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Make-up Assignment - Visit to The Japanese Garden

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Make-up Assignment - Visit to The Japanese Garden

I had the extreme pleasure of visiting The Japanese Garden at the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant located at 6100 Woodley Avenue in Van Nuys, CA as my make-up assignment. The Japanese Garden, also called the "Garden of Water and Fragrance", was designed by Dr. Koichi Kawana. It is located on 6.5 acres and features 3 different gardens: a dry Zen meditation garden, a wet garden with waterfalls, streams and log bridges, and a tea garden with an authentic tea house. The Japanese Garden is completely authentic in its design which is reminiscent of the strolling gardens built during the 18th and 19th centuries for the large estates of the Japanese feudal lords.

The gardens are meticulously maintained with stone-lined paths, neatly-lashed log-bridges, hand-carved authentic stone lanterns, neatly-groomed azaleas, gingko trees, weeping willows and other greenery, and even a stone-lined boat landing. The Tea Garden and, in particular, the Tea House are amazing. The Tea House has a fabulous view of Crane Island and the center lake and includes an authentic glassed-in tea room. On the day that I visited, it was quite hot, but upon entering the Tea House, I was immediately cooled by the shade and cool breeze from the lake. I really enjoyed the architecture and the layout of the Tea House. The floors are made of smooth wood planks and the walls are partial sections of wood which allow all who enter a lovely view. It is a room which appears to grow naturally out of the environment and to be a part of the nature surrounding it. Had there been a bench or any place to sit in the Tea House, I could have stayed there for hours. After exiting the Tea House and enjoying the bamboo garden, I was rewarded with a beautiful covered gazebo-like structure where I sat contentedly enjoying my peaceful surroundings.

The Japanese Garden is located in the middle of a busy urban area, yet upon entering, one immediately feels more calm, serene and centered. I was struck by the visual beauty, the soft fragrance and the soothing sounds of the water. I was having a particularly stressful and hectic day and I was unexpectedly surprised and delighted to feel my worries lift as I strolled through the gardens and sat near the teahouse. I stayed much longer than I had anticipated that I would. I am very grateful to have found such a restful haven in the San Fernando Valley where I live and work.

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Message from ddiaz

The Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library ("Liu Fang Yuan") is also terrific. Its very peaceful and full of pavillions, bridges and amazing ponds. I highly recommend taking a tour of the gardens.

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Message from ggoldstein

I visited the Japanese Garden today but not as a makeup assignment but rather as an assignment for a Vanguard University salary point class. It is a very interesting place. A water reclamation facility with a Japanese garden open to the public built in. Kind of stinky but a really cool use of the facility that makes people aware of water and how we use it. There were ducks and water birds and all sorts of fish. The grounds have been landscaped and there is even a rendition of a real Japanese tea hous as well as the familiar U.S. versian of the big tea house type structure one seems to find at any Japanese garden in Southern California. I learned about "Pygmy" bamboo and saw som interesting plants and some nice bonzai. I had to write about how I could use it with my students. It could show Japanese gardening and connections to nature as well as the how we use water.


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Message from kringewald

I was in San Diego this weekend and decided to check out the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park-- it's really beautiful! There are a number of exhibits inside the Garden which include models of Japanese houses from various time periods in Japan, models of Samurai warriors, a tea house, and a gorgeous koi pond.
They have speakers and events throughout the year, and admission is only $4 per person. If you're down in San Diego I'd highly recommend a visit to these gardens-- I know that my visit there helped me relax and appreciate the beauty of Japanese gardens!
I agree with the previous poster-- I think a class visit to a Japanese garden can really help students appreciate the connections to nature in Japan-- this can connect to the strong role that nature has played in Japanese artwork and literature throughout time.

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Message from abergman

I visited the new Chinese Garden at the Huntington Library and it was beautiful! The library really outdid themselves again creating this bit of paradise. I loved how they connected this garden with the Japanese garden, with a shaded walkway and stream. It truly puts you in a relaxed state just strolling through. In the past I have taken my middle school students to the Japanese garden and they have been enthralled by its beauty and serenity, I think it would be a great lesson to compare and contrast the two gardens. In the comparison it can be discussed or researched how or where certain things originated from, for example bonsai trees were present in the chinese garden, however, did they originate in China or Japan? These two cultures are so intertwined it is a great springboard for research. I strongly recommend strolling through these gardens!

clay dube
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Message from Clay Dube

It's great to hear more about the garden in Balboa Park. I think such gardens are fascinating to visit and learning about their histories can help us understand changing American perspectives toward Asia. For example, what happened during World War II? I know something of the story at the Huntington (where the Japanese garden was originally more of an "oriental mish-mash" design). The garden was closed to the public during World War II. Can anyone share more of the story of other Japanese gardens? When were they established, etc.? And what of the Korean Friendship Bell? Let's see if we can compile a list of such public gardens.

For example, UCLA has one, I think there's one in the South Bay or Long Beach.... Please include addresses or websites.

Here's the website for the San Diego Balboa Park garden: (by the way, click on the link symbol -- a chainlink -- in the editing window to make your inserted link "hot," that is, to make it clickable)

A more comprehensive history is available here:

Reading through this, one learns about how the garden was part of a mini-world's fair, the Pan Pacific Exposition. You read about the design, presentations, and so forth. You'll learn of complaints regarding a Buddha statue. Then you'll follow the development up to the 1930s when a Japanese couple took over the concession. They were interned during World War II. It seems the garden's tea house was used as lounge for recovering Naval Hospital patients. The whole operation subsequently fell into disrepair and the grounds taken over by the city's famous zoo. The garden was reborn in its present location in 1990.

Folks -- I'm fascinated by public gardens and exhibitions and how organizers try to shape impressions and attitudes and the perceptions others come away with. Please do share what you think of these places. Visit and comment, please tell us what other adults think and how kids respond.

Tanish Fortson
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Topic Posts: 6
Meditation Garden

While I was in San Diego my Husband and I went to a garden that has similar qualities as a few of the gardens mentioned above. It’s the Meditation Garden in Encinitas and entrance to this garden is free. This place is referred to as the Self-Realization Fellowship Temple. The garden sits on top of a cliff that overlooks the ocean. It features ponds with koi fish. The flora is absolutely amazing at the garden. Everywhere I turned, I could see great palm species, cacti, flowering plants, shrubs, and magnificent trees. There were also so many species of flowers and trees that I have never seen before.. After seeing all of the amazing flora and ponds, you take in the view of the Pacific Ocean and then you meditate. The meditation area has small benches (comfortable for one person but tight for two) that are scattered across the garden, with some being placed in inconspicuous spots that are good for some alone time. Most people who come here are pretty respectful and talk softly.

I think this is a great place to take older students (with younger students the high elevation could be a potential problem). Students can look up species of plants as a part of science standards. They can also compare and contrast this mediation garden to a Japanese garden. Another activity that you can practice with students is mindfulness and meditation to cleanse the mind.