Friday, June 21, 2013

Juki Iida Scroll

by aleks
Miller Library - 6/20/13
 Juki Iida scroll:
photo by Dewey Webster 
Thank you Miller Library People, especially Martha Ferguson, for hosting our last Cont. Ed. and for taking the time and trouble of putting Juki Iida's scroll out on display, for getting out the books and articles on Japanese Gardens for us to explore, thank you for the library tour -  what a delicious meeting that was, and all that before I even mention the tea, strawberries, brownies and cookies!

I have been a guide for almost 10 years, and this was the first time I saw DA SCROLL, having heard so much about it before. With the exception of a few people who were present at the ceremony of  Dick Yamasaki (who was responsible for SJG stone setting work in 1960) presenting Miller Library with the scroll several years ago - up until then it was in his possession-  most of us, docents,  never saw it.

I was surprised to find out that the scroll doesn't have 'beginning, middle and end', like most 'telling the story' scrolls do - it is more like assembly of ideas and sketches that Mr. Iida painted in ink during his evenings at the Holland Hotel in Seattle in 1959, in preparation for building the Seattle Japanese Garden.

Among the books and articles Miller Library's staff displayed for our training was an article written in February 1974 by Juki Iida himself (translated by Glenn T. Webb) for 'Niwa' - a prestigious journal for professional gardeners in Japan.

I'm not sure if this thorough account of Mr. Iida's  experiences of building our Garden is digitalized at Milers Library's webpage (couldn't locate it; will provide a link if it is) - you can get hard copies of it from Miller Library; it's listed as 'The Japanese Garden at the University of Washington' by Juki Iida (1889-1977);  here are some excerpts:

[...] As soon as I heard about the project I was interested in it, but two huge obstacles seemed to stand in the way: I could not imagine how a large scale, formal (shin-style) Japanese garden could be built outside of Japan where Japanese stones, trees and plants would not be available and where only non-Japanese and foreign-born Japanese gardeners would be at my disposal as construction crew members. I went into this project fully expecting it to fail because of these two problems. How wrong I was!  Making this garden has been the greatest lesson of my life, and for this reason I will be forever grateful that fate chose me to do it. 

[...] The garden site covers five acres of land, or a little over 6000 tsubo. It is long and narrow from north to south, with a park road bordering its east side. The south to northwest section of the land slopes downward from the western boundary and has a forest of various kinds of trees. At the base of the slpe is a marsh.

Miller Library 6 /20/13  - that's is how Iida's scroll is stored, when NOT on display: in two boxes

[...] Selection of the landscape gardeners and woodworker was done according to the American custom, with people interested in those jobs submitting applications. But I insisted from the first that I be allowed to meet the applicants and see their work. After all, I had to be sure that whoever was chosen had the skills and, above all, the proper attitude, the purity of mind, to handle the job.

Miller Library - 6/20/13: Juki Iida's signature, at the lower bottom left of the scroll

love the following fragment,  for I long suspected it (while apologizing for the SJG colors throughout  April and May tours), and especially  working now, in 2013,  on the Plant Committee :) - thanks, Lynnda, for pointing this fragment out:

[...] The one thing we had in great abundance was the Washington State flowering tree, the rhododendron. I therefore was obliged to use these gaudy plants, but I tried to hold the color down as much as possible.

From Miller Library archives 6/20/13: pic from SJG photo-album 1960 - looks like construction of  zig-zag bridge?

[...] I had been alerted that the Crown Prince and Princess might be visiting the garden and that they would be prepared to plant the trees of their respective families - the white cherry and the white birch.  Sites for those trees were selected. Finally, on June 5. 1960, the garden was opened. That morning a plaque, designed by Calligraphy Master Ryutaro Higashi at the request of the Mayor of Tokyo, Mr. Azuma, arrived by airmail. The plaque read "Peace and Tranquility" (wake), and it was put in place under the gable of the teahouse by Seattle city officials.  [...]

From Miller Library archives 6/20/13: pic from SJG photo-album 1960 -Suhama building?

Other interesting things on the topic:
The Miller Library page on the Iida's scroll here:

The Seattle Times 'Arboretum Dilemma: Access Or Authenticity?' article from 1997:

2002 article from Seattle Times on 'A Seattle treasure lovingly restored':

More Seattle Times articles on SJG here:


  1. I remember seeing it. How long is it on display his time? I would like to see it again :)

    1. it was my impression they they rolled out the scroll specifically for us, but will email Martha to see if they intend to keep it up for a few days or so, after so much trouble:)

  2. I didn't get the continuing ed announcement shucks

    1. our internal email needs improvement; there is a field trip tomorrow: garden in the morning and shinto shrine in the afternoon; lots of people didn't seem to get email about that, too. will email you directions to the garden...