Anderson Japanese Gardens – Rockford, Illinois - Atlas Obscura
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Anderson Japanese Gardens

This lush 12-acre site was once named the finest Japanese garden in North America. 

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The Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford, Illinois, provide both an oasis of peace and a connection to Japanese heritage. Started in 1978 on John R. Anderson’s residential property, the story of its development by landscape architect Hoichi Kurisu is unique.

Hoichi Kurisu was six years old when an atomic bomb was dropped on his hometown of Hiroshima. Fortunately, the landscape protected  his family as a mountain separated their home from the bombing site. Kurisu went on to study landscape design and construction under Kenzo Ogata in Tokyo. Eventually, he began working in the United States on projects like the Portland Japanese Garden.

After visiting the garden in Portland, Anderson was inspired to build a similar one of his own. He hired Kurisu to transform part of his backyard into a Japanese-style landscape. To honor the cultural heritage behind the landscape, the garden regularly hosts tea ceremonies, artist workshops, Ikebana shows, an annual Japanese Festival, and cultural lecture series.

While relatively small in size, just 12 acres, the gardens have plenty of places to explore with pagodas, ponds, bridges, waterfalls, and wildlife. The koi ponds are particularly stunning. The gardens are designed to allow visitors to reflect and meditate. Recently they have renovated all paths, providing handicapped access throughout. Everywhere one looks there is beauty.   

Know Before You Go

The gardens have open air concerts during the summer on Tuesday evenings.  They also have a great restaurant, open primarily for breakfast and lunch.  

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