Meijer Gardens brings Japanese culture to West Michigan

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Just east of Grand Rapids stands a little taste of Japan.

The Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park includes a Japanese Garden. All the structures in the area — the bridges, gazebo and tea house — were designed and built in Japan by traditional wood and stucco craftsmen and coppers smiths. They were dissembled, shipped to Grand Rapids and rebuilt.

They’re part of a garden that designer Hoichi Kurisu meant to be an oasis of tranquility.

“It’s a place to really slow down and get a different point of view,” chief horticulturist Ethan Cote explained. “To enter a space and leave a lot of what you brought into that space behind and redefine what you are going through that day, that week, that month, that year.”

Kurisu used traditional Japanese garden features: rock, water, flowers and trees.

“In this garden, it’s a huge sensory experience,” Cote said. “A lot of interacting with nature, whether you are walking by a waterfall and hearing that noise or you hear the birds and a fish jump out of the water or you’re brushing against some leaves that are growing into the path, or walking along a winding path and being intentional about where that’s leading you.”

Cote and his staff devote plenty of time to pruning to keep the garden from overgrowing.

The look changes from season to season: cherry blossoms in the spring, lush green in the summer and white with snow in winter.

“Some days you walk in and there is a delicate sunrise or a really light rain. That’s when it feels like this isn’t a bad place to be every day. It ebbs and flows,” Cote said. “Whether it’s summer or early spring, or a big blue heron flying over, or it’s the winter and the pond is completely frozen over and you see fresh deer tracks, it’s all pretty surreal. It’s definitely quiet moments like those that put it into perspective.”

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