Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan Exhibition Preview

Opening to the public on Friday, January 30, Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan is a unique partnership between Meijer Gardens and Shiga, Michigan’s sister state in Japan. The artistic and cultural traditions of Shiga Prefecture are among the most distinguished and profound in Japan.


This exhibition will display more than 75 historical works of Japanese art aging back to the 8th century. Shigaraki pottery, delicate scrolls, screens, kimono, and works on paper and wood will all be on display and will change every two months through August. Changing the works on display allows protection of the artifacts as well as a new experience for our visitors throughout the winter, spring and summer.

Most of these rare works of art have never been seen outside of Japan, and this collection will not be on display anywhere else in the world. Many of the works are regional and national treasures! This exhibition highlights masterworks from the collections of: Museum of Shiga Perfecture, Biwako, Bunkakan; Museum of Modern Art, Shiga; Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park; and Omihachiman City Museums.  Additional works will be on loan from Daiko-ji Temple, Binmanjii Shiseki Bunka Hoshokaii, Taga City Museum, Kannon-ji Temple, Hando Shrine, and Saimyo-ji Temple.

Building on the more than 40-year sister-state relationship between the Shiga Prefecture and the State of Michigan, Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan will reflect on and celebrate the cultural richness of Japan in anticipation of the opening of The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden in June. All works shown have been selected by a joint committee of Shiga’s museum and state government officials along with experts from Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.

Over the next few months, we will be sharing more in-depth information about the exhibition and the works of art that will be on display.

The “winter” portion of Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan will run from January 30—March 22. The exhibition will be temporarily closed from March 23-27 in order to change the artifacts that are on display. The spring display opens on March 28 and will run through June 4. We hope that you can join us for this wonderful and once-in-a-lifetime exhibition!

New Year Traditions Around the World – Japan

The Japanese New Year, Shogatsu, has been celebrated on January 1 since 1873. The original celebration of Shogatsu is still marked on the same day as the contemporary Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese New Years which in 2015 falls on February 19.

Shogatsu is an important Japanese celebration, both Shintoism and Buddhism honor this special time of renewal. Shogatsu signifies seasonal changes, begins a new cycle and expresses the importance of ancestry.

At midnight on December 31, Buddhist temples in Japan ring their bells 108 times to symbolize the 108 human sins in Buddhist belief, and to get rid of the 108 worldly desires. Japanese people believe that the ringing of bells can rid their sins of the previous year. After they have finished ringing the bells, they celebrate and feast on soba noodles.

Bell ringing

Kadomatsu, or gate pine, are traditional decorations that are placed at the entrances of homes & businesses in anticipation of the New Year. Purification is an important ritual of Shogatsu, and preparations take place in homes, businesses and temples.


Kadomatsu are placed to welcome ancestral spirits, invite the divinities to bring prosperity and guard against evil spirits. Kadomatsu are placed in pairs which represent male and female. Designs vary from urban to rural regions and typically they are made with two main components, each element being significant. Pine signifies vitality, longevity and long life. Bamboo signifies strength and growth. The bamboo is sliced at three different heights, representing heaven, humanity and earth.

Located outside of the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory, our Kadomatsu display is adorned with shide, a folded white paper ornament. Shide typically marks a sacred site and is a tool for purification. Straw and rope bind all of the elements together to complete the Kadomatsu.

During 2015, Meijer Gardens is celebrating our 20th Anniversary by Welcoming the World through our exhibitions and the opening of The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden. Come explore more of Japanese culture during our Splendors of Shiga: Treasures From Japan exhibition which opens on January 30.

What are some of the New Year traditions in your family? Leave them below in the comments or post them on our Facebook page here.

New Year Traditions Around the World – Vietnam

The main holiday for Vietnam is New Year, called Tết Nguyên Đán {Day Wen Don}, and is celebrated in January or February depending on the Lunar Calendar. This year the celebration will take place on Thursday, February 19.

Tết Nguyên Đán

Tết Nguyên Đán emphasizes respect for elders and good luck in the upcoming year. To symbolize new beginnings, ancestral alters are decorated with apricot and peach blossoms, and a plate of various fruits is also set out to represent gratitude for the earth, respect for the dead and aspirations for a prosperous life.

Tất Niên offering

Incense is burned in memory of friends and family members who have passed, each stick of incense representing a different ancestor. Singing bowls are played during prayers by rubbing a wooden mallet around the rim of the bowls to produce a unique sound.

Another element to the Vietnamese New Year celebration is inscribing red scrolls with poetry. We have an example on display here as part of our Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World exhibition that reads “Paying respect to our ancestors for our family” and “Returning the favor to our parents for raising us.” Stop by to see them up close for yourself!

Vietnamese Scrolls

A statue of Buddha is also displayed on the alter since the majority of Vietnamese are Buddhist. The Buddha Lady shows compassion by listening to the cries of the people and helping them enter into heaven, and the Laughing Buddha has a large belly and big smile which symbolizes happiness and plenitude. Tradition says that you will receive good luck after rubbing his belly.

What are some of the New Year traditions in your family? Leave them below in the comments or post them on our Facebook page here.

New Year Traditions Around the World – China

The Chinese New Year, Chūn Jié, is the most important holiday in China. This celebration is centered on families traveling home to spend time together. New Year festivities in China take place over a period of several weeks – the celebration begins with a dragon dance and ends with the lantern festival parade.

Dragon Dance

Lantern Festival

Chinese Lanterns

Other customs that go along with the Chinese New Year include lighting fireworks to scare away evil spirits and giving gifts in red envelopes for good luck.

For thousands of years in China, the sound of a gong is used in religious ceremonies, state processions, marriages and festivals. You can view a gong up close as part of the Chinese New Year display during the Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World exhibition here at Meijer Gardens. Also on display is a cut-paper design of a Chinese zodiac calendar based on the lunar calendar. An animal is assigned to each year according to a 12-year cycle, 2015 is the year of the sheep.

Year of the Sheep

What are some of the New Year traditions in your family? Leave them below in the comments or post them on our Facebook page here.

New Year Traditions Around the World – Korea


The Korean New Year, called Seollal, is the most important Korean holiday. Celebrating the first day of the new lunar year, Seollal can fall anywhere from late January to late February, depending on the lunar calendar. This year’s celebration will take place on Thursday, February 19. A three-day holiday consisting of celebrations on the day before the Korean New Year Day, New Year Day itself and the day after, many families return to their hometowns and take part in ancestral rituals.

Seollal celebrations  typically begin with everyone wearing a hanbok, or traditional Korean dress without pockets characterized by vibrant colors and simple lines. Hanbok are worn by modern-day Koreans as semi-formal or formal wear only during celebrations and traditional festivals.


Younger members of Korean families perform a ritual for the oldest family members during this time called sebae. Sebae is a deep, formal bow of respect that when performed well results in gifts of money from the older family members. Historically, parents gave rice cakes and fruit to children instead of money.


Another ritual performed during Seollal is called charye. Charye involves honoring one’s ancestors by visiting their tombs, bringing offerings of food, fruit and wine. The day before Seollal is spent preparing the food that will be used not only to serve the family but also as an offering to ancestors. Many Koreans believe that the taste and appearance of the ritual foods determines the level of satisfaction of their elders, so great care is taken in preparation.

What are some of the new year traditions in your family? Leave them below in the comments or post them on our Facebook page here.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World!

If you are a frequent visitor to Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, one of the things that we hope that you’ll observe is that we are striving to be “Always Growing, Always Beautiful and Always New…” Over the past few weeks, our staff and volunteers have been busy making the transition from our fall Chrysanthemums & More! exhibition over to our winter exhibition, Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World. This magical display features over 40 international trees and displays, the enchanting Railway Garden and so much more!

Lena Meijer helps decorate the German tree.

Lena Meijer helps decorate the German tree.

This year’s exhibition jump-starts the 20th anniversary celebrations here at Meijer Gardens and focuses on Asian cultures that celebrate the New Year. A central theme to these celebrations is the way that the past is honored, gathering to show respect and love to their ancestors and remembering those who are no longer with us. In Korea and Vietnam, that respect is shown via alters that are adorned with symbolic objects. Other customs include burning incense in memory of relatives and loved ones who have passed, and preparing ritual foods while dressed in traditional garb. The Japanese New Year, called Shogatsu, is marked with beautiful decorative gate pines known as kadomatsu which welcome ancestral spirits and guard against evil spirits.

Kadomatsu or Gate Pine

Kadomatsu or Gate Pine

A new addition to Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World this year is a display from Ghana, home of our African Sister City, the Ga District. Authentic, brilliantly woven kente and printed adinkra will be on display, handmade cloths that mark the symbolic significance of the Ghanaian people’s colorful history, customs and religion.

The much-loved Railway Garden returns for another year, meandering through four lush indoor garden spaces and bringing together colorful plantings with storybook scenes of West Michigan. The unique horticultural artistry complements the model trolleys, trains and handcrafted buildings replicating over 30 Grand Rapids landmarks that were designed by Paul Busse of Applied Imagination. Visitors will recognize favorites such as the Fifth Third Ballpark created with willow light posts and elm bark seating, the Ada Covered Bridge with a cedar roof and willow trusses and the Meyer May House with oak bark siding and red ruscus leaves.

The crew from Applied Imagination installs the Railway Garden

The crew from Applied Imagination installs the Railway Garden

As you are making your holiday plans, we hope that you can experience our most joyous exhibition! Click HERE for a full listing of events, outings and special activities happening during Christmas and Holiday Traditions Around the World. 

This exhibition is made possible by Consumers Energy and the Meijer Foundation along with 36 sponsors including: Botanic and Sculpture Societies of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park and Henry Mast Greenhouses, Inc. The Railway Garden is made possible by Warner Norcross & Judd, LLP.

2014 Holiday Gift Show

Holiday Gift Show

Saturday, November 8, 2014

9am – 5pm

Need a little inspiration for your holiday gift shopping? Our highly anticipated Holiday Gift Show offers a unique mix for the home and garden, not to mention beautiful jewelry and accessories for that special someone–or yourself. There’s something for all ages: from games and toys to books and music, you’re sure to find the perfect gift for everyone on your holiday shopping list. Happen to be a member? You can enjoy a 10 percent discount when you present your membership card!

We will be featuring more than 30 regional and international artists and vendors, all offering unique art and gifts for people of all ages and interests. From toys, games and books for the children on your list to exquisite and unique jewelry, culinary wares, books, music and gardening gear – there is bound to be something here for everyone on your list!

This year we are featuring {available for the first time outside of Japan and in limited quantities} three lines of authentic Japanese items from artisans hailing from our sister state, the Shiga Prefecture. Michigan’s Japanese Sister-State, Shiga, is a bustling marketplace of folk art, handcrafted works of art and specialty foods.  We’ve worked closely with Shiga’s artisans to bring these authentic Japanese goods to you! Come indulge yourself in items like handcrafted wooden beads and exquisite scarves. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and these items will be available in limited quantities. Below are photos of just some of the many beautiful gifts that will be available in limited quantities:

Bowls Cup & Saucer Purple Necklace Scarves

For the ideal finishing touch, we will be offering complimentary gift-wrapping. It’s never too early to start your holiday shopping and there is no better place than at our Holiday Gift Show!

Join us in January and discover more from our Sister State via our Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan exhibition, which will unveil historical artifacts and works of art on loan from museums in Shiga. This will be a wonderful prelude to the opening of The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden next June.

For more information on the Holiday Gift Show, visit http://www.meijergardens.org/calendar/holiday-gift-show/