Authors: Michael B. Thomas
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Locality: UH Mānoa Campus

In 1963 Japanese landscape architect Kenzo Ogata created the Japanese Garden in the East-West Center Complex. This garden is considered to be among the 25 most significant Japanese gardens in America. The East-West Center Japanese Garden is significant under Criterion B, persons, for the involvement of the Japanese royal family and its funding from Japan. The Garden is significant under Criterion C, landscape architectural design, as a good example of the traditional high art of garden design in Japan, adapted to tropical and subtropical plant materials by a noted Japanese landscape architect, Kenzo Ogata. Narrative Description of Setting and LandscapeThe Japanese Garden is part of the East-West Center, and is located behind Jefferson Hall, with the east border defined by the parallel bank of Mānoa Stream. 

The site is a trapezoidal shape with the approximate dimensions: 260 feet by 190 feet by 70 feet by 286 feet. The topography of the garden varies from nearly level along Jefferson Hall and under the Tea House at the north end to steep banks along Mānoa Stream. The entrance to the garden from the high ground on the north side is marked by the Jakuan “Cottage of Tranquility” Tea House. A winding flight of traditional Japanese garden-style stepping stones descends the bank below the teahouse with a series of small waterfalls that flow to a pond separated from the banks of Mānoa Stream by a low berm.  The west side of the pond has two gently sloping hills.  All of these landforms are symbolic of a greater landscape, the garden serving as a model of progression through time and space.       

There are varying interpretations of the symbolism of the garden. According to the signage overlooking the garden from the lanai of Jefferson Hall, the garden represents three stages of life: turmoil of youth, steady adulthood, and finally the majestic tranquility of old age. An article in the campus newspaper, the “Ka Leo o Hawai‘i” from 1963, mentions that the “three waterfalls also symbolize the progress from mountains to city life” (Dreger 1963: n.p.). Other text states that the “stream is patterned after the Chinese character ‘kokoro’ (heart, spirit)” (Kobayashi 1983: 128).  According to a Star Bulletin interview with the designer, “The garden, Ogata says, is to provide a miniature landscape in which water runs from the highlands (at left) down across lowlands into the sea” (Honolulu Star Bulletin 1963: 29). The edges of the space are clearly defined by the tree-covered bank on the north, and the east façade of Jefferson Hall.  The overall feeling of the place is one of privacy, and the scale of Jefferson Hall and the height of the trees along Mānoa Stream create a sense of enclosure or separation from the urban and academic setting.


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Families: 18
Genera: 26
Species: 27 (species rank)
Total Taxa: 27 (including subsp. and var.)
Introduced, Taiwan, Philippines
Introduced, India, China, East Indies
Introduced, Australia
Cassia grandis L. f. - pink shower
Introduced, Central America, (planted by Prince Akihito in 1964)
Ficus lyrata Warb. - fiddleleaf fig
Introduced, India
Introduced, South Asia, (grove of 9 trees between Jefferson and Lincoln Halls near Thai Pavilion)
Introduced, China
Introduced, Thailand
Introduced, India
Introduced, Cuba
Juniperus chinensis L. - Chinese juniper
Introduced, China, Japan
Ligustrum japonicum Thunb. - Japanese privet
Introduced, China, Korea, Japan
Introduced, Japan
Introduced, World Tropics
Introduced, Eastern Asia
Introduced, Polynesia
Pistia stratiotes L. - tropical duckweed
Introduced, World Tropics
Introduced, Japan
Plumeria obtusa L. - Singapore graveyard flower
Introduced, West Indies, (group of 10 trees close to Jefferson Hall, mauka side. The first tree nearest East-West Road was planted by Lady Bird Johnson. Plaque)
Introduced, Brazil
Introduced, S. China, (planted by Prime Minister Suzuki. Plaque)
Introduced, Tropical Americas, (the
Sphagneticola trilobata (L.) Pruski - Bay Biscayne creeping-oxeye
Introduced, Tropical Americas
Introduced, Northern India
Introduced, Tropical Americas
Zoysia tenuifolia Thiele - Mascarene grass
Introduced, Mascarene Islands