Japanese master stone masons arriving soon in Kubota Garden

Kubota Garden’s “Rock, People, Chisel” workshop is just a few weeks away, and stone masons from as far away as Michigan, South Carolina and Japan are clamoring at the opportunity to construct a traditional Japanese rampart in the Northwest.

From Aug. 8-20, Jyunji and Suminori Awata, 14th– and 15th– generation Japanese stone masons, will be in Seattle leading a workshop to construct an eight-foot tall “ishi-gaki” or dry-laid stone wall that will serve as the base for a new terrace overlook in Kubota Garden, which is located in southeast Seattle.  The workshop participants will work with the Awatas sorting through more than 300 tons of stone, sizing and setting the wall into place by hand. The group will be assisted by local stone mason, artist and translator Kentaro Kojima of Marenakos Rock Center and master stone fabricator Tanabe-san.

Kojima helped spearhead the effort to bring the workshop to Kubota Garden and said he is excited to introduce this piece of Japanese culture to the Pacific Northwest garden. When Fujitaro Kubota began the garden in the 1920s, he wanted to showcase the Northwest’s beauty in a Japanese manner.

In a message to workshop attendees, Kojima wrote, “[The workshop] will be educational, historical and cultural. It will be involving the community and it will be a heritage project.”

For the past seven months, the Kubota Garden Foundation has been working with the Marenkos Rock Center and Seattle Parks crews to prepare the site.

In February, Kojima tested High Cascade Granite to make sure the workshop would be equipped with the right tools to efficiently split stones.

On Earth Day, the gardeners at Kubota Garden transplanted a black pine tree to make way for upcoming construction.

In May, Suminori Awata did a tour of the Kubota Garden site and said the project will serve as a cultural bridge between the East and West.

This month, Ohno Construction and Seattle Parks Heavy Equipment Crew finished excavating the site and CalPortland donated 250 tons of quarry spall to backfill the stone structure. Front footings for the pavilion were formed and poured.

“This workshop will be incredible,” Kojima said. “First and foremost is the opportunity to bring the masters from Japan and introduce their art to the Northwest where the community seems thirsty and very receptive to connections with Japan. Also, as important for those of us working or thinking about working with stone, this is an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to work side-by-side with the masters.”

After the workshop, when the stone platform is in place, Seattle Parks Carpentry and Cement crews will build the shelter structure. The overlook terrace will include a stone platform and modest shelter structure, integrated paths and landscaping. It will be located at the north end of the Kubota Garden Terrace above the Spring Pond, providing a much-needed informal event space and casual viewing area.

The public is invited to see the workshop in action. There will be no cover charge, but donations to the Kubota Garden Foundation are welcome. Construction will begin at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, Aug. 8.