The newly-expanded Bonsai Pavilion and Tea Garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens was dedicated in June for Bill Hosokawa, renowned journalist and eloquent spokesperson for the Asian American community. (Scott Dressel-Martin/ Denver Botanic Gardens)

By Claire S. Lanier, Ph.D.
Denver Botanic Gardens

Old, weathered stone, cool water and traditional Japanese lanterns add atmosphere to the understated and elegant Bill Hosokawa Bonsai Pavilion and Tea Garden, at the Denver Botanic Gardens. The new area provides a distinctive sense of entry into the Japanese garden (Shofu-en), originally built in the 1970s.

The expansion of the garden was dedicated on June 20 in honor of Dr. William Hosokawa (1915-2007), a journalist and eloquent spokesperson for the Asian American community.

The many distinguished guests included Consul General Ikuhiki Ono, a representative from Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s office, and Hosokawa’s children and grandchildren.

A prolific author, Hosokawa was revered as a civil rights advocate and proponent of the power of collaboration and cooperation between people.

Celebrations began before the opening of the pavilion and tea house with Kizuna, large site-specific bamboo art installations spread throughout the gardens. The name Kizuna means “the bonds between people.”

A bust of Hosokawa now presides over the eastern end of the Japanese garden. His daughter, Susan Hosokawa Boatright, spoke at the dedication in June. (Scott Dressel-Martin/ Denver Botanic Gardens)

The momentum to honor Dr. Hosokawa began four years ago at his living memorial service at the University of Denver. A memorial committee was formed and funds were raised for two busts of Dr. Hosokawa, with one to be placed at the Denver Public Library.

The goal of the memorial committee established for Dr. Hosokawa has now come full circle with the placement of the second bust at the dedication of the pavilion and tea garden.

The original committee consisted of the Japan America Society of Colorado, Japanese Association, Tri-State Denver Buddhist Temple, Japan Firms Association of Colorado and members of the Hosokawa family.

The pavilion area is simple and natural. Clean lines contribute to a carefully orchestrated informality. Here, walls become enclosures with dividers controlling views and opening vistas. Some are partial screens revealing, then hiding, what is behind. There are three types of bonsai trees on display: traditional bonsai, Rocky Mountain bonsai and tropical bonsai.

In the subtle language of Japanese gardens, gates become symbols of passage. The main gate into Shofu-en symbolizes entry into this serene and special space. This entrance was designed by Sadafumi Uchiyama, garden curator at the Portland Japanese Garden.

The entry gate is perfectly sited to provide the illusion that the garden extends forever with the Rocky Mountains far in the distance.

Three types of bonsai trees are on display at the pavilion: traditional bonsai, Rocky Mountain bonsai and tropical bonsai. (Scott Dressel-Martin/ Denver Botanic Gardens)

Nearby, another path meanders toward the traditional tea house. Here, visitors approach guided by a roji (an alleyway or path), incorporating artistically placed stepping stones. Guests are encouraged to release their earthly cares by bowing before entering the space through a low opening in the fence.

The existing teahouse was constructed in the traditional manner in Nagano, Japan, and is used for authentic demonstrations of the Japanese tea ceremony. By expanding the tea garden, guests can meander through the rustic setting before finally reaching the tea house.

The original Shofu-en was designed by Dr. Koichi Kawana, landscape architect and lecturer in Japanese landscape design at the University of California, Los Angeles. The garden was designed in accordance with Japanese tradition, incorporating the concept of the garden as an expression of paradise. It is one of a handful of major Japanese gardens in the United States between the east and west coasts.

When Hosokawa, left, attended the opening of the original garden in 1979, he was accompanied by visiting Japanese Prince Hitachi and Princess Hanako. (Denver Botanic Gardens)

The opening of the original Japanese Garden in 1979 was attended by Dr. Hosokawa, who was accompanied by the Japanese Prince Hitachi and Princess Hanako.

Denver hosted an international bonsai conference in June, and in October, Denver Botanic Gardens will welcome the North American Japanese Garden Association.

Visit the Bill Hosokawa Bonsai Pavilion and Tea Garden and experience this simple passage into serenity.

Denver Botanic Gardens and the Hosokawa Memorial Committee is accepting personal gifts to the Bonsai Pavilion and Tea Garden. Call the development office at (720) 865-3528, or visit for more information.

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