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In Remembrance: Kazuo Mitsuhashi (1941-2021)

Kazuo Mitsuhashi (left) and Sadafumi Uchiyama on-site during the International Training Center’s Waza to Kokoro Seminar in 2017

A distinguished and world-renowned garden designer, author and teacher, Kazuo Mitsuhashi was a major figure in Japanese garden world for a half century. “A garden you create is who you are and a reflection of your view of the world, i.e. you cannot create a garden better than who you are,” Mitsuhashi noted, “Well, to make a good garden is to become be a thoughtful and compassionate person.” His wisdom resonated the level of his commitment and genuineness for his profession – be humble and grow wisely. Comparatively, Mitsuhashi reminds us of Mirei Shigemori, whose name still stands at the pinnacle of the modern history of Japanese garden, in that they both are tenacious and tireless seekers of the truth in the Japanese garden philosophy and history. Both travelled widely, researched gardens throughout Japan, read and wrote extensively. Yet, Mitsuhashi was distinguished as a gentle and accommodating teacher in his classes and workshops, as we all know so well. Humanity was central in his garden making and teaching.

Born in 1941 in the Chiba Prefecture where he spent most of his life building his career. Graduate of Meiji University, Mitsuhashi chose to set his career path in the Japanese garden profession after graduation. He studied under prominent Japanese garden scholars and designers such as Isao Yoshikawa. He was also mentored by distinguished Japanese garden leaders Kenzo Ogata and Sentaro Iwaki and Misao Nakase. During his long and distinguished career, Mr. Mitsuhashi served on the board of the Garden Society of Japan and was an active member and leader of The Academic Society of Japanese Garden. He was instrumental in building and sustaining cross-national ties between the Japanese garden community in Japan and abroad. He was a key player in organizing the 1st International Japanese Garden Symposium (Portland, 1996) and all subsequent IJG Symposiums. Consequently, he actively involved in the creation of the North America Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA) and has since been a leading support of our organization.

He was a regular contributor of the Niwa magazine, wrote extensively in professional journals and magazines and authored many books on Japanese gardens. His lesser known contribution was to the research and study of ancient gardens, outside of the Kyoto area. His library has an extensive collection of books, research papers and drawings of these least understood gardens.

In his private life, Mr. Mitsuhashi was a loving husband and caring father and grandfather. Mitsuhashi-san always travelled with his wife, Setsuko, whether to attend conferences in the U.S. or meeting his clients in Europe. He visited his daughter and grandchildren often and they were mesmerized by the feats of magic he could perform (he was highly skilled in magic!)

Kazuo Mitsuhashi passed away on May 27, 2021, after a year-long fight with his unexpected acute illness. He was survived by his beloved wife, Setsuko. Our thoughts are with his family as we cherish his legacy and recognize his valuable contributions to the Japanese garden field at home and abroad.