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BREATHING ROOM

History tucked inside an oasis

May 08, 2003|David Colker

Hidden behind the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center downtown is a serene, beautifully maintained garden with paths that wind through stalks of bamboo, rare pine trees, azaleas and ferns. They lead over wooden bridges, past stone lanterns and moss-covered stones.

The garden is a lovely respite from city life. But it's also a reminder of the struggles of immigrants. The centerpiece of the garden is a 170-foot, man-made stream created by landscape designer Takeo Uesugi to tell symbolically the story of Japanese people who came to the United States. It begins with a small, turbulent waterfall representing the financial hardships and prejudice borne by those who arrived in the early 20th century.

The stream then splits in two to denote conflicts in the community during World War II, when thousands of Japanese people were sent to internment camps from which some volunteered for duty in the U.S. military.

Eventually, the waters flow together into a small pond, representing a hope for lasting peace.

You can certainly enjoy the garden without knowing about the stream's meaning -- which is outlined in a photo mural inside the JACCC -- but it even deepens appreciation for this downtown gem.

Access to the garden is free and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from the basement level of the JACCC, 244 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles.

-- David Colker

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