Thursday, March 26, 2015

UW hanami 2015 and 'Invitation to a probably a most memorable travel to Japan' (repost)

by Koichi Kobayashi
(+ pics from 2015 hanami at UW, Seattle)

3/13/15 - UW hanami: Yoshinos

Invitation to a probably a most memorable travel to Japan

You are invited to join in a select group of people to participate in assisting building a memorial Japanese Garden to commemorate victims of tsunami/earthquake of March 11, 2011 in Tohoku, Japan and recovery from it. Garden building project is organized by Japanese Garden Association as a 5 year program. You will receive training from traditional Japanese gardeners who supervise building and will befriend with young Japanese gardeners from all around Japan as well.

After garden building, we will visit gardens and temples of World Heritage, designation,  coastal cities undergoing recovery and coastline area which is designated as a new National Park. Travel will start from Seattle on October 8 through 22 ending in Tokyo.  Optional travel goes to Kyoto/Osaka.

Supported by Seattle Japanese Garden Society, Japanese Garden Society (Tokyo) and assisted by North American Japanese Garden Association. ( confirmation is pending at this time).

There are many of you who have benefited overtime being associated with Japan or apprenticed and studied in Japan, yet some of you including myself, who do not know how to assist Tohoku, Japan for their recovery from disasters of March 11, 9011, in some meaningful and constructive way.

There is a unique opportunity to assist in building a Japanese Garden near Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. This garden, when completed, will be a memorial and prayer for victims of disaster and commemorate their efforts in recovery and future development.

Designing and building of this garden is organized by Sendai Chapter of the Japanese Garden Society. It is being built on a five year program with a completion date set at 2019 to coincide with
the society's 100 year anniversary.

This is an excellent opportunity for those thinking and pondering how best to participate in recovery in Tohoku but mutually beneficial. You could attempt to do that in signing up  for a work study and volunteer program being developed by Koichi Kobayashi with an assistance from Japanese Garden Society and NAJGA.

With this program, participants will engage in assisting building a commemorative Japanese garden under Japanese expert's supervision, visiting and learning conditions and people of cities devastated.

This is the base program for thirteen days. There could be an optional tour to Kyoto, for five days. Program start will start on October 8, 2015 in Sendai with October 8 departure from Seattle. Cost will be around $4,800.

If you are interested in joining, please send me your name, address, email, work place, profession etc. to Koichi Kobayashi.

For preliminary itinerary, see next page.

Koichi Kobayashi

Ph. 206- 2869644

December 20, 2014
3/16/15 - yoshinos 

Preliminary Itinerary:

Base Plan

Day 1:  Departure from Seattle (Delta Air) Departure date is October 8, 2015.

Day 2:  Arrival in Tokyo  and orientation

Day 3:  Transfer to Sendai & Introduction to Garden Building

Day 4:  Garden Building

Day 5:  Garden Building ( Presentation on Japanese gardens in North America by participants)

Day 6:  Garden Building and Farewell Party ( Oct. 13)

Day 7:  Tour Sendai and Matsushima

Day 8: Transfer to and tour Hiraizumi/Moutsuji Temple

Day 9: Tour Hiraizumi/Moutsuji Temple) and surroundings

Day 10: Transfer to Rikuzentakata ( Undergoing massive construction with a new park)

Day 11: Learn Rikuzentakata and tour surrounding coastline ( New National Park)

Day 12: Departure from Rikuzentakata to Tokyo( Free on your own in PM)

Day 13: Leave for Seattle ( Delta Air)
3/22/15 - UW hanami: quanzans

Option Plan

For those going to Kyoto area:

Day 13:  Departure from Rikuzentakata to Kyoto

Day 14:  Kyoto: Town, Temples and Gardens

Day 15:  Kyoto

Day 16:  Nara/Osaka

Day 17:  Leave for Seattle from Kansai Air Port (Osaka)

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Film event: Chushingura

by Cara I.
Last week, the 2015 Seattle Japanese Garden Continuing Education Program for docents began when docents and friends gathered to watch Chushingura ('Treasure House of Loyalty'), a movie about what has been called the national story of Japan.

The story is based on historical events 300 years ago, centering on feudal lord Asano of Ako in central Japan. He was in the capital city of Edo (modern-day Tokyo) in 1701 when he drew his sword and injured a senior official, Lord Kira, who was purported to have insulted him. For this act, Lord Asano was ordered to commit ritual suicide; his land and holdings were taken away from his clan.

A group of loyal vassals, led by Oishi Kuranosuke, secretly planned to avenge their lord's death and restore the clan's honor - it took two years of preparation, but on a wintry night in 1703, they broke into Kira's home and killed him. After succeeding in their revenge, the vassals committed ritual suicide.

Today, their graves are continually visited in Tokyo, and statues in Ako memorialize what many consider their loyal or dutiful act.

The story of these events has been told in many media, including kabuki plays, ballet, TV shows, graphic novels, and feature films. The 1962 film we saw last week may be the most visually beautiful and artistic of the eight films based on it (beginning with the 1907 film of a Kabuki play and including the 2012 fantasy starring Keanu Reeves).

Directed by Hiroshi Inagaki, its 207-minute length, including a built-in intermission, allows audiences to view exquisitely filmed scenes of "gorgeous art works, buildings, and costumes of 18th century Japan" as an all-star cast including Toshiro Mifune present this "richly woven" story, according to Mike O'Brien in the Wikipedia entry on the film. Impressive scenes of Edo-era gardens give glimpses of what may have inspired the design of our own Seattle Japanese Garden.

Following the showing, the docents shared our reactions to the film, and to the deeply personal conflict of obligations, loyalty, depicted in it.  Although the story took place in 18th century Japan, that universal conflict is engaging to people everywhere, certainly to the group gathered last week!

The full name of the Inagaki-directed 1962 film is Chushingura: Hana no Maki, Yuki no Maki, and a 6-minute trailer of it can be seen here:

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

'A Summer in Peach Creek'

by aleks
One of the Seattle Japanese Garden docents,  multi-talented Michele Malo, just penned a novel, 'A Summer in Peach Creek', which you can find at Barnes & Noble or Amazon - in paperback or ebook form (or you can get a signed copy from Michele).

Michele's delightful book describes  a summer  that 17 yo Faith, a native of Seattle, spends in Peach Creek, West Virginia, on a family visit to her parents' ancestral homes. Set in 1932, the book transports a reader to bygone times when peoples' lives were still in sync with nature: all comes to a standstill when sun-kissed peaches are ripe and the entire village is busy harvesting, canning and making peach pies and cobblers ( (this cook noted that closely following the characters' kitchen activities one can get pretty good idea how to get similar results in her own kitchen).

Having once lived in the midwest I could almost hear the drawl in the book characters' voices, recognize the deliberate and resolute ways they speak to each other, and I loved how Michele recorded for posterity the once full language expressions, often clipped to a shorthand in a modern speech.

I read the book in almost one sitting, completely transported to a time and place of old fashioned family reunions, church socials and picnics, but also times of segregation and coal mining tragedies in Appalachia.  And yes, the plot has the first love, a murder and a few scandals, all happening  in the unbearable heat and humidity of Logan County summer.

Michele has book signing events in local bookstores and libraries - check her website for upcoming dates; she also said she may list her old-americana REAL recipes that are alluded to in the book there  too! The website URL:

SJG • 3/1/15 - Michele Malo at the First Viewing of SJG
(with Rev. Barrish, at the Shinto blessing ceremony)
Owing to the luck of sharing Seattle Japanese Garden docent duties with Michele, I was able to ask her a few questions and share her responses below. Enjoy!

aleks: What is the target audience of your book?

Michele: When writing A Summer in Peach Creek I just wanted to tell the story, but as the story evolved I realized that it could be read by all ages over 13.  It is a coming of ages story and also historical fiction.

a: Your book was inspired by your mother’s diaries.  How did you come across them and what gave you an idea to write a book?  Your mother indeed went for a family trip from Seattle back to Peach Creak in WV at some point, right?

M: I first visited Peach Creek in Logan County West Virginia to find my roots. In 2007.  My mother died shortly after my seventeenth birthday and she gave me two diaries of hers before her death.  I was also very close to her father, my grandpa, who told wonderful stories of growing up in Peach Creek.

a: The action of the book takes place mostly in in Logan county of WV; how did you come to learn about this place and describe it so vividly?

M: While I was visiting there I met the editor of the Logan Banner who had written a non fiction book on the story of Mamie Thurman who’s brutal murder took place in the Logan around the time my mother and her family were visiting relatives in Peach creek.  What struck me about my mom’s diary is that she made no mention of segregation, prohibition, mining wars or the Great Depression.  And not a word about murder.  It was all about cooking, sewing, picnics and family reunions.

a: How biographical or fictional your story is?  Not very? For instance did you invent the summer romance of the main character? 

M: When I returned home I realized that I had a novel in my head.  I imagined what would happen if the protagonist, Faith, came headlong into the murder and how she would react.  I made two more trips to West Virginia for research and the story took form.

The book is fiction but the place names are all real. Most of the scenes are imagined with the exception of the one with Uncle John, the hermit.  That came directly from my mom’s writing. The account of the murder comes from newspaper acticles from The Logan Banner, but the outcome is slightly different.  Remember, It’s fiction!  One character, Cecelia, is modeled after stories Mary Ann Wiley, one of our Guides at the Seattle Japanese Garden, generously shared with me about her growing up in Charleston, WV in the 1930’s.  Her father was an attorney for the United Mine workers of America and she did have a beloved Mexican donkey named Petey-O-Phidileous.  My one regret in writing the book is that Mary Ann never got to read the book.  She died before it was finished.

a:  What's next? One of our late docents, Jesse Hiaroka, used to jokingly tell me that he wanted to pen a murder mystery, taking place in our garden.  Are you planning to write more books, with maybe dead bodies under flowering azaleas?

M:  I have begun a sequel to A Summer in Peach Creek that begins in 1936.  Faith is back in Seattle at the University of Washington.  She joins a sorority and the Communist Party.  There will be new social justice issues to grapple with and perhaps a visit back to Logan County.

Because our beloved Japanese Garden was not yet conceived none of these books will take place there.  No bodies under the rhodies or caught in the stepping stones under the wisteria arbor but the Seattle Japanese community will have a prominent place in the sequel.  I am anxious to get going on research about the Japanese in Seattle in the 30’s and their sorrowful imprisonment during WWII.


Monday, March 2, 2015

The Garden is open for 2015!

The Third Month
harunare ya namonaki yama no asagasumi

truly spring—
nameless mountains
in a thin morning mist
- Basho
 translated by Emiko Miyashita and Michael Dylan Welch

by aleks
The Garden kami, beautiful Sunday weather and who knows what else caused that the opening day of the Seattle Japanese Garden for the 2015 season brought almost more guests that our courtyard can hold.

Welcome everyone! With hope that you had a chance to view our exquisite flowers of camellia japonica bushes (we have many kinds: 'Amabilis', 'Cheerful', 'Daikagura', 'Finlandia', 'Hikaru-Genji', 'Hino Maru', 'Lily Pons', 'Prince Eugene Napoleon', 'Purity', 'Takayama' and more) and multiple  pieris japonica with its creamy white tiny clusters of flowers (common name of this plant is Andromeda or Lily of the Valley shrub - and it's as poisonous as it is alluring, so beware and don't picnic too long under them, ever). Thank you gardeners for presenting the garden so beautifully!

Below a few snapshots from the First Viewing ceremony + 1 minute shaky video of Rev. Barrish chanting (sorry, I used the video function of my camera for the first time here). Thank you all who worked on organizing this touching ceremony!

SJG • 3/1/15 - First Viewing: Steve Alley, of Seattle Japanese Garden Council,
giving the opening remarks.  Also note offerings on the Shinto altar:
mandarin oranges, daikon radish, rice bowl and a bottle of sake...

SJG • 3/1/15 - First Viewing: Christopher Williams, the outgoing
superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation  greeting  attendees.
Thank you, Christopher, for many happy years of the Garden!

SJG • 3/1/15 - First Viewing:  Jesus Aguirre, the newly appointed superintendent
of Seattle Parks and Recreation, telling guests he moved to Seattle from Washington
D.C. for this job. Good Luck, Jesus and keep our Garden strong!

SJG • 3/1/15 - First Viewing: Reverend Koichi Barrish of Tsubaki Grand Shrine
in Granite Falls, WA, conducting the formal blessing rite in the courtyard.

SJG • 3/1/15 - First Viewing: Reverend Koichi Barrish of Tsubaki Grand Shrine
in Granite Falls, WA, conducting the blessing rite (with Christopher Williams,
the superintendent of Seattle Parks and Rec. and Michele Malo,
president of Unit 86 - the Garden guides organization)

SJG • 3/1/15 - First Viewing: The ceremony moves inside:  sake and rice
offered to the grounds during the formal ceremony, conducted in Japan since
ancient times. The Shinto blessing is conducted  to guide in auspicious ki (life energy)
for a successful new year.   With Reverend Koichi Barrish we all prayed that  “all visitors
are deeply nourished, enriched and invigorated by visiting the Seattle Japanese Garden” ...

SJG • 3/1/15 - First Viewing: camellia japonica 'Finlandia', photo by Tony

From Komonews - Photos: Seattle Japanese Garden opens for the season picture gallery here...

SJG • 3/1/15: Rev. Barrish's shoes

Friday, February 20, 2015

HAPPY LUNAR NEW YEAR + Seattle Japanese Garden opens March 1st!

The Second Month
haru mo yaya keshiki totonou tsuki to ume

gradually spring—
the land just so
with moon and plum
- Basho
 translated by Emiko Miyashita and Michael Dylan Welch

SJG • 2/17/15 - Camellia 'Lily Pons' blooming 

by aleks
•  First Viewing is Sunday, March 1, from 11 am – 3pm.  There are changes to Rev. Barrish’s ceremony this year:  the bulk of the Shinto ceremony will take place in the courtyard outside of the gates with the gates still closed.   There'll be chairs, an overhead tent if necessary, and heat lamps to keep us all comfortable.  Then, we’ll open the gates with ceremonial reverence.  We’ll follow the reverend into the garden to do our first walk together, as he continues his purification ritual. SEE YOU THERE!  Guides will begin public tours April first with a daily tour at 12:30 M-F and twice on week-ends 12:30 and 2:00.

 • Please note  Cont. Ed calendar for the guides and volunteers below (and on the calendar page), especially:
“47 Ronin (Chushingura)”, 1962 film which comes very soon and with bento lunch box if you want it (March 8, Sunday at 10 am)

We have some very talented guides among us:

• Michele Malo just penned a book titled 'A summer in Peach Creek' and you can get it here...  Congratulations, Michele! No, it's NOT about Japanese garden, but we will have interview on this blog with Michele soon, because injuring minds want to know why she is pondering murderers in West Virginia while she is guiding (she wrote a book about it,  so it must have been heavily on her mind, whatever she was doing)

•  Dewey Webster (who is also a guide in the Seattle Chinese Garden) completed a galleries of pictures from a trip he and his wife took recently to China (on the way to the field trip to Japan with other SJG guides - see previous posts) - they used to live in Beijing before moving to Seattle.  You can see their experiences from that trip on Dewey's website, (next to his pictures from Japan) - quite gripping and dizzying!

Marylin Tsuchia just launched a new website for the travels to Japan that she and her husband Kazuo guide: take a look and maybe travel with them -  they have a few spaces left for this year's tours!

Japanese Garden Unit 86 Continuing Education (for SJG guides, volunteers and staff)

Events will take place in the TCR. Days of the week and times vary. (No scheduled May CE events.) Look for more detailed email information monthly—schedule is subject to change.

• March 8, Sunday, 10-3: FILM—“47 Ronin (Chushingura)” (1962)—special showing with lunch intermission, optional bento lunch, and post-film discussion facilitated by Patty G. and Cara I.

• March 21, Saturday, 10-1: CLASS—Kyoto’s Gardens: Autumn 2014 docent trip—beautiful photos—with Dewey W.

• April 1, Wednesday, Noon-3:30 : FILM—“Enlightenment Guaranteed” (1999)

• April 18, Saturday, 10-1: CLASS/BOOK—discussion with Leslie Helms, author Yokohama Yankee. Book Group launch facilitated by Cara I. and Corinne K.

• June 20, Saturday, 10-1: CLASS—Harrison Moretz—Taoist Influences in Japanese and Chinese Gardens

• July 1, Wednesday, 10-Noon: BOOK GROUP #2—discussion of Wabi Sabi by Leonard Koren—“an enduring classic”

• August 5, Wednesday, Noon-3:30: FILM—“Japanese Dance: Succession of a Kyomai Master” (2000)—the world of Kyoto-style dance

• August 15, Saturday, 10-1: CLASS—Dale Brotherton—Tea House Architecture

• September 9, Wednesday, 10-Noon:  BOOK GROUP #3—title to be announced

• September 19, Saturday, 10-1: CLASS—Featured Plants of Our Japanese Garden— Unit 86 Plant List Committee Garden Tours

• October 7, Wednesday, Noon-3:30:  FILM—“Kaidan” (1964) Tales of the supernatural

• October 21, Wednesday, 10-Noon: BOOK GROUP #4—title to be announced

• November 19, Thursday, 10-Noon: CLASS—Masa Mizuno, Garden Specialist—Seattle Japanese Garden 2015 Update—Bring questions!

• Field Trips–to be announced: Possible: Marenakos, Seike Garden (Highline), Bonsai Collection, Taoist Retreat. Dewey Webster facilitates and takes suggestions.

Friday, February 6, 2015

For your winter enlightenment

SJG • 11/8/14
Please note: the link to Koichi's essay below is open to anyone by signing up. aleks.

1. Monologue on Japanese Garden from Koichi Kobayashi:

Dear Friends of Japanese Garden,

I have uploaded the following monologue at my website.
Monologue on Japanese Garden :
How can we respond to a question of “What is Japanese Garden?” in a simple and clear manner for gardens outside of Japan? Draft, Feb. 2015

If interested,  please go to:

If you cannot make a link, please send me a message so that I can mail it to you directly.
Koichi Kobayashi

It starts with the following :


I started writing this paper to create an introduction as to how best to develop, design and foster Japanese gardens abroad.

Japanese garden has been said to be an important aspects of Japanese culture which nurtures international understanding and friendship. Many Japanese gardens have been built as products of attraction to things oriental, government public relations in form of expositions , friendship-sister city relationship, showing of wealth of individuals and others over the years in America and in Europe.

Even though these initial roles still exist, today the role of public and private Japanese gardens, especially in North America has expanded beyond landscaping and recreation; they are used in commercial settings, for weddings and events, for cultural programs for professional medical therapy and more.

I am, however, observing recurrent problems gardens facing changes in a name of making the gardens adapting to modern requirements and sustainability contrary o the soul of Japanese garden and problems in creation of gardens which astray from the soul of Japanese garden in my understanding.

I truly believe we should come back to the following to challenge questions:

What is Japanese garden (in Japan ) ? and

What is Japanese garden abroad?

2.  Butoh in Japanese Garden - Wandering & Wondering last August:

• • • • •
Next post: 
2015 Continuing Education, Seattle Japanese Garden Unit 86:
Class, Film, Book, Field Trip Schedule