Anime Central isn’t just about Japanese movies and comics. We promote all the cultural aspects of Japan and encourage everyone to learn more than just Japan’s popular culture. You don’t need to go all the way around the world to learn more. There are many things you can do in the local area! This week, we’ve made a list of beautiful Japanese Gardens in the Chicagoland area. If you’re coming from afar, if you can spare the time, and if they’re on the way, make a brief stop to soak in other aspects of Japanese culture.

Osaka Garden at Jackson Park; Chicago, IL

Like most Japanese gardens in North America, Osaka Garden is a mélange of many influences, including elements of stroll, tea, and pond gardens. The site has been laid out as a stroll garden, alternately hiding and revealing its elements as one walks through it. The visitor enters through the gate and follows a stone path leading to the tea house. Along the way, one finds meandering streams, a waterfall, and a small turtle island (kame-shima). The color scheme is relatively subtle with various shades of green becoming the canvas for the rest of the garden elements.

The Fabyans’ Japanese Garden at Fabyan Woods; Geneva, IL

The Fabyan Villa was the home of Col. George and Nelle Fabyan from 1905-1939. The Frank Lloyd Wright designed Prairie-style house contains the Fabyans’ private collection of Asian artifacts, natural history specimens, original furniture and more! Documents and photographs detail Col. Fabyan’s involvement in the Treaty of Portsmouth and Japanese international relations, the Bacon/Shakespeare controversy, code-breaking that significantly influenced both World Wars and pioneering research and development in acoustics. The Japanese Garden was installed around 1910, which affords the opportunity to experience the uniqueness of Japanese gardening and enjoy a moment of harmony with nature while strolling the winding path of this 100 year-old site.

Sansho-En and the Bonsai Collection at the Chicago Botanic Gardens; Glencoe, IL

The Elizabeth Hubert Malott Japanese Garden (also called “Sansho-En”, the Garden of Three Islands) is designed in Japanese style with over 280 types of plants conducive to gardening in the Midwest United States. It is a four-season garden with curving paths and pruned trees, framing distant views of lakes, grassy hills, woods and gardens beyond. The three islands are named “Keiunto”, “Seifuto” and “Horaijima”. Additionally, the Bonsai Collection is regarded by bonsai experts as one of the best public collections in the world. It includes 200 bonsai in twenty-seven styles and more than 60 kinds of plants, including evergreen, deciduous, tropical, flowering and fruiting trees.

Anderson Japanese Gardens; Rockford, IL

Anderson Japanese Gardens were established in 1978 by John R. Anderson and landscape architect Hoichi Kurisu on the site of Anderson’s home. The gardens are designed in a 13th-century “pond strolling” garden with several waterfalls and ponds, streams, rock formations, winding paths, and a sukiya style tea house and guest house. The “Garden of Reflection” is a contemporary Japanese-inspired garden, with bronze angel sculptures. Plantings include Japanese maples, cloud pines, azaleas, magnolias, and rhododendrons. The gardens are home to many species of colorful fish, minks, and ducks. In the “Garden of Reflection” beetle traps hang over the water to encourage these fish to surface for food.

Moriyama Japanese Gardens at the Ewing Cultural Center; Bloomington, IL

The Moriyama Japanese Garden, located on the grounds of Ewing Cultural Center, was established in 1986 as an example of the friendship between the cities of Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, U.S.A., and Asahikawa, Hokkaido, Japan. Named in honor of Motoichi Moriyama, the first chairperson of the friendship committee in Asahikawa, the garden has been the site of celebrations and ceremonies and is as beautiful in spring as it is after a winter snow. It provides a place for quiet contemplation and a beautiful site for hundreds of people who enjoy it each night of the summer when they come to the Illinois Shakespeare Festival.

Are there any other Japanese Gardens you’ve been to? Feel free to leave a comment!

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