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Anderson Japanese Gardens – Rockford, Illinois

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There are more than 300 public Japanese gardens in North America. A few dozen of them are particularly noteworthy. In 1999 JOJG launched a survey to try to identify those top gardens. Their primary goal was to help JOJG readers decide which ones to visit. Another goal was to recognize outstanding gardens for their superb efforts.
Anderson Gardens nosed out the Portland Japanese Garden as North America’s highest-quality garden.

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Construction of Anderson Japanese Gardens began in 1978, when Rockford businessman John Anderson was inspired by a visit to the Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon. With the ongoing assistance of renowned Master Craftsman and designer Hoichi Kurisu, the Andersons’ swampy backyard along Rockford’s Spring Creek was transformed into a Japanese-style landscape. From groundbreaking to today, the placement of every rock, alignment of every tree, and layout of all paths has been made with careful consideration by Mr. Kurisu.

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The gardens are 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 (built by Masahiro Hamada). The “Garden of Reflection” is a contemporary Japanese-inspired garden, with bronze angel sculptures by Carl Milles. Plantings include Japanese maples, cloud pines, azaleas, magnolias, and rhododendrons.

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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. Professional photography is only permitted after hours with management approval, but amateur photography is encouraged. There are also many forbidden paths that lead up to the Anderson home.

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