Northern Arizona University boasts the largest wood kiln facility in the United States with seven kilns of different design, size, and purpose. This facility was started in 1985 with the building of two Tozan kilns, Noborigama and Anagama, by Don Bendel and Yukio Yamamoto. Traditional in design, the two Tozan kilns were intended to be a cultural bridge between the United States and Japan. A teahouse and Japanese garden complement the Tozan kilns and enhance the cultural exchange. The garden combines traditional Japanese elements with native plants appropriate for the arid climate, creating a space of beauty, contemplation, and serenity. The notion of rustic beauty, a reference to nature, is a prevailing theme in the garden.
- After months of preparation and hundreds of hours of labor, the Tozan kilns were first fired in 1986 and have consistently been used by the Ceramics Department for NAU students and internationally renowned conferences and workshops.
- In 1990, a new Ceramic Art Building was constructed. It was decided in 1994 that a Japanese-inspired garden and teahouse should be constructed to complete the project. Final plans were submitted in 1996 by the Himeji Gardening and Construction Contractors Association.
- In accordance with the plans, Warner’s Nursery and Garden Center in Flagstaff planted aspen trees along the perimeter of the site in 1999. Construction of the teahouse was completed in the summer of 2002. In 2005, a drip irrigation system was installed by Flagstaff Native Plant and Seed, the existing landscape was prepared, and circular hedges and native groundcovers were installed by Brad Blake from the NAU Research Greenhouse.