The Fall 2002 Amherst magazine described a secluded area behind Kirby Theater where, “through dark green cushions of moss, rough granite steps wind up a steep bank to a bamboo gate. They lead the eye and imagination to the top of a ravine that’s been transformed—with coarse boulders, simple furniture and angular pines—into an exquisite Japanese garden.” Named Yūshien, which means, roughly, “garden of friendship,” the garden honors Amherst’s historic ties to education in Japan—especially its association with Kyoto’s Doshisha University, founded in 1875 by Amherst graduate Joseph Hardy Neesima.
As the magazine reported, “expressions of friendship marked its dedication on Monday, Sept. 23,” when speakers from Amherst and Doshisha addressed “a sunlit gathering.” Two years later, The Journal of Japanese Gardening ranked it one of the top Japanese gardens in the nation.
Amherst’s Japanese-style garden was designed by Zen Associates. One of the firm’s best-known installations is the Peace Bell Garden at the United Nations headquarters.