Shinzen emerged in the era of sister-city gardens, following World War II, with the building of Japanese gardens to forge friendship and to recognize the significant role of early Japanese immigrants and citizens in the founding and development of our community. An early connection with the Fresno Sister City Kochi, Japan, provided a key link to further identify the importance of friendship and international brotherhood in the creation of this notable feature for Fresno.
The initial development of a Japanese garden was envisioned in 1967 and the donation of land by Ralph Woodward to establish Woodward Park helped launch the establishment of the Woodward Park Japanese Development Committee led by Ben Nakamura. Design work was started by Kodo Matsubara and was added to by Paul Saito and Shiro Nakagawa. The City of Fresno was also a key participant in the design and development. Funding for the Garden was a combination of individual, community and city support.
The incorporation and dedication of the Garden occurred in 1981 and a Board of Trustees, now Directors, which serves as the non-profit 501(c)(3) that, in partnership with the City, oversees the maintenance and management of the services and programs of the Garden.
The Garden provides cultural and educational events for the community with a Fall Festival, Spring Blossom Festival, Toro Nagashi Lantern Event, as well as workshops and classes in aesthetic pruning, and the art and culture of Japan. With the renovation and renewal of the Tea Garden and Tea House, Shinzen will offer opportunities for visitors to learn more about the significance of tea ceremonies and tea houses to the Japanese.
The Clark Bonsai Collection which was opened in the fall of 2015 added a major new display area to Shinzen. This notable collection of over 100 special bonsai has enriched the experience and learning for many who visit Shinzen. Serving as a “living museum” of the art of bonsai, the Collection offers lectures, training and workshops to share and advance this notable art form.