Stoner Park Japanese Garden


Stoner Recreation Center
1835 Stoner Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Office: (310) 479-7200/ Fax: (310) 445-1764

STONER PARK: A Description and Analysis
Established in 1931, the Japanese garden of Stoner Park was created by the Japanese community in Sawtelle, Los Angeles, for the “Promotion of Understanding.” After the WWII internment, many Japanese-Americans returned to Sawtelle to rebuild the community. In 1989, Dr. Koichi Kawana, a naturalized citizen who received his Master of Fine Arts from UCLA, re-designed the garden. The Bay Cities Gardeners Association supported Dr. Kawana by re-landscaping Stoner Park into the form we see today. The public garden is open to all members and visitors of the Stoner Recreation Center.
Located parallel to the community park, the garden creates a decorated path along the sidewalk. The garden consists of shaped and pruned pine and raked gravel that lines the boulders and rocks. Although there is no clear entrance or exit, the middle of the garden is constructed in a donut shape that is the most spatial area and serves as the main focus, regardless of which side you enter. One distinct feature of the garden is the Japanese-style lantern that is 4 feet tall. Cherry blossom trees add color to the otherwise green shrubbery and also align adjacent to the park. The garden also consists of three monument stones; one which is in commemoration of Dr. Kawana for his contribution to re-designing the garden.
Dr. Kawana is a well distinguished scholar who specializes in Japanese landscape architecture and environmental design. He is credited with designing many of the finest Japanese-inspired gardens such as Shofu-en at Denver Botanic Gardens in Colorado and the San Diego Japanese Friendship Garden at Balboa Park in San Diego, California. According to Kendall Brown in Japanese Style Gardens of the Pacific West Coast, “Kawana adapts elements from Japan’s famous Edo Period (1615-1868) stroll gardens to fit the Southern California climate and inescapably modern context of the garden.” Like many other Japanese-Americans, Dr. Kawana was dedicated towards preserving a part of Japanese culture and incorporating that part into every-day life in America.
Stoner Park captures a cultural art form reminiscent of Japan. The Japanese garden of Stoner Park becomes a representation and symbol of Japanese landscape and culture. Writer Carla Tengan notes that the imitative process of “reinventing culture” is “regarded by patrons and visitors as imitation with the aim of claiming cultural authenticity, but ends up being a translation from one cultural language to another that is entirely different.” The garden does not attempt to recreate a particular garden found in Japan, but rather include an adaptive style that forms a distinctively Japanese-American garden. Too often, critics focus on the authenticity, or lack of, in Japanese-style gardens. In reference to cultural in-authenticity, Kendall Brown refers to an imitation garden as a “carnival attraction.” However, the Japanese garden of Stoner Park is far from a tourist spot as it serves as a public space to promote cultural awareness and strengthen community ties within and beyond the Japanese-American community.
The proximity of the garden to the Recreation Center suggests the presence of a strong Japanese-American community. The recreation center offers activities, such as aikido, basketball, and ESL. The center welcomes all communities, as seen in its pamphlets that are also written in Spanish. This indicates the center’s focus on cultural awareness and community building within the region itself, regardless of race. The garden provides a visual aspect of Japanese culture and creates an open space for all communities. Rather than being distinctively Japanese or American, the garden is a Japanese-American garden.
In the future, the community will continue to work together in maintaining the garden. As displayed by the three monument stones, the garden is a tribute to previous and present contributors dedicated towards perpetuating a part of Japanese culture in America. The garden’s strong ties to the recreational center imply an even greater significance to the surrounding community. The Japanese-American community thus serves to reinforce Japanese-American culture and heritage.

Works Cited:
1) Doctor Koichi Kawana,” in “The Japanese Garden,” , 15 April 2007.
2) Kendall Brown, Japanese-Style Gardens of the Pacific West Coast, (1999).
3) Carla Tengan, “Reinventing Culture: Japanese-Style Gardens in America,” 1.
4) Brown, 1.

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knuibe — Last modified Jun 28 2021 1:49 a.m.

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