Kimiko Gunji, founder of the new Japan House within the Arboretum, is Professor Emeritus of Japanese Arts andCulture in the School of Art & Design, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Starting in 1979, she taught the Chado(The Way of Tea), Zen Aesthetics,Ikebana(Japanese flower arranging), and the Campus Honors Program Seminar: Rigidity and Flexibility in Japanese Arts and Culture.
Starting as the teaching assistant with Shozo Sato, she became Director of the old Japan House when he retired until it was demolished in 1992, and then at the new Japan House from 1998-2011.
Gunji is a full professor of the Ikenobo Ikebana School (Japanese flower arranging) in Japan and Chapter President of the Illinois Prairie Ikenobo Ikebana. Her Ikenobo Ikebana teacher’s name is Kiyomi (清美). She holds Chamei: Souki (宗紀) from the Urasenke Tea School and serves as President of the Urbana-Champaign Association of Chado Urasenke Tankokai Urbana-Champaign Association. She also holds a teaching certificate of Japanese classical dance.
Kimiko Gunji received numerous awards for her teachings,as well as her contributions to promote Japanese arts and culture. Among them were University of Illinois Campus Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in the Field of Ethnic and Folk Arts, the commendation from the Foreign Ministry in Japan for her contribution to promote and strengthen the ties of friendship and goodwill between the United States and Japan.
In June 2012, she was honored with one of the most prestigious cultural awards designated by the Emperor of Japan, the Order of Rising Sun. This order is awarded by the Emperor for significant achievement in international relations or promotion of Japanese culture.
It is only with the dedication, determination, support and vision of Kimiko Gunji that Japan House exists, and is able to exist in the future! Her legacy reaches beyond the walls of a structure, as it lives within the heart of every student and guest who visits Japan House.
An advocate for the arts, beauty and education, Kimiko Gunji stops to enjoy the blooming of the sakura, or Japanese Cherry Tree.