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Huntington's renovated Japanese Garden to reopen in April

October 13, 2011 | 12:00 pm

In time to mark its centennial, the Japanese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens will reopen April 11 after a yearlong $6.8-million renovation.

Among the highlights, officials said Thursday, will be the installation of a ceremonial teahouse that was built in Kyoto in the 1960s. It will be set in a traditionally landscaped tea garden on a ridge above a 19th-century Japanese house that is one of the Huntington's landmarks. The wooden house is being restored as part of the project, which also includes the creation of a waterfall connecting the tea garden and ponds below and repairs and upgrades to the ponds and to bridges, pathways and water system.

The Japanese Garden is "arguably the most popular spot at the Huntington," says James Folsom, director of botanical gardens at the San Marino institution. The 9-acre site "teaches us about Japan's unique landscape traditions, craftsmanship, horticulture and rituals," he says.

A century ago, Huntington founder Henry E. Huntington created the garden on his estate, relocating the house as well as plants and ornamental elements from a commercial tea garden in Pasadena. A moon bridge was built by a Japanese craftsman soon after the garden was established; a rock and sand garden and a bonsai exhibition area were added in 1968.

Teahouse_construction[1]After Huntington's estate was opened as the Huntington Library in 1928, the Japanese Garden became a favorite destination for visitors, although it was closed for several years surrounding World War II. The San Marino League, the garden's chief philanthropic group, has helped to support refurbishment of its buildings and its landscaping, which includes Japanese black pines, fruit trees and wisteria arbors.

With the 2012 centennial approaching and the garden showing its age, the Huntington formed a team including several Japanese experts and craftsmen to pursue the renovation. Funding mainly came from bequests and foundation and individual support.

The teahouse, a finely crafted structure that features native woods, was donated by the Pasadena Buddhist Temple in 2010. It was returned to Japan for restoration and is being reassembled in San Marino under the guidance of Kyoto-based architect and craftsman Yoshiaki Nakamura, whose father--in what Folsom calls "an amazing small-world moment"--turned out to be the teahouse's builder.


Huntington Library sets shows on American history, Chinese mirrors

--Karen Wada

Upper photo: The Japanese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens before it closed for renovation. Credit: Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Lower photo: This ceremonial teahouse, which was built in Kyoto in the 1960s, was restored in Japan and is being reassembled at the Huntington. Credit: Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.