Off the weathered rock,
The water softly tumbles,
Again and again.
-- Charlotte Pinkney
Stone, water, and plants are essential elements in a Japanese garden, and Rockford, Illinois, is home to the nation’s top-rated one. Anderson Japanese Garden, 318 Spring Creek Road, is a place for reflection, meditation, relaxation and renewal where guests are cautioned to respect the serenity of its 14 acres of paths and ponds. And koi fish. Don’t forget to buy food to feed the koi.
The garden began humbly as a swampy area on John Anderson’s property. In the 1970s, inspired by the Portland Japanese Garden he had happened upon on a business trip, Anderson hired Hoichi Kurisu to design and construct an authentic Japanese garden using the water source that had literally “swamped” his backyard.
Now rocks, plants, water and evocative Japanese stone sculpture mingle in a serene space seldom found in urban areas. An authentic Japanese guest house welcomes the weary -- if they have the wealth. An idyllic afternoon, however, is quite affordable. It is difficult to carry ones burdens, worries, and buckets of discontent along a green and peaceful path where the only sounds are birds and water falling on rocks. Paths are made to be meandered and there is no right or wrong turn to take. Some who aspire to “sit a spell” on a shady bench find the minutes turn to hours. Time is different here in a way that must be experienced and not explained.
But I will explain the koi, meaning ‘carp’ in Japanese, being among the millions who assumed koi go back to ancient royal gardens. It was not until the early 1800s that koi were bred for color and used in Japan's decorative ponds. Until then, koi were mainly dull-colored food with fins. Although one koi from the Garden could feed a family, fishing is not permitted.