Livingston, MT is sister city with Naganohara, Japan. Each year youth from both communities participate in a cultural and educational exchange where selected Livingston and Naganohara teens stay for a brief period with their respective overseas hosts. The program has been an on-going event since 1991.
Beside Paradaisu Aikikai, the Sister Cities program is Livingston’s other on-going connection to Japan’s culture. Our student’s have taken on the work of helping to maintain the Friendship “meditation” garden as part of our community outreach responsibilities.
Dojo members regularly meet up in work parties to weed, rake and maintain the garden’s structures. The garden is located adjacent to the Yellowstone River just off River Dr. and North 10th Street. It’s scenic setting encourages people to sit and relax. It is open to all who wish to take a few moments to contemplate or mediate while enjoying the Livingston outdoors.
Aikido’s roots are firmly planted in Japanese custom and martial history. Most Aikido exercise and philosophical foundations are grounded in Japanese social/religious (Shinto) practices. A “mediation” garden is another part of this rich culture.
There are common elements found in most Japanese gardens, including:
- The Japanese design is to focus on capturing the essence of nature. Western design emphasizes visual appeal. The Japanese garden follows 2 principals: scaled reduction of nature (miniaturization) as the garden is meant to be seen all at once; and, philosophical symbolization.
- Water is considered a primary earth element. In the garden sand or gravel represents water.
- A lined riverbed flowing from a larger water pool, directed east to west or north to south, represents life’s path / journey. It is also symbolic of In/Yo (chinese = ying / yang) life’s balance.
- Large rocks or boulders are also placed in most gardens. Common combinations of 2 – 3 – 5 or 7 formation are typical. Three is the most frequently found where the largest rock representing Heaven – the shortest representing Earth and the mid-sized rock being mankind serving as the bridge between the other two.
- A bridge made of wood, typically colored red, represent the path one takes to praise and immortality. Red represent’s luck or fortune.
- A stone lantern or 5 level Pagoda is borrowed from Buddhist traditions symbolizing being able to find ones way through life. This is a conceptional expression that after death our physical bodies will go back to our original, elemental form.
- A stone basin was originally placed in the garden for visitors to wash their hands and mouth before the Japanese tea ceremony. However, it is now a regular feature in most gardens.
- Flower beds or a tree are a final common item in most gardens and represent longevity.