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The Japanese Garden: Living Classroom of Nature, Architecture, & Culture

Portland Japanese Garden's Cultural Village. Photo by James Florio.

A Japanese garden is not simply a place of beauty, serenity, and contemplation grounded in a long tradition, but it is also a holistic art form functioning as a place of discovery and innovation that continues to evolve through cross-pollination with other cultural forms.

This webinar explores the historical journey of one of the world’s oldest land art forms and examines its evolving relevance to the world. Inviting experts of critical acclaim from various creative fields, this interactive webinar delves into how Japanese landscape design principles and aesthetics have impacted the ways in which modern society approaches art and architecture while helping mold our relationship with nature.

This is the first of a five-part “Living Traditions” webinar series, co-presented by the Japan Society.


Program Details 

This is a free webinar, with advance registration required. The program will be live-streamed through YouTube, and registrants will receive the viewing link by email on the event day. Participants can submit questions through YouTube during the livestream.



Kendall Brown, Professor of Asian Art History, California State University, Long Beach

Kendall Brown is Professor of Asian Art History in the School of Art at California State University Long Beach. He publishes actively in several areas of Japanese art history, and has curated exhibitions for museums across the country on topics ranging from woodblock pritns to Art Deco. He is a leading figure in the study of Japanese gardens in North America, having published several books and various essays on the social history of these gardens. He was a co-founder and past President of the North American Japanese Garden Association. 

Dana Buntrock, Professor of Architecture, University of California, Berkeley

Dana Buntrock is a Professor in the University of California, Berkeley’s Department of Architecture and was the Chair of the Center for Japanese Studies on campus from 2015-2020. She held the first Tomoye Takahashi endowed chair from 2017-2020 and was selected as a Distinguished Professor of the (North American) Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture in 2018.

Her work focuses on interdisciplinary collaborations within Japanese architecture and construction practices, starting with her first book, Japanese Architecture as a Collaborative Process: Opportunities in a Flexible Construction Culture (London: Spon, 2000). Her second book, Materials and Meaning in Contemporary Japanese Architecture: Tradition and Today (London: Routledge, 2010) looked at how contemporary architects like Kengo Kuma draw on Japanese traditions in their work.

Professor Buntrock has conducted fieldwork in Japan, the US, Taiwan, and Korea, supported by fellowships from the US National Science Foundation, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the Council for the International Exchange of Scholars, and the Social Science Research Council. Her work has been translated into Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Spanish.

Dakin Hart, Senior Curator, The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum

As Senior Curator for The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, Hart oversees the Museum’s exhibitions, collections, catalogue raisonné, archives, and public programming, and has the daily good fortune of collaborating with Isamu Noguchi in absentia. His previous positions include Assistant Director at the Nasher Sculpture Center (Dallas), Artistic Director and Director of Artists in Residence at Montalvo Center for the Arts (Saratoga, CA), and Assistant to the Director of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. He has also worked as an independent curator and writer. Recent exhibitions and publications include: Lawrence Weiner: South of the Border (Casa Wabi, Puerto Escondido, Mexico, 2020), Noguchi: Body-Space Devices (The Noguchi Museum, 2019); Akari: Sculpture by Other Means (The Noguchi Museum, 2018-19); Isamu Noguchi Archaic/Modern (Smithsonian American Art Museum, exhibition and catalogue, 2016-17); Self-Interned, 1942: Noguchi in Poston War Relocation Center (The Noguchi Museum, 2017-18); Tom Sachs: Tea Ceremony (travelling, 2016-17) and Tom Sachs: Tea Manual (catalogue, 2016).


Aki Nakanishi, Arlene Schnitzer Curator of Culture, Art, and Education, Portland Japanese Garden

Akihito (Aki) Nakanishi is a cultural leader and public diplomacy expert with two decades of experience in government relations, public communication, artistic exchanges, and cultural programming in Japan.

For 10 years, Nakanishi served as the Cultural Affairs Specialist at the United States Embassy, Tokyo, where he oversaw a wide spectrum of embassy involvement in cultural, creative, and educational activities designed to enhance mutual understanding between the United States and Japan. In addition to being the principal advisor to the Mission’s Cultural Attaché, he also served as a special aide to U.S. Ambassadors, charged with direct oversight of some of the Ambassadors’ cultural and education projects such as “Ties Over Time” (under Amb. John V. Roos) and “International Poetry Exchange Project” (under Amb. Caroline B. Kennedy). 

Prior to working at the Embassy, Nakanishi worked for three years as Program Director at one of the major media corporations in Tokyo, followed by a role as Exhibition Director for four years at a family-owned museum. Drawing upon his extensive knowledge of the arts and ties with a myriad of Japanese cultural icons, he has worked as an independent art director, producing exhibitions, performing art, art fairs, co-producing literary events and festivals, writing dossiers for arts events in specialty publications and newspapers, while running his own non-profit organization for regional revitalization, leadership development, and youth empowerment across rural Japan, echovisions, since 2015.

Having attended King’s College London (U.K.) and Kingston Business School (U.K.), Nakanishi holds a Master of Cultural Policy from the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (Japan).

Nakanishi also currently serves on various foundation boards as Advisor to Chair, including The Ogasawara Toshiaki Memorial Foundation (Tokyo, Japan) and The Kiyoharu Art Foundation (Yamanashi, Japan).


Co-presented with the Japan Society

Supported by Government of Japan.

Talks+ Programs at Japan Society are generously sponsored by MUFG (Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group) and ORIX Corporation USA. Additional support is provided by an anonymous donor, the Sandy Heck Lecture Fund, and Helen and Kenneth A. Cowin.