News: Hiroshima Secret Garden
Story by Pfc. David Walters
IWAKUNI, Japan - Twenty-nine residents of Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, visited Shukkeien Garden on a Marine Corps Community Services tour to experience a peaceful, relaxing side of Hiroshima that is set apart from the busy, hectic city, Sept. 27, 2013.
Asano Nagaakira, a samurai, was named Daimyo (feudal lord) of Hiroshima in 1619. He ordered the construction of the garden one year later.
The name Shukkeien, modeled after the Xihu (West Lake) in Hangzhou, China, means “condensed scenery garden.”
The atomic bomb “Little Boy” destroyed the garden in 1945, approximately five years after the donation to the Hiroshima Prefecture.
Restoration of the garden began to take place in 1951 and reopened to the public before it was completely refurbished. A small hut called the Seifukan, used for tea ceremonies still to this day, was rebuilt and finished by 1964.
The garden attracts about 180,000 visitors annually and houses many animals, fish and plants. Often, visitors may see men dressed in Hakama and women dressed in Uchikake taking photos before their Kekkonshiki, or wedding.
Marilyn Cruz was one participant, out of many, who had never seen the Shukkeien prior to the MCCS tour.
“There were a lot of brides and grooms there taking photos today, and seeing a part of that culture was very interesting to me,” said Cruz. “Seeing them in their (attire) was very elaborate and very beautiful.”
Hakama and Uchikake are worn as formal apparel for Kekkonshiki.
Kekkonshiki is a wedding that comes from the ancient Japanese religion Shinto, which uses gods to represent various parts of nature and gives great importance to people who have passed away.
Given the beliefs of the Shinto religion, it is not hard to imagine why men and women choose to have their Kekkonshiki photos taken in such a meaningful, historical and peaceful place.
The smell of pine trees, multiple flowers and plants are easily identified when first walking through the Kabukimon. A Kabukimon is a style of gate used in a Samurai’s house.
The Shukkeien is designed in a circular-tour garden style like most daimyo built gardens. These type of gardens first appeared in the Muromachi Era (1336-1568).
While walking along this path around the garden one will come across; trees, flowers, birds, waterfalls and a lake with an abundant amount of Koi Fish and turtles.
A bridge spans across the center of the pond and is called Koko-kyo which means “straddling rainbow bridge.”
A bucket is set out and filled with bags of Koi Fish food at each end of the bridge. The small bags cost 100 Yen and are available for purchase to feed the fish and turtles.
Joey Hoover participated on the MCCS trip to the Shukkeien with his brother and said he enjoyed the trip and seeing all the different aspects of the garden.
Hoover is familiar with Japanese gardens, but said while he toured the garden he witnessed one feature of the gardens that he had never seen before.
“My favorite part was seeing the people trimming the trees,” said Hoover. “Japanese gardens have been built in my own back yard, Koi ponds and things like that, but seeing them actually doing it was kind of cool. To see actual Japanese people cutting back the pine trees was cool to me, but I think it was all kind of neat.”
With the history, tales and current nature associated with the Shukkeien Garden, it is one of the leading attractions in Hiroshima. The park is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. (until 5 p.m. October-March) and admission is 250 Yen.