There are a surprising number of Japanese gardens in the United States, as illustrated by this Wiki list of them, though it’s probably incomplete. It had never occurred to me that there might be one in Springfield, Mo., until I spied it on a map: the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden.
The garden is part of the larger Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center, which also includes an azelea garden, dogwood garden, iris garden, butterfly garden, hosta garden, dwarf conifer garden, and more. All that sounds nice, but on the road sometimes you have to focus. The stroll garden it was.
It had everything you’d expect, trees and shrubs and flowers and lanterns and other structures along a winding path, along with water features.
According to one web site anyway, the notion such bridges were designed to prevent dimwitted evil spirits from being able to cross them is baloney.
THE MYTH: Some misguided Westerners claim that evil spirits can only travel in straight lines and that Japanese gardens have zig-zag bridges to prevent evil spirits from moving through them.
THE FACT: Japanese gardens do sometimes feature zig-zag bridges, but the evil spirit story is complete nonsense. Zig-zag bridges are featured in Japanese gardens partially because they are attractive and because they are interesting to walk over. There is also a charming story that links zig-zag bridges to Japanese literature and culture. [?] The zig-zag bridge motif is a natural fit for many of the Japanese arts including gardening.
A zen garden. But of course.
And some droopy pines, the likes of which I once saw in Rockford.
According to Japanesegardening.org, the 7.5-acre Stroll Garden is the oldest attraction at the Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center, now a little more than 30 years old. “The plan was inspired by a Fort Worth, Texas copy of the Garden of the Abbot’s Quarters in Kyoto,” it says. Probably that means Tofukuji Temple, which is indeed stunning.
“The garden was initiated by the superintendent of park operations, Bill Payne, in the early 1980s and supported with partnerships from the Springfield Sister Cities Association, The Southwest District of Federated Garden Clubs, The Botanical Society of Southwest Missouri and the Friends of the Garden.
“The garden was given the name Mizumoto in 2004, in honor of Yuriko Mizumoto Scott. She generously acts as a bridge between her native Japan and her home in the Ozarks. As the first Japanese War bride brought back to the United States, her insight has the breadth of a bi-cultural history.” First war bride brought to the Ozarks? Not to be pedantic, but I think they mean postwar bride. Or occupation bride.
“Mrs. Mizumoto Scott spent many years as a volunteer in garden maintenance and hosting tour groups. She has also conducted hundreds of tea ceremonies and explained the customs of Japan. The gardens are maintained by the Friends of the Garden Japanese Gardening Group and Park staff. Gardens are supported by the Springfield Sister Cities Association Isesaki Committee.”
Well worth the stop in Springfield, a town I’d only ever known before as the turn off to Branson.