The Japanese Garden at Great Falls Elementary School was made possible by a grant from the US-Japan Foundation, which awarded Great Falls Elementary Japanese teacher Mamiya Wordland for her efforts in the school’s Japanese Immersion Program. The garden is a symbol of the strong friendship between Japan and the United States.
The garden wad dedicated on October 15, 2010 and has been visited by American and Japanese dignitaries, including First Lady of the US Michelle Obama, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Wife, Akie Abe.
The garden’s design is based on themes from a Japanese summer festival, Tanabata, which is derived from the story of Kengyu (the Ox-herd Boy) and Orihime (the Weaver Girl), a legend deeply rooted in the folklore of both Japan and the other regions of East Asia. According to the legend, the Ox-herd Boy and the Weaver Girl were a pair of young lovers who lived in the heavenly realm. Deeply in love, they spent all their time together and ignored their duties of tending to the celestial herds and weaving. Because of this they were separated by the King of Heaven and only allowed to see each other once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month. On that day a flock of magpies forms a bridge across the River of Heaven, allowing the two to meet. The legend itself derives from the astronomical event of the stars Altair (representing the Ox-herd Boy) and Vega (the Weaver Girl) reaching their highest points and meeting in the summer night’s sky. Today, Tanabata is celebrated in a variety of regional festivals held all over Japan.