On Friday, Sept. 9, the Azumaya, a traditional Japanese gazebo and water wheel, was relocated from Springfield's downtown government plaza to the Mizumoto Botanical Stroll Gardens of Nathanael Greene Park.
The Azumaya was constructed entirely out of wood in 1995 and was built by members from Springfield's sister city Isesaki, Japan. With three visitors from the Isesaki delegation and Springfield’s mayor in attendance, the Azumaya’s relocation was honored with a ribbon cutting at 2 p.m., prior to the park’s 26th Annual Japanese Fall Festival.
The purpose of sister cities is to uphold mutually beneficial friendships and provide economic/travel opportunities across the world’s nations. Sister cities were established by former president Dwight D. Eisenhower after World War II in hopes of developing peace among nations and led to the founding of the Springfield Sister City Association in connection to Isesaki, Gunma, Japan, and Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, Mexico. To this day, a strong friendship and the practice of introducing culture among each other’s communities are ideals that are reflected in the association’s motto –– “peace through people.”
On the 55th anniversary of the long-lasting friendship between the city of Springfield and Isesaki, Japan, the pieces for the rectangular structure were shipped overseas in wooden crates, and each of the boards fit together without any nails or screws.
Public information administrator of the Springfield-Greene County Park Board Jenny Edwards said, “The pieces are comparable to Lincoln Log toys…and were put together on a concrete slab using traditional Japanese tools.” The layout blueprints were originally sent over in a metric system but were precisely converted to U.S. customary measurements to ensure the initial functionality of the water wheel and correct sizing.
Alongside Azumaya, many other gifts are exchanged between the cities, including abroad visits for sister city delegates and cultural festivals.
“When we hold official meetings with the delegates from Isesaki, we exchange gifts of performances with traditional Japanese dances and other forms of entertainment,” SSCA Executive Director Lisa Bakerink said. “These performances have also been taken to Springfield schools to touch over 1,000 students with culture.” The SSCA also hosts three annual cultural festivals in addition to this weekend’s Japanese Fall Festival — the Kite and Pinata Festival in April and the Taste of Tlaquepaque in October.
After standing strong for 27 years beside the Old City Hall, the Nathanael Greene Park Board and the SSCA decided relocation for the Azumaya structure was best for the sake of serenity and restoration. With the surrounding 7.5 acres of Japanese foliage and statues of the Mizumoto Stroll Garden, the Azumaya has found a fitting, long-lasting home.
Now residing just west of the Close Memorial Park entrance gates on Scenic Avenue, visitors have access to admire the Azumaya without any fee. To learn more about the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Gardens and traditional structures, visit https://www.parkboard.org/261/Mizumoto-Japanese-Stroll-Garden?loxi_pathname=%2Flist%2Ffuture%2F1.
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