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Japanese contingent views award-winning garden at Harrison Hospital

Lorie Erikson, Harrison Hospital director of environmental services, addresses members of the city Council of Shinagawa, a suburb of Tokyo, on their tour of the rooftop garden at Harrison Hospital in East Bremerton Tuesday. - Photo by Kelly Everett
Lorie Erikson, Harrison Hospital director of environmental services, addresses members of the city Council of Shinagawa, a suburb of Tokyo, on their tour of the rooftop garden at Harrison Hospital in East Bremerton Tuesday.
— image credit: Photo by Kelly Everett

Harrison Hospital in East Bremerton is well-known for a number of things.

Its planned $12 million renovation of the ER this fall, the new radiation oncology wing, the medical library, its new Sleep Disorder Center, ambitious plans to conduct its first open-heart surgery next year, the state-of-the-art Women and Children’s Center at the Harrison Silverdale branch, its century of growth and central location....

Few would think of touting its roof garden.

However, the fame of Harrison’s 12,000-square-foot roof garden has spread far and wide ... all the way to Japan, in fact.

A contingency of Japanese (from the town Council of Shinagawa, Japan, a suburb of Tokyo) flew in to examine the gardens as a model for mixing development with nature.

The international press has reported the problem Japan has had with inversion layers trapping metropolitan heat. Rising temperatures generated by traffic, air conditioners, industry and all the concrete and asphalt on the small island has led to a pretty uncomfortable micro-climate. There’s little in the way of green belts on the rapidly developing islands.

Roof gardens in metropolitan areas — such as Tokyo — are becoming popular for cooling the city and cleaning the air.

Eight members of Shinagawa’s council, plus a tour guide and local interpreter, were given an early-morning tour of Harrison’s gardens Tuesday, Aug. 27, by Dave Gitch, hospital president and CEO, and Lorie Erikson, director of environmental services.

The Japanese visitors — impeccably dressed in western garb and carrying cameras and notebooks — asked questions of Gitch or Erikson in Japanese. The translator would do her job, then hospital officials would answer in English. As the translator then gave the answer to Japanese, the council members dutifully took notes and snapped pictures.

The garden was designed by Bob Shrosbree and built in 1995. His concept was to recreate a sense of the sea shore, so that patients looking out their windows would see a soothing landscape rather than shingles and pipes.

Sand, round river rocks, monolithic boulders, a fountain, bamboo, heather, strawberry, euphoria and other plants, plus regular watering, added tons of extra weight to the roof, which had to be specially reinforced, said Gitch.

“We thought long and hard whether to build the garden,” said Gitch, “but since it was built, patients, relatives and friends of patients, as well as staff, have told us it’s a very welcome addition.... We feel it’s a source of refuge and place of hope.”

The hospital handles 8,000 patients per year, its ER handles 36,000 per year, said Gitch to the Japanese. Harrison employs 220 doctors and 600 nurses. With support staff added, the hospital employs about 1,700.

The Japanese stayed an hour or so, asking questions on every aspect of the garden and hospital. They will also be touring Seattle and Bellevue before returning to Japan. In addition to roof gardens, the group is here to study environmental issues and city budgets on behalf of their suburb’s 320,000 citizens.

The suburb of Shinagawa embraces Tokyo Bay to the east of the city, and commands a view of Mount Fuji. Literature from the group stated the suburb is considered the gateway to Tokyo and a strategic trading center since the Edo Period, 19th Century.

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