Japanese Garden 1

The Japanese Garden at Brigham Young University Idaho's Thomas E. Ricks Gardens.

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The Thomas E. Ricks Gardens at Brigham Young University will feature a new Japanese Garden this semester.

BYU-Idaho students completed the new landscape in the southeast corner of the garden, according to a university news release published on September 9.

“Most everything in these gardens are student-built projects,” said landscape design and architecture faculty member Skyler Westergard. “So, as you walk around these gardens, all this stuff is student projects from over the years.”

The Japanese Gardens has been under construction for the last four semesters, with the completion of the tea house taking place during the Spring 2021 Semester.

Westergard said although he has no Japanese heritage, he is fascinated with Japanese Garden designs.

“I have no Japanese heritage,” Westergard said. “I don’t know Japanese. I haven’t even been to Japan, but there’s just something when I go to a Japanese Garden, as a landscape architect and designer of space, it just feels all good inside.

The Japanese garden is meant to be a journey. At the entrance of the garden, just under the Japanese arch, a sign reads, “Satori no roji,” which means “Path of Enlightenment.” Roji means “a mossy tea garden path.”

The path leads visitors to a stooping basin where they would traditionally wash in silence and wait to be admitted into the inner garden. They would then cross a vermillion bridge to symbolize the shedding of evil influences, and finally arrive at the tea house where a ceremony would commence.

Students used many unfamiliar techniques to create the garden. They used diamond-edged saws and angle grinders to cut out the basin and carved out the stooping basin from stone.

The students painted the arched bridge vermillion, which symbolizes the shedding of evil influences in the Shinto religion.

More plants will be added around the tea house and throughout the garden as students continue the project this semester.

“The big thing to remember is that it’s about the student learning experience,” Westergard said. “We are training them to go out and design and create things. To me, it’s a win-win because I get to continue to sharpen my saw as a designer, and students are learning and are getting a hands-on experience, and we get to learn together.”