo fence were replaced, the fountains were improved to provide more reliability, there were several new plantings and removal of some of the older growth. There were important changes to the foundational beams supporting the structures and, although these don’t show, they do make a huge difference.

Our friends at The Japan Society sponsored a terrific display of samurai armor, including the chance for visitors to try it on! One of the pictures below is of the armor. A second picture shows Consul General Kinefuchi and his wife speaking with board member Tetsuo Nakamoto at our table. The third is of the ever-popular taiko drummers.

Lots of fun!


Japan Fest ’16

The crowds were bigger than ever at the New Orleans Museum of Art for this year’s Japan Fest, and we’re proud to say that our garden tours have become a major part of the celebration. This year we conducted two tours of Yakumo Nihon Teien, one at 11:00 and another at 2:00. Both were conducted by Board member Taylor Williams, and contained roughly 60 people in each group (we lost count!). We’re still getting compliments from visitors on Taylor’s great tour guide skills
Here are some pictures of the crowds around our table, folks leaving for the 11:00 tour, and some of the colorful “cosplay” visitors who enjoy Japan Fest and make it such a fun event every year. We hope you got a chance to attend.

Summer Heat

New Orleans is enduring a scorching summer this year, yet our garden continues to look cool and inviting. The recent heave rains have kept the greenery lush. During our long, hot summers it’s pleasant to remember that fall is just around the corner. To help bring some mental relief, here’s a picture of what cooler weather does to our beautiful Japanese maples.

A Peaceful Interlude

There are few things more tranquil than enjoying the sight and sound of our bamboo fountain, referred to as a “deer chaser.” Click on the link below for a short clip…   IMG_1608.MOV

2015 Japan Fest

This year’s Japan Fest was another great success, with lots of attendees enjoying a day of demonstrations, arts & crafts, food, fashion shows…and garden tours! Almost 70 people viewed our garden on three different tours during the day. Our tour guides included board members Eric Nemeth, Taylor Williams, Mike Mitchell, and Tetsuo Nakamoto who conducted a special tour for the new Japanese Consul General Masami Kinefuchi, and his wife Yoshie Kinefuchi. Literally hundreds of happy Festival goers stopped by the JGF table to learn more about our garden, watch our slide show, and in many cases to order copies of the newly published book on Japanese gardens. In addition to the persons mentioned above, our table was also staffed by Jack Strong and Fr. Frank Candalisa. Here are some pictures that show the crowds around our table.

2013 Japan Fest

This year’s Japan Fest was another success, with nearly 2,000 visitors (topping last year’s record of 1,800).  As always the Japanese Garden Foundation staffed a table and conducted personalized tours of Yakumo Nihon Teien.  It’s always a pleasure to introduce new visitors to our garden — especially those who were unaware that it exits!

In the first picture above are board members Jack Strong (our president emeritus) and Yuki Naka, who is also President of the Japan Club.  In the second, board member Tetsuo Nakamoto is speaking with a dignitary.  The third shows board member Taylor Williams on the right, with his friend, standing at one of the entrances to the garden.

The picture on the left is the table for the Japan Society, which was adjacent to ours.  Kneeling on the right side is JGF board member Mike Turner, who is also president of the Japan Society.  The picture on the right is our table staffed  (left to right) by Fr. Frank Candalisa, Mike Mitchell (current JGF president) and Jack Strong.

The final picture shows our table, this time staffed (l to r) by board members Tetsuo Nakamoto, Mike Mitchell, and Jack Strong.  It was all great fun, and we look forward to an even bigger and better Japan Fest next year!


No Deer In the Garden

Of course, our garden is in the middle of an urban area and the wildlife is limited to things like squirrels, birds, and the occasional raccoon.  We’ve installed a wonderful new water feature, sometimes referred to as a “deer chaser,” even though our need to scare off deer is pretty low.  Water flows through a bamboo pipe, flowing into a second pipe that gradually fills then empties.  When it empties it makes a pleasant rhythmic “thump” against the rock below it.  Surrounded by irises, it’s another timeless and serene addition to the ambience of Yakumo Nihon Teien. Here are a couple of pictures….


Hollywood South Comes To Yakumo

The first week of March, 2013, found an unusual sight in our garden — a Hollywood film crew!  Filming is underway in New Orleans for a major motion picture titled “Grudge Match,” starring Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro.  One of the scenes apparently involves a flashback to a time when one of the characters was living in Japan.  Proving once again how authentic our garden is, the director chose Yakumo Nihon Teien for the scenes.  Fortunately, Robin Tanner happened to be on hand when the film crew arrived and took these snapshots.

2012 Japan Fest

Last October we participated in the annual Japan Fest, which was again a huge success.  The JGF staffed an exhibit table showing a continuous slide show of the garden on a large screen TV, and also conducted several group tours of the garden, including one consisting of a high-level delegation from Matsue, New Orleans’s sister city.  Here are some pictures from the event.

Fountain and Rocks

Three new changes are shown in the pictures below, all pertaining to water. The first is a beautiful bamboo fountain, which pours water in a steady stream into our stone basin. From there it spills over the sides down into a stone-covered enclosure, where it is recycled again through the fountain. the effect is tranquil, calming, and quite beautiful. the second is a change to our dry stream bed. This gravel expanse, complete with islands, is meant to represent a small stream and is a common feature in many authentic Japanese gardens. Recently we changed the type of stone in the stream bed to make it more representative of water. It’s hard to exactly describe the change — more “sparkle” one person offered — but it is real. Planting additional azaleas around the edges of the dry stream, as well as the addition of Asian jasmine to areas where the fig ivy had become thin,m complete the effect. The third change is something you don’t see. We recently had a major storm event with nearly 20 inches of rainwater over a four-day period. In the past, such a drenching would have resulted in a large pool of standing water in the garden, possibly for days. No more. We’ve improved the catch basin system, which is buried under the gravel, and added a sump pump that kicks in automatically to drain excess water. Result: our beautiful dry stream bed remains dry even after a downpour. All these recent changes were the work of our expert landscape architect, Robin Tanner.

The Garden In Winter

Winters in New Orleans are neither harsh, nor long, but they can take a toll on untended gardens.  Fortunately, ours remains well cared for throughout the year, as these pictures attest.  The maples have few, if any, leaves left and the wisteria is currently barren, but everything remains tranquil and quiet holding within their buds the promise of new life in the spring.  

August Heat

August in New Orleans is legendary for heat and humidity.  But our garden continues to be serene and tranquil, because of careful selection of plants, diligent irrigation, and the hard work of our maintenance crew!  Below are some pictures showing that, even in a New Orleans summer, the Yakumo garden remains an oasis of beauty. In some of the pictures you will notice some yellow “caution” tape.  No, this is not a crime scene!  In anticipation of the upcoming visit of the mayor of Matsue, our landscape architect, Robin Tanner, has planted new fig ivy.  In order to allow it to take hold properly, we have temporarily prohibited some foot traffic. For more information about the mayor’s visit, check out the “news” page on this website.

Signs of Spring

1Our wisteria has lain dormant for several weeks now, but we’re just starting to see some new leaves, and even a few new blooms.  Eventually this will be one of the showpieces of our garden!

Major Installation

The new pergola, installed as part of our expansion, has been bare for several months.  But this past fall (prime planting time in New Orleans) we transplanted a huge wisteria vine.  Over time this will grow to cover the pergola, providing a dramatic statement for one of the garden’s three entrances.

Grand Reopening

Our hard work in expanding and enhancing the garden was celebrated on September 25, 2010 with a grand “reopening” of the renovated garden, a party in the Garden Study Center at the Botanical Garden, and tours of the garden.  New features include stone benches, artfully hidden behind walls of bamboo, expanded pathways, a more graceful river of stones through the center of the garden, and a beautiful pergola.  When growing conditions are more favorable, this pergola will be planted with a wisteria vine.  A new entrance has been added, and the pergola provides a magical and serene framework of a graceful black pine.  The pictures below give some sense of the beauty of the expanded garden.


We have now completed all the principle work on our expansion, nearly doubling the size of our garden.  The new space provides vistas that were not possible before, and includes stone benches where visitors can sit and enjoy the serenity of the beauty around them.  Our garden provides an oasis of tranquility where local residents and visitors alike can contemplate a lovely recreation of a genuine Japanese garden — the only one of its kind in New Orleans. The pictures below show the new views, which include an additional entrance, a pergola, stands of bamboo, black pine, azaleas and Japanese maples.  The pergola will be planted with a wisteria vine this fall, and of course much of the ground cover (fig ivy) is still new and has yet to fill in.  Over time the overall effect will become more enhanced as the new plantings take root and flourish. Our thanks to all our generous donors and long-time supporters.  A special thanks to a major grant from the Commemorative Organization of the Japan World Exposition (COJWE).  Without their help and support this expansion would not have been possible.

Spring Progress

Here are some pictures taken in early May, 2010, showing the continuing work on expansion.  In one picture you can see a bench placed in the tea house area.  This is the first of five such benches, which will be placed around the garden.  Visitors will be able to sit, relax, and contemplate the beauty of nature around them.  Other pictures show how the bamboo fencing has been extended around the newly incorporated area.  Although it appears lighter in color now, it will soon “weather” into the same soft gray as the existing fence.  Finally no springtime update would be complete without a picture of new growth.  One clump of bamboo was transplanted and cut back.  As you can see it is now sprouting new branches and leaves at a tremendous rate!

The Ides of March

Work is continuing on our planned expansion of the garden, which will double its size.  In the first picture below you can see our President, Dr. Jack Strong, standing beneath our pergola, with a newly planted black pine tree in the background.  In the second you can see the rear fence which now extends nearly the length of the expanded garden.  The third picture shows a red camellia in bloom.  It is the symbolic tree of the City of Matsue, Japan.

Expansion Update

Work continues on our planned expansion.  When completed, the additional area will double the size of the garden from 1600 square feet to more than 3200 square feet.  Below are pictures showing that the rear fence has been removed, which puts the tea house in an entirely new perspective.  Rocks have been added underneath the pergola, and bamboo plants are being relocated.  One picture is of a sign acknowledging the generous gift from COJWE (Commemorative Organization for the Japan World Exposition) which made this expansion possible.

Major Expansion Underway!

Yakumo Nihon Teien has been a work in progress for many years now.  Phase 1 was the construction of the basic garden, a beautiful layout that was created by renowned landscape architect Robin Tanner.  The original garden featured a “viewing platform” that allowed visitors a vantage point to enjoy and contemplate the garden. In Phase 2 we added an authentic-looking teahouse which not only adds an air of authenticity to the garden but also has been used for various cultural events, including lectures, performances and even weddings. Now, thanks to a generous grant from the Commemorative Organization for the Japanese World Exposition (COJWE) we have begun Phase 3;  an expansion of the garden that will double it in size. Work has already begun, and can be followed on our Digital Diary page.  We anticipate that the expansion will be finished by the summer of 2010. To learn more about COJWE and its work visit their website at

As 2010 begins work on our expansion is in full force.  Here are some pictures from December, 2009, showing the outlines of the fence and the construction of a pergola in the new section.


Autumn Sunset

These pictures were taken in October, 2009, and show how beautiful the garden is, even after dark.

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