Anderson Japanese Gardens founder turns head post over to son

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

Anderson Japanese Gardens has a new leader, as founder John R. Anderson has turned the company reins over to his son, David J. Anderson, who has been named executive director.

As new chief, David Anderson has helped pilot several expansions to the garden’s internationally-known operation. Last month, Anderson Japanese Gardens entered into a partnership with Mary’s Market to open a new location inside its grounds.

David Anderson, a 1989 graduate of Boylan Catholic High School, earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Denison University in 1993. After working in Chicago, Anderson returned to Rockford in 1998. Since his return, Anderson has worked with the family business, area nonprofit organizations and on a string of urban development projects.

Anderson is also president of Spring Creek Development Group.

Anderson Gardens was founded in 1978 by John Anderson. The venture was inspired by a visit to Japan after the senior Anderson graduated from the University of Wisconsin.

Moved by Japanese culture, Anderson hired Hoichi Kurisu, who designed the gardens and played a major role in turning it into one of the most noted Japanese gardens in the world. Kurisu also designed the Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Ore.

In turning the day-to-day operations over to the next generation, Anderson said the award-winning tradition will continue under the leadership of his son.

“I am confident that David and the leadership team will continue to make the garden a special place in our community,” Anderson said.

To date, Anderson Japanese Gardens receives more than 40,000 visitors each year. Visitors from more than 35 countries have toured the grounds in the last four decades.

John Anderson will remain a member of the company’s board of directors.

Anderson Japanese Gardens is at 318 Spring Creek Road. It is set on 14 acres and features Japanese trees, thick vegetation, ponds and many species of fish. Its visitors’ center also hosts yoga classes and a variety of special events.

In 2004, the Journal of Japanese Gardening named Anderson Japanese Gardens the finest garden in North America.

Closed for remodeling, Anderson Japanese Gardens is scheduled to re-open in May.

More information can be obtained by calling (815) 229-930 or visiting

From the Jan. 12-18, 2011 issue

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