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Campus Now

Midsummer Issue (Jul.)

Waseda rediscovery

Cover photo: Yoichi Sato (Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences)

cover story

Greenery loved by Okuma provides an oasis for students

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One step removed from a Waseda Campus congested with school buildings and commuting students is Okuma Garden, an open green space located across the plaza in front of Okuma Memorial Auditorium.

During lunchtime, groups of students gather on the patches of grass between cobblestones and in the shade of trees.

This area was originally a famous garden at the suburban residence of the Takamatsu Clan member Matsudaira Sanukinokami, a direct retainer to the shogun.

The garden was originally designed in a style which was reminiscent of the Edo period. However, upon moving his residence to this location, Okuma redesigned the garden into a literary garden which featured nature and combined both Western and Japanese influences.

The design features a miniature mountain set far back against a large grass field. There is also a lake and small waterfall, as well natural stones set among numerous trees. The garden was praised as "one of the top gardens in Tokyo, possessing a meandering form and is so spacious" (50 Famous Gardens, 1910).

Okuma possessed an interest in gardening and gathered several dozen types of orchids from throughout the world in the garden's large greenhouse. He also grew melons for serving to visitors and grew several hundred varieties of chrysanthemums in flowerbeds. Okuma opened the garden for the viewing pleasure of students and citizens.

Upon Okuma's death, the garden and accompanying residence where left to Waseda University according to his will. The garden was burnt to the ground during air raids at the end of WWII.

Afterwards, the garden was restored and developed to its current form through the efforts of student and alumni. Today, a camphor tree which was planted by Okuma and escaped the fires of war waves its leaves in the gentle breeze.