The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden – Frequently Asked Questions (and answers!)

Who are the donors?

The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden has been made possible through the generosity of Fred and Lena Meijer, Richard and Helen DeVos and roughly 300 individuals and organizations that supported the Japanese Garden campaign.

Who designed it?

The Japanese Garden was designed by Hoichi Kurisu, recognized among the world’s leading designers of Japanese gardens. Born in Hiroshima a few years before World War II, his family experienced serious hardships after the war including having to forage for food in nearby woods. An understanding of the power of nature to sustain life, both physically and psychologically, stayed with him and later developed into a passion for gardening and landscape design.

Having trained in Tokyo and learned the intrinsic value of Japanese garden principles, he moved to the United States in 1968 and worked as the landscape garden director at the renowned Japanese Garden Society in Portland, Oregon. He then opened his own firm, Kurisu International, in 1972 and since then has created numerous Japanese gardens throughout the United States as well as in other countries. Among other awards, he received the National Landscape Award presented at the White House in 1992 and 1998 and was named one of the ten most influential Japanese garden designers worldwide by the Roth Journal in 2005.

Which Grand Rapids businesses assisted Hoichi in the creation of the garden?

Progressive AE provided engineering and architectural services, primarily for necessary support and structures below ground level. Owen-Ames-Kimball provided construction support and supervisory services. Many local contractors provided a variety of services.

Who designed and built the architectural structures?

The architectural structures were all designed in Japan by Japanese architecture firms, and all were at least partially built in Japan and then shipped to Meijer Gardens to be reassembled on site.

Will it be open year-round?

Yes. It is intended to be enjoyed in all seasons. During the winter months some areas and pathways may occasionally be closed due to weather.

Is it accessible?

Yes. All areas with a challenging terrain have an alternate path nearby, and paths and bridges are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs.  All guests are asked to be cautious on stone paths and hilly areas.

How big is it?

The “footprint” of the Japanese Garden is eight acres, with 2½ of them taken up by the Lena Meijer Pond. The main path through the garden is ¾ of a mile long.

Is there an extra charge to enter it?

No. The Japanese Garden is free with admission.

What opportunities will guests have to learn about our Japanese Garden?

We have an illustrated brochure, a map of the garden, a family looking guide and docents positioned in the garden to answer guests’ questions. Information about the garden will be shared during our regular tram tours, incorporated into our summer camp line-up and added into our website. Tea ceremonies and tea ceremony demonstrations will be offered in the summer and fall through our classes program, and a film on the creation of the garden will be shown in the Hoffman Auditorium beginning in late fall. Classes for adults will be offered in the fall.

What is the Tranquility Zone: A Japanese Garden Environment for Families exhibition?

Tranquility Zone, sponsored by PNC Bank, is an interactive exhibition in the Snell Sculpture Education Center that translates Japanese Garden concepts into kid-friendly activities. There are three main activity areas—a teahouse, a Zen-style garden and a bridge over simulated water—and self-directed activities springing from each. Docents will be on hand to supervise many additional activities. All signage is hidden so that it must first be discovered and only then acted upon—with search-and-find challenges, did-you-know tidbits and activity prompts.

How will guests know how what is expected of them in the Japanese Garden?

Etiquette rules will be stated on the brochure, map and signage. As with all other areas of Meijer Gardens, guests are expected to stay on paths and bridges, not to touch or climb on rocks, sculpture or trees and to respect the quiet and serenity of this unique garden space.

Why are there so many boulders?

Boulders are important to Japanese gardens. They are one of the first elements introduced and they symbolize permanence. More than 4,000 boulders have been moved to the site from various areas in West Michigan: they are used for structural, aesthetic and artistic reasons.

What is the significance of the lanterns?

Lanterns were traditionally placed along paths, bridges and ponds to light the way to an evening tea ceremony; our lanterns are used for decoration.

What is the significance of the pagodas?

Pagodas are multistory structures that originally enshrined sacred relics. Found in Buddhist temple complexes, they increased as Buddhism spread through East Asia. Japanese pagodas were made of wood whose flexibility enabled them to survive earthquakes. Later, small stone pagodas were used in gardens.

How much money was raised to build the garden?

There was a successful $22 million capital campaign; a portion of the funds raised were used to establish an endowment to care for the garden in the future. We continue to accept gifts to build the fund. New sponsorship opportunities within the Garden have also been identified. Anyone interested in supporting the endowment fund or learning more about sponsorship opportunities may contact the Development Office.

What is a tea ceremony?

A tea ceremony is the ceremonial preparation and presentation of matcha (finely powdered green tea) for the enjoyment of one or more guests. The utensils are first cleaned in a precise order using exactly prescribed movements; every movement has meaning. While the ceremony is being performed silence is observed. Tea ceremonies are intended to appeal to all the senses: taste (tea and sweets), hearing (boiling water, sounds of nature in the distance), sight  (ceramics  and scroll), touch (ceramic tea bowls), smell (ikebana flowers and flowers growing outside the teahouse). Traditional tea ceremonies are based around the seasons, with the ikebana, scroll and ceramics all reflecting the current season. After the ceremony, it is the responsibility of the guests to offer comments and compliments.

What is a Zen-style garden?

A Zen-style garden is a dry landscape garden, carefully composed of arrangements of rocks and gravel that is raked into patterns. The rocks often symbolize mountains or islands and the gravel can represent rivers, waves, rippling water or oceans. Zen-style gardens are usually surrounded by a wall and are meant to be viewed from a single viewpoint—a bench or, traditionally, the porch of a temple adjacent to the garden. They are not meant to be entered or walked through at all. Zen-style gardens at Buddhist temples in Kyoto were intended to imitate the essence of nature and to aid in meditation about the meaning of life. The repetitive motion of raking helped monks focus and concentrate.

What is a Bonsai garden?

A bonsai garden is a grouping of bonsai plants for display. Our Bonsai Garden features roughly twenty rotating bonsai from our collection which will be displayed from April through November, weather permitting. Bonsai are plants that are trained to look as if they are timeworn by the forces of nature.  Almost any kind of plant can become a bonsai.

What is a Zig-zag bridge?

A Zig-zag bridge is a wooden bridge used in Japanese gardens; the name comes from its angular, zig-zag path. Originally zig-zag bridges were simply wooden planks used by farmers to traverse wet areas of their land. Later, they began to be constructed over marshy areas where irises were planted; the zig-zag pattern allows the plants to be seen more clearly. It is sometimes said that zig-zag bridges were designed to evade evil spirits which could only travel in straight lines. This is a myth; it is completely false!

Are all the plants native to Japan?

Roughly 5%-10% of the plants are native to Japan. The others are native to Michigan and other temperate climates throughout the world. What matters most is which ones are selected, how they fit into the overall design of the garden, how they are planted, how they are pruned and the way they are maintained.

How many sculptures are there?

There are seven sculptures, all created in the recent past and selected because they complement ideas and concepts in the Japanese Garden itself.

They are:

The title refers to a term the artist created to describe mature trees with curved lower trunks that resemble the curved blade of a sabre. They are staked at an angle to produce this growth and will continue to be pruned for many years to come. This piece is part of the Japanese Garden.

This work consists of a single piece of granite, carved and polished using power tools. Viewers can see themselves reflected in the three circles, which promotes viewer engagement and affects viewers’ perceptions of space.

Long Island Buddha is positioned at an angle as if it were a recently discovered historical monument, suggesting longevity and survival. It reflects a major source of inspiration for Japanese gardens in general—Buddhism.

Existence is a five-part sculpture made of granite. Selected portions of the stone are revealed through carving and polishing; the rest is left in its original, rough form. The title refers to what the artist felt existed within the stone.

Rickey is known for developing kinetic sculptures that move with the air. This horizontal piece is unlike his other works which are vertical. Positioned in the pond, it moves with the wind above the water. Gyratory is a word Rickey used to describe the circular movement of this piece, like hands on a clock.

This sculpture focuses on the theme of “human interaction with nature.” It is based on an actual installation work where the artist held onto a tree for a period of time and imagined how it would affect the growth of the tree if he continued holding on much longer. He made a mold of his hand as well as the tree and cast the whole piece in bronze.

  • For the Garden by Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer is a conceptual artist who focuses on particular subjects using original or borrowed text. The subject she presents for our sculpture is the experience of nature. The piece consists of 23 poems borrowed from four centuries of Japanese poetry; they are hand-carved into boulders and placed throughout the Japanese Garden. The spacing is original to the poets but the use of all capitals is typical of Holzer’s work.

Here is one of the poems:






Five Main Concepts for Understanding The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden

More than four years in the making, the Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden is now open, welcoming a world of timeless tranquility. Kangei: Welcome. The journey begins…

We have put together these five main concepts for understanding the Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden in order to help you further understand its basic components:

Concept 1

Our Japanese Garden is both traditional and innovative.

It is traditional because it includes traditional Japanese garden components: an entry gate, meandering paths and stepping stones, a variety of views, authentic Japanese architecture, evergreens, flowering trees, shrubs and other plants that will be maintained in specific ways, waterfalls and ponds, boulders, and textures and colors that have great sensory appeal. Equally important it is traditional because it is intentionally designed to be contemplative.  It is innovative because it includes carefully selected examples of Contemporary sculpture by international artists. The addition of Contemporary sculpture makes our Japanese Garden consistent with Meijer Gardens’ uniqueness in combining gardens and sculpture and carries the tradition of the Japanese Garden into the 21st century.

Fact Two

Our Japanese Garden is based on reverence for nature but is also an artfully manipulated environment.

Although this space looks very natural, much of the garden has been transformed by human design. Hills were created, a peninsula and islands were built and waterfalls were constructed. Thousands of boulders were brought to the site. Much of the natural vegetation was preserved, but hundreds of additional plants selected by Hoichi Kurisu were added. These include trees that have been cultivated and pruned for decades to look like mature trees, such as pines and those with curving trunks. Some trees have been planted to angle out over the water, which in time will replicate the growth observed in nature. The entire garden will need timely maintenance by seasonal pruning of trees and shrubs, and will continue to mature and evolve over the decades and even centuries.

Fact Three

Our Japanese Garden is the result of an intentional design that emphasizes the experience of space.

As a master garden designer, Hoichi Kurisu is renowned for his use of space. Here, he has thoughtfully transformed an expansive marsh and wooded valley into a spectacular Japanese Garden. The space now offers dramatic changes in elevation, includes both densely planted areas and broad open spaces, provides intimate areas for reflection as well as larger expanses across the main pond and contrasts the geometry of built structures with the organic qualities of nature. Central to Kurisu’s intention is a pathway that surrounds the Lena Meijer Pond which, depending on vantage point, can appear wide and vast, or divided or narrow. In the tradition of all great Japanese garden design, Kurisu heightens guests’ awareness of space in small but important ways—by forcing them to duck under branches purposely allowed to grow over a path, by luring them into intimate settings surrounded by trees or by letting them stand on a waterfall bridge to experience water rushing from above and cascading down below.

Fact Four

Our Japanese Garden was designed to be a sensory experience.

Our Japanese Garden was designed to be a sensory experience, enjoyable in all seasons. Moving along meandering paths of crushed stone, guests will come upon sights and sounds to engage them—niwaki (garden trees pruned to look like the essence of mature trees), colorful blossoms, textured boulders, rushing waterfalls. You will enjoy the scents of lilacs, irises and cherry trees, the texture of moss, the pattern of wood grain, beaches of pebbles and raked lines in the Zen-style Garden (sponsored by The Wege Foundation). You will encounter stunning views of distinctive Japanese architecture across water, down hills, around turns. And you will have the Viewing Hill (sponsored by Mike and Sue Jandernoa) as a visual anchor, with its densely planted spirea, featuring golden foliage and light pink blooms. Even in winter the sparkle of sun on snow and bare branches against the sky will produce moments to remember. This ingenious design that was carefully planned but feels so natural will produce a truly unforgettable experience.

Fact Five

Our Japanese Garden was designed to be a contemplative environment.

The Japanese Garden aesthetic emerged from centuries of Shinto and Buddhist thought which emphasized a reverence for nature and a contemplative lifestyle. There are many ways our Japanese Garden promotes this meditative approach. The paths meander and turn, coming upon new views unexpectedly. The view from the top of the Viewing Hill is panoramic, taking in large vistas of the Japanese Garden. There are several smaller, enclosed spaces perfect for private reflection, including three Faith Reflective Gardens. There is water that suggests power and water that suggests tranquility. There is the quiet oasis of the Zen-style Garden and the provocative Bonsai Garden (sponsored by Mark and Elizabeth Murray) with its plants trained to look timeworn. There is a Poet’s Path (sponsored by Harvey Lemmen), suggesting the long tradition of philosophical poems inspired by nature. And there are seven Contemporary sculptures by internationally-recognized artists that promote interesting and deep thought. Throughout the garden there are benches for reflection and contemplation.

While the Japanese Garden welcomes its first guests this month, it is important to note that it is neither complete nor will it ever be. Rather, this garden will continue to grow, mature and evolve over decades and perhaps even centuries, as others like it in Japan have. It is indeed a dream fulfilled and a journey that never ends. Welcome, the journey begins.

20 Remarkable Years, Unforgettable Moments – Part Four

In April, we marked the 20th anniversary of Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. The past 20 years have produced innumerable, remarkable moments. Here are five more of the most memorable moments in our 20-year history: Chihuly 2003 & 2010 Chihuly Exhibitions In 2003 Meijer Gardens hosted Chihuly at the Gardens, an indoor exhibition featuring spectacular glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly. Chihuly returned to Meijer Gardens in 2010 with A New Eve, a monumental exhibition featuring 15 brand new installations  ̶ 13 outdoors and two indoors  ̶  scattered throughout the park. Over 680,000 people visited Meijer Gardens to view the exhibition. AnniversaryConcert August 7, 2010: 15th Anniversary Concert Lyle Lovett and his large band performed a sold out show in the Amphitheater Gardens and the evening concluded with a fireworks display in honor of Meijer Gardens’ 15th anniversary. Proceeds from the event supported the Meijer Gardens Annual Fund. FredMeijer November 2011: Fred Meijer’s Memorial Service On November 25, 2011, our dear friend Fred Meijer passed away at the age of 91. Over 3,500 people came to Meijer Gardens to pay their respects at his memorial service while hundreds of past and present Meijer employees shared their stories about Fred with his sons and grandchildren. Fred was buried at Meijer Gardens in the Michigan Farm Garden, a replica of his wife Lena’s childhood home. JapaneseGarden 2011-2015: The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden After Fred and his wife Lena expressed their love of Japanese gardens and inquired about adding one to Meijer Gardens in 2009, the concept of The Richard and Helen DeVos Japanese Garden was born. Planning and construction commenced in 2012 and now, three years later, the construction process is nearly complete. With great excitement we anticipate opening this beautiful garden to the public on June 13, 2015. 2015Beyond 2015 and Beyond: Building for the Future Meijer Gardens recently acquired several adjacent properties including 35 acres of land bordering Leonard Street. The properties will allow for expansion and growth in the long term, ensuring Meijer Gardens will be always new for generations to come.

The Meijer Gardens Gift Shop


The Meijer Garden’s Gift Shop

The DeVos Keeler Gift Shop offers unique, original and locally made gifts for all ages. Friendly and knowledgeable staff and volunteers are always on hand to make gift recommendations, and to create an enjoyable, personalized shopping experience. Complimentary gift wrapping services are also available. Have you discovered the DeVos Keeler Gift Shop yet?


What You Will Find

  • Artisan gifts of jewelry, pottery, hand-blown glass and more
  • Educational books, toys and baby items
  • Garden items including house plants, tools and supplies, garden art and gardening books
  • Greeting cards
  • Michigan-made gifts from local and regional artists
  • Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park souvenirs
  • Seasonal exhibition items like The Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden items coming soon!

Save the Date: November 7, 2015

The Holiday Gift Show features more than 30 regional artists and vendors all offering unique art and elegant gifts for all ages and interests. From toys, games and books to delight the children on your list, to exquisite jewelry, culinary wares, books, music and gardening gear, you can find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Admission is free and the general public is welcome to attend. Members receive a ten percent discount when presenting their membership card. Be sure to check later this year for more information on the highly anticipated Holiday Gift Show.

Hours of Operation

The DeVos Keeler Gift Shop is open Sunday 11 am – 5 pm, Monday, and Wednesday through Saturday 9 am – 5 pm, and Tuesday 9 am – 9 pm. The Gift Shop is located adjacent to the front desk at Meijer Gardens and there is no admission to visit the Gift Shop.

If you are interested in learning more about the Gift Shop or its products, please call the shop at 616-957-7904, or email Chris Smith, Gift Shop Manager at

20 Remarkable Years, Unforgettable Moments – Part Three

On April 20, 2015, Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park observed its 20th anniversary. The past 20 years have produced innumerable, remarkable moments. Here, we share five more of the most memorable moments in our 20-year history:


September 11, 2002: Jimmy Carter Visits On the first anniversary of September 11, former President Jimmy Carter toured the grounds with Fred Meijer. The serenity, beauty and welcoming atmosphere left former President Carter refreshed, encouraged and inspired; a stark contrast to the events of the prior year. Upon his departure, he called Meijer Gardens a “national treasure.”


May 17, 2003: Michigan’s Farm Garden Opens Michigan’s Farm Garden opens allowing visitors to experience heirloom vegetable gardens, orchards and farm animal sculptures in a whimsical barnyard setting. It includes a three-quarter-scale replica of Lena Meijer’s childhood home and a 100-year-old barn, and roses from Lena’s garden. Fred & Lena led the procession on a borrowed, vintage tractor.


June 6, 2003: Frederik Meijer Gardens Amphitheater The Amphitheater Garden opens with a performance by Big Bad Voo Doo Daddy and on June 15 the Fifth Third Bank Summer Concert Series began with a performance by Art Garfunkel. It has since become the most anticipated summer concert series in West Michigan. The terraced lawn seating, spectacular views of gardens and sculptures, and lively acoustics create an intimate concert setting for guests of all ages. Children'sGarden

June 20, 2004: Lena Meijer Children’s Garden Children are invited and encouraged to play, learn and explore using all five senses making the Lena Meijer Children’s Garden one of the most interactive children’s gardens in the nation. Attendance increased more than 65% in the months following its opening  ̶ June through September  ̶  compared to the previous year. PresidentialVisits

Various Years: Presidential and First Lady Visits Several former presidents and first ladies have visited Meijer Gardens including President and Mrs. Ford, President and Mrs. Carter and Lady Bird Johnson, shown here with Fred and Lena Meijer.

Prepare for the Members Only Presale for the 2015 Fifth Third Bank Summer Concert Series!

The 2015 Fifth Third Bank Summer Concerts at Meijer Gardens lineup has been announced and the members-only presale begins on Saturday! Once again, we’re bringing you a wide mix of performers, including classic rock, pop, comedy and Dancing with the Stars. 10_Amphitheater Garden2_Hebert As the members-only presale on Saturday, April 25 at 9 am approaches, we want to make sure members are prepared for the online sale*. For the best selection, we recommend purchasing tickets online at We worked with Star Tickets to address past problems and to make this process more efficient. We want you to be best equipped to get the tickets you want, so here are four ways to prepare for the online member presale:

  1.     Renew Your Membership or Become a Member

Along with experiencing the beauty of Meijer Gardens year-round, two of the many membership perks includes discounted concert tickets and first dibs during the member presale. If you’re not already a member, we suggest becoming one ASAP prior to the presale. This also applies to membership renewal. Learn more about the different membership choices or renew online by clicking on renew in your membership category.

  1.     Find and Write Down Your Member ID Number

After becoming a member or renewing your membership, you’ll be given a member ID number. In some cases you will be given a temporary ID that will work until you receive your membership card in the mail. Jot down the number or keep your card on hand for the day of the presale. Below is where your ID number is located if you have a card. This number is very important! It will need to be entered during the ticket buying process on in order to receive access the presale and the price discount per ticket. If you are a member and have lost your ID card or don’t know your number, please email in advance of the presale. Due to the volume of questions received the day of the presale, it’s best to plan ahead and know your ID number.

  1.     Create a Star Tickets account

Another important step to prepare is creating an account on the Star Tickets website. This is different than your Meijer Gardens login. Your Star Tickets login information is only used on as your concert-buying account. If you already have an account, you do not need to create a new one. BUT be sure you know your password and have updated credit card and account information before the sale. create an account Creating a Star Tickets login before the member presale will cut down on time the morning of the sale.

  1.     Know Your Concerts Beforehand

The entire concert schedule has been released. Make a list of your favorites and prepare to log on to when the presale begins on Saturday, April 25 at 9 am. If you wish to purchase tickets to multiple shows, at the end of each concert selection, pick “Add Another Event” at the bottom of the page and repeat the process. When you’re done purchasing all of your tickets, only then select Continue to check out. StarTickets_Add Another Event1 Currently, we allow our members to purchase tickets to multiple shows without a set limit, but please note, we do monitor for signs of resale if large quantities of tickets are purchased per show. This has not been an issue in the past and we continue to take note of your concerns about this issue each year. Looking for more info? We’ve created an Insider’s Guide to buying concert tickets and concert FAQs. Check it out!  *Please be aware that there are Star Ticket fees are associated with purchasing tickets online as compared to in-person at Meijer Gardens.

20 Remarkable Years, Unforgettable Moments – Part Two

The past 20 years have produced innumerable, remarkable moments at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. Here, we share five more of the most memorable moments in our 20-year history:  AmericanHorse

October 7, 1999: The American Horse by Nina Akamu A total of 4,800 guests witnessed the dedication of The American Horse, a 24-foot-tall sculpture created by Nina Akamu that pays homage to a never-completed design by Leonardo da Vinci. The addition of the sculpture increased visitation fivefold in October and fourfold in November of that year. Over a decade after its installation, the sculpture continues to drive visitation to Meijer Gardens. SculptureGalleries

September 17, 2000: Sculpture Galleries Open The addition of indoor galleries provided opportunity for changing exhibitions and enhanced the collections program. Two exhibitions premiered in the new sculpture galleries: Richard Hunt: American Visionary and Imaging the Divine: Religious and Spiritual Themes of Marshall Fredericks. Historical2

January 10, 2001: Acquisition of Eve Eve, by Auguste Rodin, was unveiled as the cornerstone of the permanent collection. She was displayed indoors and then unveiled again the following May in her permanent home in the Sculpture Park. Rodin used an Italian woman as the model for Eve, and many of his later projects, as he greatly admired her statuesque and muscular form and her ability to hold an unorthodox or non-academic pose through which he could manifest dramatic narrative and emotional power.


October 27, 2001: Carnivorous Plant House The Kenneth E. Nelson Carnivorous Plant House opened with one of the largest carnivorous plant collections in the nation. Carnivores on display include the Venus flytrap, colorful pitcher plants, sundews and butterworts. Today it remains the only publicly displayed plant collection in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to carnivorous plants.


May 16, 2002: Sculpture Park Dedication Home to a majority of our permanent sculpture collection, the Sculpture Park opened to the public with six of the international artists represented in the permanent collection present for the dedication. The Sculpture Park has since captured the attention of the art world with thoughtfully created installations of major works by an ever-growing roster of artists.