Wednesday, June 29, 2011

John Anderson, Hoichi Kurisu, Justin Bieber & Elvis Presley

I'm used to reading that such-and-such Japanese garden was ordered built by so-and-so daimyo during this or that remote century. So even though I knew the Anderson Japanese Gardens pretty much had to be a 20th-century creation, it was still a mild surprise to learn that the gardens were created in my lifetime.

"John Anderson, a third generation Rockford industrialist, started the garden in the fall of 1978," an article posted by WIRF ("Rockford's #1 News Source) tells us. "He was motivated to build a Japanese garden by a visit to Japan after graduating from the University of Wisconsin. The Japanese people, their culture, their appreciation for nature and their landscape design philosophy -- left a lifelong impression on him."

Being from a family of industrialists -- I've also seen him described as a venture capitalist -- Anderson thus had the scratch to hire Hoichi Kurisu to design a garden in Rockford. Kurisu had come to the United States in 1968 to become director of landscaping at the Japanese garden complex in Washington Park Gardens, Portland, Oregon. "Mr. Kurisu continues to this day to ensure continuous improvement of the grounds and design of Anderson Japanese Gardens," the garden's web site says. "The placement of every rock, alignment of every tree, and layout of all paths has been made with careful consideration by Mr. Kurisu over the last 32 years."

So not only are the gardens recent, they're still being overseen by the first generation, though WIRF did say that John Anderson's son (another John Anderson) is now executive director of the property, but only since earlier this year. The designer still comes to do design work every year. So "work in progress" is no lazy description of the place, though maybe "work across the decades" might fit better.

Since we were there last in 2002, the gardens have opened a new visitor center, larger than the previous one and also including event space. Preparations were being made for a wedding in the garden and a reception in the visitor center as we started to leave, right before the gardens closed for the day. The bride and the bridesmaids were outside, posing for photos, while the groom and groomsmen were goofing around in the visitors center.

The DJ was getting ready too. Part of his gear included life-sized standup cutouts of certain singers, present and past. Ann asked for her pic with a certain heartthrob of the day.

Yuriko preferred a heartthrob of an earlier era.

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