Normandale Japanese Garden Tour
Meeting Recap by Ellen Johnson,
FSIM Vice President & Treasurer

What a fantastic autumn day we had this past Saturday for FSIM's tour of the Normandale Japanese Garden; even though it was a little chilly, the sun shone bright! We enjoyed a guided tour by two docents, Cece and Steve, who both imparted a lot of information about how the Garden came to be, its evolution and upkeep as well as a plethora of information about the plants and structures of the garden.

The Garden was designed as a "stroll garden", a style that dates from Japan's Heian era, 794-1185. It was designed by Takao Watanabe, a noted landscape architect from Tokyo. He returned many times over the years to help oversee the construction and maintenance of the garden. The garden dedication took place on July 18, 1976. The Normandale Japanese Garden Committee continues its work to ensure the garden's future.

Some of the concepts and features of the garden are:

  • It has a large teak entrance gate and is surrounded by a wall which is capped with a roof.
  • The concept of "hide and reveal" are evident, from the entrance, and throughout the garden; as you stroll through the garden, all of a sudden you come upon another amazing feature that hadn't been evident before.
  • The primary features of any Japanese Garden are: stones, water, and plants, all of which are abundant in the garden.
  • The aim of calm and peacefulness are achieved by being in nature, even though the garden is located in a bustling Bloomington area.
  • The concept of "borrowed scenery" is achieved by being next to a marsh, which brings in additional nature by being a haven for birds such as the red-winged blackbird and trumpeter swans.
  • Asymmetry is valued, using odd numbers, and never the number four (which is like the number 13 in the US).
  • Some garden elements not to be missed are the:
  • Entrance gate.
  • Square shelter with information about the garden.
  • Bentendo: the hexigonal structure named for Benten, a goddess of wealth, happiness, wisdom, and music.
  • Four lanterns, all made from granite from Japan.
  • Variety of trees, all hand-trimmed to reflect the Japanese Garden style.
  • Waterfall, which is meant to create a sense of longing and anticipation.
  • Three bridges, including the zig-zag bridge, which is considered good luck to cross, leaving your demons behind you!
  • Turtle and Crane Islands.
  • Lagoon with beautiful koi fish, which have an average lifespan of about 25-30 years in most ponds. Koi are valued for their color; there are four different kinds of koi in the pond.

I hope I've given you a tempting taste of the Normandale Japanese Garden, and if you've never visited, I highly encourage you to go and take in the beauty and serenity that is found there. The garden is open year-round and each season has its own flavor of beauty.