There were more than 500 guests present but none more welcome than an important participant whose name was nowhere on the program—Nature herself, who made her presence felt with a glorious sunny day such as is the boast of Alberta in the late summer. (And, lest she be taken for granted, with an unusually large number of wasps.)
On such a day it was easy to see the connected-ness of things, how one man's decision to leave his home in Japan to study at a far distant university should lead more than half a century later to the building of a Japanese Garden in the Alberta parkland — a wonderful coming together of human spirit and labor and Nature's beauty. It was this that was being celebrated on 7 September 1990 at the University of Alberta Devonian Botanic Garden west of Edmonton: the official opening of the Kurimoto Garden.
Almost 90 Japanese visitors took part, including the Honorable Tatsuo Ozawa, a Japanese parliamentarian, who is one of the Garden's honorary patrons. Also present was his Canadian counterpart, the Right Honorable Joe Clark, the Garden's other honorary patron. Among the other platform guests representing various levels of government was Alberta's lieutenant-governor, the Honorable Helen Hunley, who saw the Garden as "a peace place, a place where I can let my soul catch up with me."
Fourteen years in the making, the Garden is named after a 1930 U of A graduate, the late Yuichi Kurimoto, the first Japanese national to graduate from the University. Dr Kurimoto devoted his life to education and, with his wife Shizu, founded Japan's Nagoya University of Commerce and Business Administration, where his son Hiroshi is president.
Occupying a two-hectare, bowl-shaped site, the Kurimoto Garden features native plants and rocks. Its elements—including grassy knolls, streams, a pond, a waterfall, and a Japanese-style bridge and bell tower—have been arranged to encourage peaceful meditation. The design is the work of the distinguished Japanese landscape architect Tadashi Kubo, who died early in 1990, and his representative, Kozo Mitani.
At the Garden's opening, former U of A president Myer Horowitz, who served as master of ceremonies, noted that the $2.8 million Garden was funded entirely through private donations and Alberta government matching grants. Major contributors include the Kurimoto family and other Japanese donors.
Published Winter 1990.