Experts showcase Japanese culture in West Michigan

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Olympic Games begin on Friday in Tokyo, Japan. Leaders with the Grand Rapids Japanese Heritage Society say they’re excited for their culture to be showcased to the world.

They say one big thing to look out for during the Olympics is the Tokyo NIPPON Festival, which aims to unite the world and give people a look inside Japanese culture.

A few athletes they’re excited about include tennis player Naomi Osaka and golfer Hideki Matsuyama. They say while the United States usually has many athletes to cheer for, Japan’s are somewhat limited.

One concern they do have is the pandemic and making sure their families in Tokyo stay safe.

“The whole message I think behind these Olympics is moving forward,” said community advocate Jennifer Tompkins. “If the pandemic was completely over and we were out of the woods, I think that would’ve been a very strong message, but we’re not out of the woods yet.”

“I hope this will be a reminder of the world being one as in the pandemic, we can only succeed in the Olympics by uniting all countries,” said Mayumi Balfour, the president of the Grand Rapids Japanese Heritage Society.

West Michigan has another tie to Japan: The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

The The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden features traditional elements such as waterfalls, hand-selected boulders, and Japanese structures.

It’s known for offering guests tranquility and simplicity as a quiet place to appreciate nature’s beauty. The garden opened in June 2015.

Steve Lawarre, the vice president of horticulture, says he’s glad we’re able to appreciate Japan visibly from across the world.

“Hoichi Kurisu, the designer, was really a master of space and that idea of going from something intimate to going to something broad and long and this garden has all of those elements that you can experience as you walk through,” said Lawarre.

The gardens are open every day of the week. You can plan a visit online.

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