Monday, June 19, 2017

Saving Legacy of Seko Garden in Bellevue, WA.

by Koichi Kobayashi   
小林 竑一

Visiting Research Fellow
University of Hyogo, Japan

(Draft June 19, 2017)

 Japanese Gardens have been stages historically for illustrating Japanese art and culture at many places around the world.  The Japanese garden at Seko residence on the shore of the Phantom Lake in the City of Bellevue is no exception, however being held in private ownership.  The garden has held a number of community events and it has been an important asset for Japanese American community and for the citizens of the city of Bellevue overtime.

 Kaichi Seko born in 1896 in Japan and immigrated to the USA in 1920 ? started building his residence and garden shortly after his release from the Japanese Internment Cap at Minidoka, Idaho in late 1950s. A number of Japanese gardens were built in the camp.
Kaichi must have seen or being associated with a number of Japanese gardens created in the camp, guided by such gardener as Fujitaro Kubota, who designed and constructed Kubota Japanese garden in Seattle.

The Seko garden in Bellevue had been designed and constructed primarily by Kaichi and his son, Roy, who initially wanted to be a landscape architect before joining his father in opening and managing Bush Garden Restaurant in Seattle.

Their garden works had been assisted by Richard Yamasaki, who gained his knowledge on Japanese garden through his life long association with Juki Iida, who is  one of the designer of the Seattle Japanese Garden at UW Arboretum. Upon visiting the Seko garden, Juki Iida stated to Joan Seko, wife of Roy, that he sees three personalities in the garden: that of  Kaichi, Roy and Richard Yamasaki.

Joan Seko wrote her memory on the garden as “Kaichi Seko’s bonsai plants were already twenty to thirty years old when they were planted. The large alpine tree was bought to the house probably around 1965. It was still quite small but has grown to be very tall. It is very hardy and has withstood many snow storms and icy weather.The waterfall pump was installed in in 1980’s as well as the low voltage night lighting. The pump water is from Phantom Lake and recycles back into the lake when used. Even during the water shortage times we were able to use the waterfall since it was not using City of Bellevue water. The carps were put into the pond nearest the house in the early 1960’s. They grew to be around three foot long. We had a wire net over the pond to keep the wild animals away until they grew to be very large. In 2002 my children gave us small carps to put into the pond but they quickly died without any rhyme or reason. Maybe there wasn’t enough oxygen available. We have many water lilies and cattails. People fishing could get twenty fish in one hour with no problems. Phantom Lake is a private lake owned by people who have shoreline properties. The county made it into a public lake when they wanted to put trout into it. When the lake had public access we had many people come in with boats and tossing beer cans and bottles into the lake instead of disposing of them. The owners were up in arms and signed petitions and finally got the lake back as being private. The shoreline property owners pay taxes for partial lake bottom ownership. The county also comes in each year to make certain the shoreline owners get rid of the purple strife flowering plants that has been brought in from Europe. Although very pretty it is detrimental to our waterline and spreads its seeds quickly. We get a notice each year to remove the roots so they will not come back readily. [...]

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Monday, May 15, 2017

“From up on Poppy Hill” film this Wednesday in TCR

By aleks

“From up on Poppy Hill” (2011), 1 hour 31 minutes, by director Gorō Miyazaki -  We will view and discuss it  on Wednesday, May 17, from noon to 4, in the Tateuchi Community Room.

Yokohama, 1963. Japan is picking itself up from the devastation of World War II and preparing to host the Olympics. The mood is one of both optimism and conflict as the young generation struggles to throw off the shackles of a troubled past. Against this backdrop of hope and change, a friendship begins to blossom between high school students Umi and Shun—but a buried secret from their past emerges to cast a shadow on the future and pull them apart.

The film brings back Kyu Sakamoto's 1960s song 'Ue o Muite Arukou' - in Anglophone countries, it is best known under the alternative title "Sukiyaki", a term with no relevance to the song's lyrics, as sukiyaki is a Japanese dish of cooked beef.

The song reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the United States in 1963, one of the few non-Indo-European languages' songs to have done so. Below video-trailer are words in Romaji and English translation, (curtesy of Anime Lyrics), so you can sing along:

Original / Romaji LyricsEnglish Translation
Ue wo muite arukou
Namida ga koborenai you ni
Omoidasu haru no hi
Hitoribocchi no yoru
I face up as I walk
So it's like my tears don't fall
I remember a Spring day
A night of loneliness
Ue wo muite arukou
Nijinda hoshi wo kazoete
Omoidasu natsu no hi
Hitoribocchi no yoru
I face up as I walk
Counting the blurry stars
I remember a Summer day
A night of loneliness
Shiawase wa kumo no ue ni
Shiawase wa sora no ue ni
Happiness is above the clouds
Happiness is above the sky
Ue wo muite arukou
Namida ga koborenai you ni
Nakinagara aruku
Hitoribocchi no yoru
I face up as I walk
So it's like my tears don't fall
I walk while crying
A night of loneliness
Omoidasu aki no hi
Hitoribocchi no yoru
I remember an Autumn day
A night of loneliness
Kanashimi wa hoshi no kage ni
Kanashimi wa tsuki no kage ni
Sadness is in the shadow of a star
Sadness is in the shadow of a moon
Ue wo muite arukou
Namida ga koborenai you ni
Nakinagara aruku
Hitoribocchi no yoru
Hitoribocchi no yoru
I face up as I walk
So it's like my tears don't fall
I walk while crying
A night of loneliness
A night of loneliness

SJG • 4/30/17 - blooming azaleas

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Book Club this Wednesday + UW Quad hanami about 20% in

by aleks
Reminder about our book club meeting this MARCH 29—Wednesday—Noon–2:30
BOOK: Midnight in Broad Daylight (2016), by Pamela Rotner Sakamota

UW Quad •  3/26/17 - Yoshino cherry hanami started

UW Quad - • 3/26/17 - Yoshino cherries bursting out from the tree trunk

UW Quad - 3/26/17 - wet and pretty cherries

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

First Viewing 2017 in pictures

photos by Aurora Santiago.
For her complete collection go to her Flicr account...

SJG • 3/5/17 - First Viewing Shinto blessing; photo by Aurora Santiago

SJG • 3/5/17 - First Viewing, Shinto altar; photo by Aurora Santiago

SJG • 3/5/17 - First Viewing, Shinto blessing; photo by Aurora Santiago
SJG • 3/5/17 - First Viewing;  photo by Aurora Santiago
SJG • 3/5/17 - First Viewing; photo by Aurora Santiago

Monday, March 6, 2017

Garden is open for 2017 and a gift of moss blog for you

by aleks
Seattle Japanese Garden opened March 1st for visitors, and on Sunday, March 5th, we had a centuries-old, sacred Shinto ceremony at the official First Viewing event. March hours are Tuesday - Sunday 10 am to 5 pm, please come and visit (for location and admission go here).

SJG • 3/5/17 - the first public tour of the season; photo by Jeanne Peterson

The weather was well, March-like cold and wet, but it didn't stop anyone from enjoying the festivities.  The first public tours of the season were packed with as many as 22 people under umbrellas.

We have over 20 camellias in the garden, and many of them are blossoming now or just starting to - their bloom will continue for about 4 weeks, after which it'll be time for continuing understated parade of rhodies and azaleas.

SJG • 3/4/17 - bi-colored Camellia japonica 'Daikagura'

The Japanese style garden  normally doesn't have so much color as our does in spring, but because it's a part of WA Park Arboretum that donated many of the plants to the garden when it was built over 50 years ago Mr. Iida,  the builder of the garden, incorporated them into his design.  He did it in part to make Seattle rhododendron-loving residents to feel at home in the Japanese Garden, but he also left instruction for removing the big showy European rhodies when the smaller, Japanese ones gain maturity.  This was mostly done over the years, but we still have many more blooming shrubs than regular Japanese style garden have - over the years I met many people who come every spring to see them.

SJG • 3/4/17 - Camellia japonica 'Lily Pons'

And finally, a spring gift:  a moss blog dedicated to the most prevalent mosses in our Garden. Questions about the moss are one of the most often asked by our visitors - we have abundance of moss, people feel the calmness they project, so the interest is born.

For 2017 SJG season the moss-goals are: 1.) describe our 10 most common ground mosses, and 2.) have a container display garden to educate about our mosses.  The first goal  is already half done (5 mosses described) but the second one turned out a bit  harder to execute:  mosses mostly grow where they want to and they don't take instructions - some of them didn't appreciate their new container homes and are on a strike of sorts: got brown, playing dead, etc.  The container moss display is expected to be in the  Garden from April on, and the moss blog is here:

SJG • 3/4/17 - Polytrichum moss at the edge of the Tea House Garden

Friday, February 24, 2017


DAIPANbutoh Collective is pleased to announce the Seattle International Butoh Festival 2017, a year of an international artist exchange with DAIPAN and Compañía Ruta de la Memoria (Chile) plus a special afternoon focusing on local and visiting Japanese artists.

Ken Mai (Finland/Japan)

DAIPAN continues to be the only group consistently bringing national and international butoh artists to Seattle, and producing an annual festival that features both guest artists and local performers. From its birth in Japan nearly 60 years ago, Butoh has proven itself a vital and innovative global genre. Join us in discovering these unique tricontinental voices in our 2017 festival, which opens the gate to the Hidden Histories of the Body.

For more information & photos contact:
Joan Laage [] or
For workshop information/registration contact:
Helen Thorsen: 206-723-2315


March 6-April 14  
Photo Exhibition featuring the photography of Bruce Clayton Tom & others
plus paintings of Kaoru Okumura by Ruthie V. Hours 8:00-5:00 pm.
March 7  4:00-6:30 pm Exhibition opening with performances by DAIPAN
Also 4-5:30 pm performances by DAIPAN & friends – March 14, 21 & April 4
Venue: Shoreline Community Art College Gallery.
16101 Greenwood Ave N, Building 1000, Lobby, Shoreline 98133

March 31 – April 2
Workshop with Compañía Ruta de la Memoria
Friday 6-9 pm; Saturday 12-6 pm; Sunday 10-4 pm with a free informal evening of performances and “meet the artists” 6:00-8:00 pm.
Venue: Taoist Studies Institute, 225 N 70th St, Seattle 98103
Workshop information/registration contact: Helen Thorsen: 206-723-2315
Full workshop $250 (discount by March 1 $200); Friday only $70; Sat/Sun only $200

April 8
Workshop with Ken Mai
1:00-5:00 pm. Venue: UW Dance Program / 256 Meany Hall
4000 15th Avenue NE. Seattle, WA 98195-1150, Studio: 266
Workshop information/registration contact: Helen Thorsen: 206-723-2315
$75 (discount by March 1 $60)

April 7 & 8
8 pm  Performances of Compañía Ruta de la Memoria
& DAIPAN (Friday: Joan Laage & Sheri Brown; Saturday: Helen Thorsen & Diana Garcia-Snyder)
Venue: Shoreline Community College Theater, 16101 Greenwood Ave N, Building 1600,
Shoreline 98133
$15/$20/SCC students free

April 9
3 pm  Performances of Ken Mai & Kaoru Okumura
Venue: Shoreline Community College Theater, 16101 Greenwood Ave N, Building 1600, Shoreline 98133
$15/$20/SCC students free

Kaoru Okumura (Seattle/Japan)

About DAIPAN and our festival

In 2017, DAIPAN is planning its most ambitious festival bringing international dance artist Natalia Cuellar from Chile with her group Compañía Ruta de la Memoria to perform and present workshops. In exchange, Natalia has invited the DAIPAN Collective to perform a group work in Santiago in the FiButoh Festival Internacional de Butoh and to teach workshops. In addition, DAIPAN will tour individual solos in other Chilean cities. DAIPAN will also present Ken Mai, a Japanese butoh artist residing in Helsinki, Finland, to perform and conduct a workshop for the 2017 festival. April 7 & 8 will feature Compañía Ruta de la Memoria and works by DAIPAN, and April 9 will feature Ken Mai and DAIPAN’s own Kaoru Okumura.

This is an extraordinary opportunity to bring never seen before international artists to the northwest community, and the opportunity for DAIPAN members to travel on tour together for the first time. The 2017 festival, running March 31 through April 9, is partnering with Shoreline Community College Theater and Gallery. SCC will host the 2017 festival performances in the theater at the college, and present a showcase of butoh photos featuring well known photographer Bruce Clayton Tom and other photographers with performances by DAIPAN and friends in the college gallery. Themes for our festival are the body as politics, hidden histories revealed, and personal primordial journeys and journeys of acceptance.