MADISON COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - Robert Black is the man credited with starting the North Alabama Japanese Garden on Monte Sano Mountain.
"My oldest daughter and I got a little project going on. I closed a garden center down and I had a lot of Bonsai and little Japanese plants around my store on the Parkway. And when I sold it, I took all my plants and the Bonsai and brought them home with me," said Black.
He said he tried using them at home, but there were too many plants.
"Since I grew up in the middle of the mountain, I asked a ranger if we could find a place that had a creek," he said.
The ranger was interested in combining Black's project with some native azaleas, and the idea began to take shape.
"The Japanese community came in and gave me some pictures and said in their place the main thing was in every community there was a tea house or a pavilion. And it's kind of a temple or a religious thing, but it's also like the community center," said Black.
That's when the concept for this structure was designed. Black said he asked companies for money and materials for the project.
"We built a stage after that because we have an annual Japanese spring festival. There's ladies that have a dance group and there's a Takeo drum group that plays at Daikin," he said.
Black was given a rare opportunity to go to Japan and learn about culture and architectural symbolism.
He said some very important high-ranking officials will be here the first Sunday in May to celebrate at the Japanese festival.
"And the consulate general is coming, the consulate general of Japan. His office is in Atlanta. And there is an honorary consulate general that's in Birmingham, named Mark Jackson," he said.
And they continue to add items to the area, like a bridge, which is under construction.
"And it's a copy of bridge in Neko, Japan, and it's kind of symbolic of a bridge of friendship," he said.
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