A walk through a Japanese garden is a way ‘to satisfy all the senses.’
For many Japanese, a garden is an invitation to peaceful contemplation. This weekend, the 30th anniversary Japanese Cultural Show in Gardena offers a chance to visit an oasis in the hectic urban landscape.
Since 1961, the show has helped South Bay residents discover the beauty and tranquility of the Japanese garden and its meaning in Japanese culture.
“The most important thing when designing a garden is to satisfy all the senses,” explained Haruo Yamashiro, a landscaper and for more than 20 years the chief designer of the show’s temporary garden. “If the garden is pleasing to the eye, pleasing to the nose and pleasing to the ear, then you have peace in your heart.”
This year’s show, sponsored as always by the Gardena Valley Gardener’s Assn., takes place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Nakoka Community Center and Rush Memorial Gymnasium.
Originally called the Miniature Landscape Show, the event has expanded to include various displays and demonstrations of Japanese fine arts, crafts, music and martial arts.
“It’s one of the cultural highlights of the year,” said Mayor Donald L. Dear during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
The opening ceremony is Saturday at noon followed by a Japanese taiko (drum) performance by the Gardena Buddhist Church, a karate demonstration, a tea ceremony, a performance of the koto and samisen (Japanese string instruments) and a calligraphy demonstration. The performances and demonstrations will be repeated on Sunday, though at different times.
There also will be a kendo (Japanese fencing) tournament sponsored by the Southern California Kendo Federation and a naginata (Japanese spear) tournament.
Displays of Japanese dolls, needlework, calligraphy, painting, flower arrangements and bonsai also will exemplify the understated beauty of Japanese culture.
The focal point of the show, however, will be the temporary garden Yamashiro and other volunteers from the gardener’s association build each year in the parking lot of the Community Center.
“We put the garden on top of a layer of grass or dichondra,” said Katsumi Nakamura, the show’s general manager. “People look at it and think it’s been there a long time. Nobody would think that underneath the garden is cement.”
The garden is built from materials borrowed from local nurseries. About 1,000 square feet in size, it will include a flower arrangement, two small ponds with koi fish, a waterfall, bamboo pipes, rock, a stone lantern and black pine trees, which symbolize eternity.
“We change the design every year because people don’t want to see the same thing every year,” Yamashiro said. “Every year I ask for a replacement because I’m running out of ideas.”
The experience of seeing a Japanese garden is enhanced when one learns about the symbolism and meaning of the various complementary and harmonious elements, he said.
“The ideal garden combines practicality of purpose with tranquility of spirit. The re-creation of nature puts peace in your heart.”
Gardeners and instructors in the various Japanese arts and crafts will be on hand to talk about their work and Japanese culture. An appreciation and respect for nature are central tenets of the Japanese Zen Buddhist tradition.
“The majority of Issei (first generation Japanese-Americans) worked on farms at some time in their lives,” noted George Nakashima, one of the volunteers who has been constructing the garden after work. “Their experience has been handed down to the Nisei (second generation).”
Today, Japanese-American gardeners keep their heritage alive while building bridges across cultures by building gardens.
“Lots of members of our association have their own Japanese garden and their neighbors often ask them to make one in their yard,” Nakamura said. “People admire these gardens very much, but they must remember to learn how to take care of them.”
During the weekend event, community groups will operate food booths featuring sushi, teriyaki, sweets and hot dogs.
Proceeds from the event will go to the Gardena Beautification Committee, which buys trees for the community’s streets. The show has raised about $30,000 since 1961 for beautification projects.
What: 30th anniversary Japanese Cultural Show.
When: Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Nakoka Community Center and Rush Memorial Gymnasium, 1700 W. 162nd St. Admission: $1.
Information: Gardena Recreation and Human Services Department, 217-9539.