|Vol. 24, No. 15||August 15, 2002|
Hermann Parkís Japanese Garden Offers TMC Community Escape from Metropolitan Life
Nestled in the heart of urban Houston and adjacent to the Texas Medical Center, lies a secret garden, a hidden treasure waiting to embrace its guests in a blanket of beauty.
Filled with tranquility, serenity and escape from everyday metropolitan life, Hermann Parkís Japanese Garden is home to shaded paths that wind through lush vegetation, as wooden footbridges span rippling waterways.
Designed by world-renowned Japanese landscape architect Ken Nakajima, the garden symbolizes the friendship between Japan and the United States, while simultaneously representing Houstonís Japanese community. The garden follows traditional Japanese design, and is filled with native Texas plants and flowers designed to complement Hermann Parkís topographical features. Nakajima chose the "daimyo" design, popular in the late 17th and 18th centuries. The design was often used by feudal warlords for entertainment purposes as opposed to the Japanese "zen" garden which was usually confined to a temple space. Gardens of daimyo design include a tea garden and kaiyu shike stroll garden.
The gardenís entryway, located between McGovern Lake and the reflection pool (currently under construction), is designed as a dry landscape garden with black moonstone, bamboo and boulders. Together these create a pictorial, symbolic ocean scene. The black moonstone shines and reflects like the sea, while the bamboo "plays" ocean sounds. The five-piece granite welcoming lantern, representing the spirit of the garden, hangs delicately at the entrance.
Flowering foliage, crepe myrtles and azaleas adorn the gateway, called Nagaya-Mon. Like all Japanese gardens, the path begins in the east and progresses to the west in order to follow the sun, an important aspect in a place known as the "land of the rising sun." Buddhist tradition believes that evil travels in straight paths, so the curved pathways, covered with crushed stone, prevent evil from following garden visitors.
In the center of the garden sits the Azumaya, or tea house, which overlooks a cascading waterfall. The waterfall gently flows over pink Texas granite into the calm waters of the pond. Cherry-blossom-pink crepe myrtles adorn the pond. These plants, now common to Texas, originated in China and Japan. The tea house is designed in ancient Japanese style with Cypress beams, which are essential to Japanese construction. Rice paper, encompassed in glass for protection, is used for the windows. The roof is constructed of copper, and the Yukimi Stone Lantern, a gift from Houstonís sister city, Chiba, Japan, hangs here.
The Japanese Garden offers a convenient, nearby respite for Texas Medical Center employees, visitors and students wishing to de-stress, reflect, and renew.
The garden, free of admission, can be enjoyed daily between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.
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