Smyrna and Zama, Japan are connected by more than their mutual affiliation with Nissan. Both cities have historically excelled in three areas: agriculture, hospitality, and manufacturing. In an effort to honor its sister city, Smyrna’s new park represents these three themes as seen in its three distinct plazas.
Zama is considered a rural city in Japan and was originally comprised of farmland. Similarly, Smyrna started off as an agrarian community, with its principle economic force being agriculture until the early 1940s. Since both cities were built upon an economy of agriculture, the Japanese symbols meaning “first crops” can be found in the flags and plaque next to the agriculture gate. For Smyrna, as well as Zama, first came fruits, then came hospitality.
Today, Zama’s economy is driven by hospitality, with the service industry making up 68% of the city’s jobs. Zama is also home to 5 premier parks and boasts 15 hot springs within the city limits. Locally, Smyrna is home to over a dozen community parks and is known for hosting several seasonal festivals and events, bringing tourists and locals together for unique experiences. In addition to these similarities, Zama and Smyrna both have a hospitable spirit synonymous with their cultures. Smyrna’s small-town charm and warm local population epitomizes the notion of Southern Hospitality, while Zama’s citizens live by a principle known as Omotenashi. The symbol for this concept is visible at the hospitality gate in the park and it generally refers to a sense of selfless kindness. The people of Zama don’t view their goodwill as a transactional occurrence, but instead offer friendliness without the expectation of anything in return.
Finally, the two cities are most notably joined by Nissan. While Zama’s Nissan plant was built in 1965, Smyrna’s was built in the early 1980s, making the city home to the first Japanese automobile plant in the United States. This shared industry is what solidified the partnership of the two great cities. The Japanese symbol associated with this connection is Monozukuri, which refers to the creativity and craftsmanship associated with their work. Zama, like Smyrna, doesn’t just view manufacturing as a form of production, but rather a process of design and creation of a product. Their three legacies: agriculture, hospitality, and manufacturing, are what inspired the design of this park.
The idea for a linear a park in downtown Smyrna initially came from the recommendations in the Lowry Street Revitalization Overlay Study that Ragan-Smith provided in 2015. After the conclusion of that study, the Town of Smyrna purchased a former Tire World property in the downtown area and reached out to Ragan-Smith for conceptual design of a park that would honor its sister city in Zama, Japan. Ragan-Smith worked closely with the Parks & Recreation Director, Town Manager and other town officials throughout the design process to develop a concept that would accurately signify and honor Zama. Ragan-Smith then continued to work on the project throughout construction by helping with the bidding process, making weekly on-site inspections, and reviewing contractor invoices.