We just happened to “bump into” Hoichi Kurisu yesterday at Anderson Gardens. He is a world-renowned landscape designer, having designed Anderson Japanese Gardens and the Portland Japanese Gardens (two of our favorites), as well as many other gardens and meditative spaces in the United States. He studied with Kenzo Ogata in Tokyo and was the Landscape Director for the Japanese Garden Society from 1968-1972 (while I was in college). In 1972 he formed Kurisu International dedicated to creating landscapes that emphasize “the ability of nature to restore peace of mind, physical health, and compassionate communities.”
On Kurisu’s website there is a quote, writ large, from Wallace Stevens—“Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.” Both the Portland Gardens and the Gardens in Rockford open us to this spiritual, magical, sacred distillation of nature. There is something so calming, meditative, and visually stimulating about a stroll through them. And the man who created them both is not only gifted, but also humble, kind, and grateful— even bringing chairs over to a group of women who wanted to rest after their walk through the gardens.
This quiet man was being introduced by a stocky, enthusiastic gray-haired man in a white shirt to two tall young men in the visitors center of Anderson Japanese Gardens. They were all holding rolls of white paper, presumably architectural drawings. It was clear there was some sort of meeting about to take place. I happened to be standing right behind them as they were preparing to sit down at a long table. That was when JB and I decided to introduce ourselves and tell Kurisu how awesome we thought his landscape design skills were. We actually were able to have a short conversation with him. Having been to the Portland Gardens as well we were able to compare his two designs. We even briefly discussed the Sansho-en at the Chicago Botanic Gardens.
Later I was trying to be inobtrusive and take pictures of him from afar, to prove to friends that we had really met him. One of the men he was sitting with came over and asked if we wanted to have our picture taken with him. Even he was gracious and we were too and very grateful for meeting Kurisu and having the physical and conceptual experience of nature through shadow and light he has helped us to see through his creativity and design. “Perhaps the truth depends on a walk around the lake.” Perhaps the truth depends on a walk through a Japanese Garden.