Heiwa Teien Peace Garden
Weaving around the buildings and tying them together is the Heiwa Teien (Peace Garden), created by world-renowned master gardener Mr. Roy Tomomichi Sumi, a former internee at Tashme, Rosebery and New Denver. At age 85, Roy started designing this tranquil oasis—his last garden. He spent months on the design. Volunteers searched for rocks to match Roy’s vision, and from his wheelchair, Roy directed their placement and that of other garden elements with minute precision. He chose the karesansui (dried-up water scenery) style using the theme of past, present and future. The first signs of Japanese gardens go back to 10,000 BC and dry gardens to AD 1200. They honour nature and what it can teach us about life and our place in nature.
Following the traditions of the Kamakura style (1183–1333), the design reflects the patterns in the surrounding forest and mountains. The rocks tell a story. In Japanese gardens, rocks symbolize longevity. From the “headwaters” north of the Kyowakai Hall, the pebble river winds through “rapids” and under two footbridges, gradually becoming more peaceful before ending in a “lagoon.” Standing stones were carefully positioned to create a harmonious mood for visitors to reflect and meditate. The traditional Zen dry garden style also highlights the connection to logging—how most male internees made a living.
As an extension of the lives of former internees and their children, the garden is unique. Roy wanted visitors to leave the sombre exhibits and enter a place of calming beauty where they could feel comfort and safely compare the past with the present. Historically, the overarching goal of a Japanese garden was to provide peace of mind through beauty. Roy hoped the garden would help heal the discomfort, disconnection and trials of internment and that it would nurture a sense of cultural heritage and pride in internees and their children.
As Monika Kin Gagnon (2006) writes, “gardens, as living things, function to embody memory.…” She invites us to hear the garden’s whispers.
A huge cherry tree takes focus in the Heiwa Teien. After the war, Japanese Canadians who had been shipped to Japan by the government sent cherry trees to New Denver (where they were planted in what is now the Kohan Garden) and every spring, blossoms on these trees remind locals of their departed kin and friends. Such tranquil beauty perhaps says as much as the centre’s artifacts.
Both the Heiwa Teien and the Kohan Reflection Garden in New Denver were recognized as among the best gardens in the province in British Columbia Magazine’s spring 2017 issue.
– adapted from Kyowakai, Memory and Healing in New Denver, BC, by Anne Champagne