Oakland, CA 94610
The Torii Gate and Our Sister City. The large vermillion Torii gate serves as a landmark for the entire Gardens of Lake Merritt. Located at the end of the back entry path and at the edge of the forested heart of the garden, it represents the inward journey from the profane to the sacred. The original Torii Gate was a gift from our sister city in Fukuoka, Japan many years ago. That Torii Gate (in a different location) was taken down because the foundation had decayed. The Oakland-Fukuoka Sister City group raised funds for five years to build the current Torii Gate and unveiled it during its 40th anniversary in 2002.
The Torii Gate has existed throughout history for peoples all around the world. In Japan, from the first rustic Torii, Kami-ike (island shrines), and Iwa-kura (stone seats of the gods), through the Tea Ceremony, Sukiya living, and today when millions view Cherry blossoms in Spring or changing colors of Maples in Autumn.
It has existed in Western Civilization since the creation myth of the Garden of Eden and the search for a Promised Land and heaven on earth, through the Romantic Rebellion against urban civilization and industrialization. The Romantic Movement inspired the creation of naturalistic urban public parks and the preservation and public use of scenic places like Yosemite-mysticism on a mass scale.
Today, people go there to be cleansed of the profane stresses of ordinary life and reconnect with the supernatural force from which we derive our life. So the Fukuoka Sister City Garden in Oakland is both ancient and modern, both specific to Japan and universal to the world. In that way, going beyond the duality of east versus west, it serves the mission of the Sister Cities International movement for world peace through mutual understanding appreciation, by pointing toward mutual recognition that we are all people, one in the same.
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