Wednesday, March 27, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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A Seattle treasure lovingly restored

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Seattle's Japanese Garden, a gift 42 years ago from Japan and the city of Tokyo, is as much a treasure of landscape architecture as it is a peaceful haven.

A Shinto blessing ceremony Friday will celebrate the reopening of the garden after being closed six months for major repairs.

The Seattle Parks and Recreation Department is to be commended for the care it took in restoring the garden pond and the installation of a water recirculating system. From design through construction, the project took 27 months and cost $583,000.

Flowing water and the koi-filled pond are central parts of the 3.5-acre garden designed by Juki Iida, a Japanese landscape architect sent to Seattle by the Tokyo parks department in the spring of 1960.

Construction of the garden, with its vistas and landscapes of Japan in miniature, was no casual matter. Iida, and local landscape contractor Dick Yamasaki, scoured the Cascades for the perfect granite.

Selected stones, each a part of the mosaic in Iida's mind, were wrapped in bamboo matting so as not to scar the surface of the stones. They were eventually wedded with locally grown trees, plants and shrubs native to Japan.

Iida's work is beloved in Japan but has disappeared over the years, so Seattle's garden is all the more precious.

The care the parks department took is reflected in its choice of advisers: Koichi Kobayashi, project designer; Hoichi Kurisu, consultant on rock placement for the renovation, and Masa Mizuno, long-time garden consultant.

Pond erosion had eaten away as much as 4 feet of the pond banks in some places, threatening delicate pine trees nearby.

Part of the legacy of the Japanese Garden is a duty of stewardship, taking care of what is valued. The garden was a gift from Japan, but it became a reality with a generous, local grant. The benefactors were Prentice and Virginia Bloedel, patrons of many beautiful things.

The garden, which charges a nominal admission, is open for free on Friday. The Rev. Koichi Barrish will preside at the 11 a.m. Shinto ceremony.


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