Sunday, 01 February 2015 16:50

Becoming Familiar through the Splendors of Shiga

Written by  Kerri VanderHoff
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Sisters share a unique bond. From childhood through adult years, the relationship develops as we come to a deeper appreciation of both our similarities and our differences. We can learn a lot from each other, and at times help broaden each other’s perspectives, especially when in the context of that trusted familial environment.

Sister state relationships share a unique bond as well, one that also grows and deepens over time.

Michigan and Shiga Prefecture joined together in 1968 to form a sister state relationship, and according to the Sister State Program, it is the oldest and most comprehensive partnership between the United States and Japan. Within the sister state relationship there are 17 official sister cities and friendship cities, including the one between Grand Rapids and Omihachiman, a city within Shiga Prefecture.

These longstanding relationships have been important in the participation of cross-cultural activities such as student and teacher exchanges, cultural events and economic development initiatives.

With the 2015 opening of the new Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park, the extraordinary relationship between Michigan and Shiga is sure to reach new levels.

Timed to lead up to and coincide with the opening of the Japanese Garden is an exhibition of more than 60 iconic works of art displayed in the sculpture galleries. The exhibition, Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japanis on view through Aug. 16.

When we began (our) earliest discussion about building a Japanese Garden, we of course spoke with our local Omihachiman leaders,” said Joseph Becherer, chief curator and vice president for collections and exhibitions. “When a Frederik Meijer Garden & Sculpture Park delegation visited Japan three and a half years ago, Shiga was a part of that itinerary and the notion of the exhibition was born. (It’s) an opportunity to celebrate Japan through the richness of the vast cultural splendor in Shiga.”

The exhibition provides the opportunity to learn more about our Japanese sister state, which in turn will deepen our appreciation for the themes and ideas visitors will encounter in the Japanese Garden when it opens later this year.

Because the Japanese Garden is really a work of art, there are a myriad of connections to the exhibition,” Becherer said. “Foremost, perhaps is the reverence for nature evidenced in so many works in the exhibition; another is the emphasis on design and seeking beauty in everyday life.”

Nearly all of the works on display have never been seen outside of Japan, and numerous important national and regional items are on loan for the first time. The display will feature hand-painted scrolls and screen paintings, centuries-old Buddhist statuary and devotional objects, ancient and contemporary kimonos, tea ceremony objects and famed Shigaraki and Shiga-area pottery.

The exhibition will unfold in three successive parts, encouraging return visits to fully explore the layers of meaning represented in objects spanning the 17th centurythrough present day. TheWintertheme runs through March 22; the Springtheme is on view March 28 through June 4; the Summer and Falltheme begins June 10 and remains on view through Aug. 16.


Splendors of Shiga: Treasures from Japan
Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park
Through Aug. 16, 2015, (616) 957-1580



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