Tour the Garden
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The Japanese Garden is easily accessible on the campus of Normandale Community College, located at 9700 France Avenue South in Bloomington, Minnesota.
The Entrance Gate stimulates the visitor's anticipation of what lies ahead. Entering through the traditional entrance, the busy world remains outside as the visitor senses the garden's mood.
The Square Shelter is just inside the gate. This shelter provides a retreat and an overview of the garden and natural pond beyond.
The Bentendo is the hexagon-shaped building on one of the three islands in the garden's pond. The name, Bentendo, is a combination of two words: Benten is a goddess of fortune; "do" is a suffix used to indicate certain kinds of buildings. Buildings are used only for accent in Japanese gardens and rarely have a function. The funds for the Bentendo were raised by the Military Intelligence Service Language School veterans who were stationed at Savage and Fort Snelling during World War 11. Overwhelmed by the welcome extended to them by Minnesotans, they wished to leave a memorial to their time spent here in Minnesota. The Bentendo and the Taikobashi (drum-shaped bridge) are gifts from these dedicated and outstanding Nisei military veterans.
The Round Shelter is the umbrella-shaped resting place where one can view the reflections caught in the garden pond from a higher elevation.
The Taiko-bashi (drum-shaped bridge), with its graceful design, crosses over to the Bentendo. It is one of the favorite locations for taking photographs.
The Zig-Zag Bridge is a pedestrian bridge composed of small segments. The object of the bridge is to focus the visitor's attention to the mindfulness of place and time.
The Flat Bridge has been painted red, one of the few colorful focal points of the garden. The original cedar planking has been replaced by paulope, imported from Brazil.
Rocks symbolize quietness, timelessness, and stability. They constitute the skeleton of the garden and give it strength and character.
The Three Stone Lanterns in the garden are hand-carved in granite and were shipped here from Japan. The pagoda lantern is an impressive ten feet in height and is located on the high hill near the entrance gate.
The Kasuga Lantern, on the left of the main path into the garden, is one of the most typical types of upright lanterns in Japan. The low lantern next to the pond is called the Yukimi lantern, or "Snow Viewing" lantern.
The Waterfall expresses the mountain valley. With its cascading waters emptying into the pond to be recirculated and fall again, it provides a dramatic, yet soothing music to the ear.
The Stream, accentuated with iris, is lovely to view. A weir catches its flow, thus helping to maintain the water level of the pond.
Turtle Island and Crane Island are named because of their shapes. Crane Island, the smaller, and Turtle Island, both signify longevity and good health. In Japan it is said that cranes live a thousand years, a turtle for ten thousand.
The plant materials demonstrate restraint and simplicity rather than gaiety and showiness. They require artful pruning to help project the feeling of an entire landscape almost within one's reach. Pines are often trained to look like small, old, and windswept. Shrubs are sheared into rounded shapes to suggest hillocks and some are pruned so that their foliage masses suggest clouds. Flowers and colors are generally used sparingly in Japanese gardens. However, here cherry and apple blossoms signal spring, followed by irises, Japanese lilacs, azaleas, pagoda dogwoods, hydrangeas, and others as the seasons change. Most of the plant materials in the Normandale Japanese Garden are different from those found in the gardens of Japan. Traditional plants materials cannot survive the extremely cold Minnesota winters.