• About the Friends


• Introduce the Garden to the citizens at large through various public festivals and events.
• Restore the cleansing reservoir and redesign the sinking water purification pool.
• Install a deck for easy access to the water in the pond.
• Encourage use of the Garden by Garden Clubs, artists, musicians and other groups.


Stephan Eberhagen

We need members and volunteers in order to attain our goals. All areas of work are available for potential members. The work could range from actual gardening to more of an organizational assignment or public relations/fund raising part of our future.

Incorporated in 1984 as a non-profit, 501 (C)3 organization, Friends of the Japanese Garden was, at that time, a group of volunteers dedicated to salvaging and restoring SAN-AI-EN (Three Loves Garden) to its original splendor following a period when the Garden maintenance was neglected for lack funds. Also, during this period of neglect, an influx of homeless began to use the Garden and the Teahouse as their home which resulted in significant destruction and deterioration of the property. Members of Friends of the Japanese Garden (FJG) dedicated every weekend to repairing the Garden. They began to pull weeds – some weeds exceeding the heights of the members. They then unearthed a pond beneath the thick growth and discovered a foot of sludge that needed to be removed. The work seemed unending. However, all of the work was a true labor of love for these workers as they envisioned a newly restored SAN-AI-EN.

Beginning in 1984 and continuing for several years following, Friends of the Japanese Garden decided to hold annual Spring Festivals in early May. While the Garden was not in usable condition, the City of Miami gave FJG permission to use the adjacent grassy field to hold the Festival. The City of Miami provided a large stage on wheels for shows. The shows included Taiko drummers, Martial arts, Japanese Dance and Bonsai demonstrations among other cultural acts. In addition, tents were rented for between 30 to 40 vendors of Asian food and products. The focus for the group now became introduction of Japanese culture through events at the Garden and sometimes at venues away from the Garden such as classical Japanese Dancers and professional Koto players in concerts at Miami Dade Junior College. Following the devastation the Garden suffered from Hurricane Andrew, FJG paid a commercial gardener to do the minimum maintenance for the Garden. But, the Garden was eventually closed by the City of Miami in 1997 when the City leased 18 acres of land (including the Japanese Garden acreage) to Parrot Jungle for a theme park to be called Jungle Island. The City promised to move and rebuild the Japanese Garden to another site east of the new theme park. With the advent of the new Garden, ICHIMURA MIAMI JAPAN GARDEN, opened in 2005, the role of FJG gained a new perspective. Along with planning cultural events at the Garden, FJG took on the assignment of bringing in authentic Japanese elements to this Garden. The first item was the acquisition of a new Stone Lantern from Japan. Presently, this is the only perfect stone lantern in the Garden. The many art objects which had adorned the original Garden no longer existed.

Much more work awaits the Friends of the Japanese Garden in the new Garden, the most ambitious and important of which is the building of a Teahouse!

Friends of the Japanese Garden Performing Artists

We pride ourselves in the fact that over the years we have brought many unique acts to entertain at the Garden. However we do have some “regular” performers at each event. I’m talking about the Yoshiko Taiko Dojo Drummers. Fernando Moraes, Gretchen Schmidt & Karen Bowie have been entertaining audiences at the Garden for the past five years and are a “favorite” amongst the audience. We have also added drummers Danielle & Claudio Ponce to our performers.

Another crowd pleaser is the Florida Cosplay, Anime/Manga costume show and contest. Ms. Sara Comettant and her Cosplayers responded to our offer to have her group perform at our events. Over the past two year we have witnessed a large increase in attendance by young adults.

Other guest performers include Shinto Priest, Masafumi Nakanishi. Masafumi has been to the Garden three years to conduct the Thanksgiving and 7-5-3 Coming of Age ceremonies. Mr. Nakanishi’s performance at the Japanese Garden was the first of its kind in North America.

This year the FJG was honored to host Internationally renowned artist Huong’s Peace Mural.

Master Magician, Shoot Ogawa of Japan has performed. Shoot is a World Renown Sleight of Hand Artist who was on Tour and made his only South Florida appearance at the Garden.

In 2015 the Garden was host to the seven ton Jade Buddha statue. Accompanied by Buddist Monks, the statue attracted thousands of visitors from all over the world!

The Kaito Brothers, who live in Japan made their USA Debut at our Festival. University of Miami, School of Music student, Ms. Ellen Ogihara delighted the audience with beautiful violin. Ellen was accompanied by fellow student Cellist, Vienna Sa. The Kuniko Theater Group has come from their show in Epcot to entertain South Florida families at the Garden too. Japanese Storyteller Ms. Ohare enchants the children both young and old with her whimsical tails of Life in Japan.

Mr. Frank Nieves, President and Founder of the Institute for Budo Studies is our newest artist to volunteer his services. He is accomplished in several of the Martial Arts. His debut was at our May 14th, 2017 Spring Festival. Frank demonstrated Iaido, which is an ancient “Quick Draw” sword art developed during the “Warring States Period”, (1500’s) and remains an integral part of Japanese martial arts society ever since it’s creation.

Friends of the Japanese Garden Officers, Board Members and Member Volunteers

Agnes Youngblood is the Executive Director, Emeritus and founder of the Friends of the Japanese Garden. Agnes has a successful record of producing concerts and events at the Japanese Garden. She is a fund raiser, promoter, cheer leader and watch dog for the garden. I truly believe if it weren’t for Agnes, there would be no garden.

Rick Del Vecchio is the President of the Friends of the Japanese Garden and is the Chairman of all FJG Programs. Rick also helps write the grants and is a Fundraiser.

Akiko Iwata is a professional landscape architect, who specializes in Japanese Garden design. She is assisting us in our work with the City of Miami, to upgrade the Garden design.

Mieko Kubota, native Japanese, is a World Master of Ikebana. In 2012, she was elected the Artist-in-Residence by History-Miami Museum. She is winner of the Florida Folk Heritage award in 2010. She has been the Japanese Language Instructor at Miami-Dade College.

Mieko received Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs award in 2004 for great contributions and devoted activities for cultural and educational exchange and understanding between Japan and U.S. She was also the Honoree of Miami-Dade County’s “In the Company of Women” in 2006. Mieko has been active member of FJG since 1978 where she provides educational demonstrations in the traditional art of Ikebana. Mieko is also a board member of Japan/America Society of South Florida.

Robert Young has been teaching Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate for over 30 years. Robert joined the Japanese Gardens nearly 5 years ago at the request of the then president and student Mrs. Agnes Youngblood. Robert serves as our Martial Arts Expert and Consultant. He produces our Martial Arts, Music, Magic and More each January. This event demonstrates and enlightens the public to the many benefits of the various disciplines of the treasured martial arts.

Michiyo Ishii Sloane moved from Yokosuka, Japan to Oceanside, CA in 1983. In 1998 Michiyo moved with her family to Miami, Florida. Michiyo recruits and manages our student volunteer program. She also provides traditional Japanese cooking demonstrations, coordinates the Children’s educational and cultural activities and manages the Food concession stand. Michiyo volunteers at cultural events in the Japanese school and community events. She is a member of Japanese Women’s organization, the Ikebana International and a member of Fairchild Tropical Garden.

Mayako Nakamura teaches the Japanese language and is a calligrapher. She manages the Children’s Corner.

Vanessa Mejia is Volunteer Manager, taking care of volunteer recruitment and management responsibility.

Connie Steiger is a practitioner of the ancient Japanese art of Shiatsu (acupressure). Connie has been involved with the Japanese Garden for over 30 years. Connie helps with fundraising and sponsorships.

Mike Poller is a member of the FJG Board. Mike helps with Fundraising and grant writing. He is also is the technical director of all our events and our webmaster.


Friends of the Japanese Garden Dignitaries and City Officials

The Consulate General of Japan, Mr. Kenji Hirata and the City of Miami Commissioner, Mr. Ken Russell are both honored guests to each of our events.

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