The opening of Nishiyama Japanese Garden at Everett Community College could be heard from blocks away June 3 with each deep beat of the taiko drums.
Youngsters at recess at neighboring Whittier Elementary School pressed against the chain-link fence to get a glimpse.
When the gate finally opened, more than 100 supporters of the project fanned out onto the pathways.
“It is very Japanese,” said Koichi Nakata, vice consul for the Japanese Consulate-General in Seattle. “It is hard to find a Japanese garden like this even in Japan.”
The garden is an extension of EvCC’s Nippon Business Institute Japanese Cultural and Resource Center and part of the longtime dream of its director, Mayumi Smith.
It is open to the public during regular business hours; admission is free.
Smith, 56, grew up in Japan but has lived in Snohomish County for 27 years. As a college student in Japan, she spent hours interviewing survivors and family members of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II.
It had a profound effect on her, and she has spent a lifetime trying to build a bridge between the two cultures.
“The garden is for American people to experience the Japanese culture,” she said.
The garden cost about $250,000 in cash and in-kind donations to build in painstaking detail. An endowment for maintenance has been started with gifts totaling $150,000.
Those who worked on Nishiyama Japanese Garden say it represents a compressed world of mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, meadow and village, and each element has a quiet message all its own.
Features include a waterfall, stream and Zen rock garden.
The centerpiece is a portion of the arched Kintai Bridge salvaged during a reconstruction and donated by Iwakuni, Everett’s sister city in western Japan. Four carpenters from Iwakuni followed the bridge to Everett to assemble it in 2003, using traditional Japanese construction techniques.
Koji Uchida, a master carpenter who constructed the Japanese tearoom in the center, also designed and built the garden’s fence, gates, front steps and granite pathways. He worked with Zen Landscape and Design on the garden.
As Smith greeted well-wishers in her long black kimono, she couldn’t help but smile.
“I just feel so grateful to everyone who helped make this happen,” she said.
Eric Stevick is a reporter with The Herald in Everett.