JAPANESE GARDENS – ROCKFORD
The Anderson Japanese Gardens began as a project for Japanese style landscaping around the pond the property of John Anderson in 1978 and has grown over 30 years into the finest of its kind in North America. Mr. Anderson first traveled to Japan in 1968 with a college fraternity brother to learn about the country’s culture. Four years later, he and his wife bought some property on top of a hill near Rockford, Illinois, but a lower section of the land traversed by Spring Creek tended to be a little swampy, so the idea for a garden grew. On a business trip to Portland, Oregon in 1978, Anderson visited the Portland Washington Park Japanese Garden and was introduced to its designer Hoichi Kurisu, whom he asked to come to Illinois to see what he could do with his swampy pond. What has taken shape over those three decades is a stunning journey into the style and serenity of the Japanese way, a place for reflection and renewal.
Covering 12 acres the Anderson Gardens are styled as a traditional "pond strolling" garden of the 13th Century. with pathways leading through several waterfalls and ponds, across bridges of the streams, rock formations, through flowered woodlands of Japanese maples and pine trees, magnolias, azaleas, and rhododendrons. Large golden Koi swim through the pond in the Garden of Reflection where beetle traps hang over the surface to entice the fish to the surface. Halfway through the trails, is the Otaki East Waterfall. While appearing entirely natural with walking bridges appearing as if trail cross higher up on the property, the waterfall is a purely designed creation with the upper bridge structures actually built to a smaller scale to make the falls and landscape seem much taller than it is. In the Japanese tradition of the mysterious soothing way, follow the trails like the Deer Chase run to secret hidden spots where a bench for contemplation among the branches will offer a tranquil respite from the troubled toils of the day. A moments reflection may bring to mind the thematic lines of the John Patrick play and later movie “Teahouse of the August Moon” – “pain makes man think, thought makes man wise, and wisdom makes life endurable.”
Much of what we come to think of as the Japanese tradition came from the middle-ages of the Samurai and emperors and continues today with every design element and ceremony carrying a specific meaning. Tucked nearly hidden away to discover along the winding path are an authentic Sukiya style Tea House where the tranquility of the tea ceremony would be practiced with the setting of the sun, and a full size Guest House with groomed gravel courtyard. The guest house can only be viewed from the outside, except by tour, and is used for visiting special guests, like the pilots of Japanese airlines who practice landings at Rockford’s airport.
A variety of classes are offered in the gardens, from Origami paper art, Yoga, Etegami Japanese Folk Art, and Sumi-e Japanese Brushpainting with the garden flowers and waters for inspiration, as well as meditation and grief recovery. Weddings are popular with the gardens making a stunning memorable setting.
Visiting the Anderson Japanese Gardens
Opening hours in the primary season of May 1st to October 31st are 9 am to 6 pm, Monday to Friday, until 4 pm on Saturday and 10 am to 4 pm on Sundays. General admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors over 62 and $6 for students, Children under 5 are free. Guided tours are offered with a minimum of 8 people. The Visitor’s Center has a gift shop and restaurant and the gardens are handicap accessible. © Bargain Travel West
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