Tucson’s Yume Japanese Gardens

Tucson’s Yume Japanese Gardens

By C.J. Shane | Tuscon, Arizona |

The word “yume” means “dream” in the Japanese language. When visitors enter the Yume Japanese Gardens of Tucson, they often feel as if they’ve entered a dream far from a busy city in the desert.

Yume Gardens of Tucson is one of the very few Japanese gardens in the American Southwest. Located on a small acreage on busy Alvernon Way just south of Tucson Botanical Gardens, Yume is a place of serenity.

Founder and garden designer Patricia Ridder explains that Yume was designed for contemplation. The gardens – there are actually five Japanese gardens within Yume –have multiple locations to sit and meditate, and to enjoy the peace and quiet produced in the viewer. The five gardens include a courtyard garden, a stone and gravel garden, a dry river garden, the Zen contemplative garden, and a strolling pond garden. The pond has large-size colorful koy fish that are hypnotic to watch. There is also a modern garden and sculpture garden that adds to the overall effect of being in an unusual and especially beautiful place.

“You don’t walk into a Japanese garden. You sit in front of it,” Ridder says. “Most people in Japan have little courtyard gardens. The gardens are meant to be viewed from the houses in Japan. The Japanese do not go in them, but just watch from the rooms where the sliding doors open. That is why in most cases I created the little structures or places to sit and look,” said Deridder.

Yume features water, rock and sand, bridges, small architectural structures, and items such as stone lanterns and water basins. It’s easy to fall into a meditative state while viewing these elements.

Ridder learned garden design by studying Japanese gardens and by reading many books on garden design. “To make sure I’m not making any serious mistakes, I have a Japanese landscape architect who lives in Kyoto to come once a year to prune trees and to advise me,” she says.

Ridder is a native of Belgium who went to Japan to learn the Japanese language following her graduation from university. She stayed for 15 years and became an expert in Japanese archaeology. Marriage to American brought her to the U.S. Eventually she settled in Tucson.

In addition to the pathways through the gardens that lead visitors to contemplation and quiet, Yume Gardens also has an active schedule of cultural events and activities. These include classes in Japanese flower arranging, Japanese language, and Japanese calligraphy. Events include Japanese dance performances and tea ceremonies. There is a small museum that displays revolving exhibits of Japanese arts. In late February, a Well-Being Therapeutic Garden Walks Program was launched as well. This last program is in response to Ridder’s long-standing goal of providing healing opportunities for the ill and traumatized.

To learn more about Yume Japanese Gardens, visit the website at

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