Sunday, November 1, 2015

紅葉狩り • Momijigari (maple viewing) goes on

SJG • 10/21/15 - our magnificent lace leaf maple (acer palmatum dissectum) 

by aleks
In summer of 1973 the builder of our garden, Juki Iida, travelled to Seattle for 2 weeks and it was the first time he saw the garden 13 years after he created it...  Everyone was wondering what his reaction would be to see the garden somewhat matured and closer to what his vision for the garden was, when he built it.

SJG • 10/21/15 - Dobashi (earthen bridge) & Yatsuhasi (8-plank bridge) amids  autumn colors

Well, there is a record of what he thought, because upon return to Japan he penned an article about the garden and his experience of re-visiting it for Niwa magazine.  Julie Coryell and Shizue Prohaska recently translated that article to English, and it will be the topic of the next post;  for a teaser let's just say he found things in the garden he wasn't too wild about.

SJG • 10/27/15 - Osakazuki akame maple screening the tea house...  HI, Mary Ann Wiley, this maple was planted in your memory.

In the meantime enjoy a few pics of Momijigari progress during the last two weeks.

SJG • 10/27/15 - people resting on the bench by the katsuga style lantern 

SJG - 10/27/15 - East path of the Garden

To put you in the 1960s mood, when our Garden was created,  a song ‘Ue o muite arukou' by Kyu Sakamoto - the number one song of 1961 in Japan:

'The song was picked up in 1963, one-and-a-half years after its initial release, by a foreign record label executive visiting Japan. Later that year the song was released internationally in among others the US and the UK, making Sakamoto Japan’s internationally best known singer.' 
- See more about the artist and the song at:

Monday, October 12, 2015

A few pics from Maple Viewing 2015

by aleks
SJG • 10/11/15 - Taiko drummers and onlookers celebrate Momijigari
SJG • 10/11/15 - Taiko drummers 

SJG • 10/11/15  

SJG • 10/11/15 - Waterfall

Kobayashi Issa, 1808

aki kaze ni kotoshi haetaru momiji kana

in autumn wind
this year's crop...
red leaves
Translated by David G. Lanoue

SJG • 10/11/15 - Tea House Garden

Saturday, October 10, 2015

紅葉狩り •  Momijigari (Maple Viewing) + books, films, butoh

by aleks
SJG • 10/10/15: Red leaves of Japanese Fullmoon Maple (Acer japonicum 'Vitifolium') in area C 

紅葉狩り • MOMIJIGARI  (Maple Viewing) starts tomorrow, October 11: we have 3 tours scheduled to guide you on your visit to our stunning maples.  16 of our most remarkable specimens are temporarily labeled, a practice definitely un-Japanese, but we do this exception for a short time in fall (till the leaves fall down) so the visitors can combine enjoyment with learning pleasures regarding those exotic Asian beauties.  The trees are READY for you!

SJG • 10/10/15 - Our garden, as seen through TCR  door

Our continuing ed. classes for the guides (and friends) offer us many unusual glimpses into Japanese culture: we have lectures, but also a film club, book club, plant classes and field trips.  I have to say that despite being a guide for 10+ years, until very recently  I felt slightly like an usurper: the Japanese culture as far away from the one I grew up in  as from the one I presently live in: how come  I am allowed to go around and give tours of this place?  'Well, somebody has to' I used to quell my anxieties, so  this multi-faceted exposure is doing what no guide training could ever do for me:  things I read, heard and was lectured about, are finally falling into place like a puzzle on its way to some probable completion, instead of having 1000 pieces scattered randomly.

SJG • Persimmons are getting ripe...

Our last BOOK CLUB was a very spirited discussion about Ruth Ozeki 'A Tale for the Time Being', but we still have one meeting to go: on October 21 the group will be talking about 'The Life of Isamu Noguchi' (2004) by Masayo Duus.  Who in Seattle is not familiar with Black Sun sculpture (although some see a donut there),  a 1969 work by Isamu Noguchi in Volunteer Park?  The view from the sculpture includes the Space Needle, Olympic Mountains, and Elliott Bay. Be warned thought: the library queue for the book is so long you will probably have to buy it in order to finish reading on time.

SJG • 10/10/15: The fall leaf, hanging in the air on a a spider web...

The FILM CLUB is done for the 2015 season, and we closed with 'Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things', directed by Masaki Kobayashi (1964).  I want to use this space to tell you that if you are striving to understand the Japanese culture you definitely should see it!  The film is described and categorized in English as 'horror', so I joined the screening  somewhat reluctantly as I don't find this  particular genre especially appealing.

But Kaidan (怪談) (sometimes transliterated kwaidan) is a Japanese word consisting of two kanji: 怪 (kai) meaning “strange, mysterious, rare or bewitching apparition" and 談 (dan) meaning “talk” or “recited narrative”  (from wikipedia), which slightly explains why I was pleasantly surprised that I did not see I thought I would... It is a hauntingly beautiful film consisting of four separate stories, based on Lafcadio Hearn's collections of Japanese folk tales. And there you have it: those a bit hard to penetrate tales of Heike, imperial court intrigues and zen philosophy suddenly get a backdrop that makes them accessible... The film won the Special Jury Prize at the 1965 Cannes Film Festival, and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film.   Roger Ebert described Kwaidan as "an assembly of ghost stories that is among the most beautiful films I've seen" and I share his opinion.

BUTOH reminder:  next Saturday, October 17th, 8 pm in Taoist Studies Institute: An evening of two new butoh works inspired by Polish theater director Tadeusz Kantor
8 pm @ Taoist Studies Institute, 225 N 70th St, Seattle 98103
Tickets $12 or $15 at the door. Reservations are highly recommended:

SJG • 10/10/15: full moon maple leaf on the path

And finally, a thrilling BOOK I just came across: ‘Garden Plants of Japan’  by Ran-Levy-Yamamori and Gerard Taafee (2004): same plants as in our Garden + oodles of useful info on how those plants do in their native habitat: what a great cultural/botanical/geographical/climate read!  For instance, did you know that cryptomeria japonica grows in wild on both sides of the islands?  But here is a clincher:  cryptomeria on the side of the Sea of Japan adapted to a heavy snowfall with branches that sweep downwards, allowing snow to slide off them without causing much damage to the trees; while cryptomeria on the Pacific Ocean side have branches that are more horizontal and cannot bear big amounts of snow. Amazing...

Kaidan trailer:

Monday, September 14, 2015

秋の七草 • Aki-no Nanakusa / (Seven Flowers of Autumn) + plant class & books

by aleks
Several years ago when the plant committee was researching plants in a small bed by azumaya, we found out that 4 or 5 of of them belong to seven representative flowers of autumn  - Aki-no Nanakuksa / 秋の七草 (as opposed to the Seven Herbs in Spring (Haru-no Nanakusa /  春の七草) which are edible wild herbs of spring.)

A poem by Yamanoue-no Okura (660–733), from the oldest existing anthology of Japanese poetry goes like this:

秋の野に 咲きたる花を 指折り(およびをり)
かき数ふれば 七種(ななくさ)の花
Aki-no No-ni Sakitaru Hana-wo Oyobiori
Kakikazoureba Nanakusa-no Hana
(Meaning: When I count on my fingers the flowers that bloom in the autumn fields, I find there are seven.)

萩の花 尾花 葛花 瞿麦の花 姫部志
また藤袴 朝貌の花
Hagi-no Hana Obana Kuzuhana Nadeshiko-no Hana Ominaeshi Mata Fujihakama Asagao-no Hana
(Meaning: Bush clover, Japanese pampas grass, Pueraria lobata, dianthus, Patrinia Scabiosaefolia, thoroughwort and bellflower.)

SJG • 9/9/15:  HAGI, bush clover or lespedeza

Struck by this 'coincidence' I wrote to Jim Thomas, a former head gardener in SJG:

dear Jim,

this is aleks, of the SJG plant group. some time ago we discovered that the small flower bed south of azumaya contains 4 of the 7 autumn flowers ((susuki/miscanthus, hagi/lespedeza, fujibakama/eupatorium & kikyo/platycodon).

 we think it is no accident and want to ask you if you know the story behind it, or perhaps you heard something  from Mr. Yamasaki (if the flower bed was planted before your  time in the garden….  in september we are doing a cont. ed. class for the guides that includes the 7 flowers of autumn and appearance of some of them in our garden - any of your thoughts on the topic much appreciated!

many thanks! aleks

p.s. we understand that the missing kudzu and, to some extend, patrinia are invasive and probable reason for omission, but who knows why the pink is missing, too… well, the usually strong eupatorium didn’t show up this year - speculation is the heat and lack f water did it, hopefully temporarily only.  

Jim answered:

Hello Aleks,
You are right, the planting at the Azumaya was no accident. Shortly after taking charge at the Garden I read through Prof. Iida's writings and descriptions of our garden. He talked about an orchard of cherry trees under planted with the "seven flowers of Autumn". 

With Bonnie Mitchell's help I found the names of the plants. Unfortunately only the Hagi and Suzuki are the native Japanese species. The rest are the proper genus but a western species. I did have pinks initially. They fell victim to the slugs and didn't get replaced. 

My intention was to create beds of these plants throughout the orchard adding interest and reducing the amount of lawn to mow. 

I also had Hagi and Suzuki plants at the south end of the orchard. However I think the site was too shady for them. 

I hope this information helps with your class. And thank you for your continued support of the Garden.

Jim Thomas 
SJG• 9/9/15 - Susuki, or zebra grass, behind hagi...

And Hiroko (of the Plant Group) commented:

Hi all,
Jim gave us a very interesting information. I have never read Mr. Iida’s writing mentioning the planting of seven fall flowers. I have one article by Mr. Iida which I am sure you all have. That was included in the training folder. I also have the same article in original Japanese which I treasure. He does not mention anything about the seven flowers in the orchard in the article, and there must be another writing by Mr. Iida which Jim must have read somewhere, and I would love to read it.

I think we should mention Mr. Iida’s original idea of planting seven flowers of autumn in our garden in the training material this fall. Mr. Iida’s style of stroll garden was new and unique during his career in that he incorporated more natural scenery like grove of mixed trees (copse) into a traditional Japanese garden. After the WWII, suburbs of Tokyo was rapidly urbanized and nature was gradually disappearing from the daily life. Mr. Iida tried to make nature more accessible to people by creating public parks in more natural style with grove of mixed trees which were abundant a few decades before around Tokyo. This historical assessment of Mr. Iida’s work is from what I read in a Japanese book. I will bring the book to the next meeting.  

I think his idea of planting seven flowers of autumn in the Japanese garden is in line with his creating more natural style garden to convey the feeling of undisturbed field with wild flowers.

Thank you for your patience reading my thoughts. I would love to hear your thoughts, too.

SJG - 9/7/15: the Garden starts to have that autumny feel...

Jim also said this about the moss in our Garden (we are researching moss, as well):

I don't have a specific recollection of where I read Prof Iida's mention of the seven flowers. Possibly in the Arboretum Bulletin. In the article he talked about different areas of the garden. His description of the orchard was something about it being "a table land above the lake" having cherry trees and the seven flowers. 

Regarding moss in the garden. You probably know that the most desirable type is Polytrichum or hair cap moss. It is one of many in the garden. The original members of Unit #86 used to make field trips to collect it to plant in the garden. Later we propagated it at the Park Department nursery. Transplanting it into the garden wasn't always successful. So that effort ended and we let the native mosses colonize on their own. I never pursued the nomenclature of the other mosses as their classification is based on their reproductive structures and was more important in my botany classes in college than in the garden. 
One interesting note. During Bonnie Mitchell and Urasenke's tenure in the garden, she would have her students clean the tea garden before going inside the tea house. The regular sweeping with bamboo brooms removed the light green sheet moss and the Sugi (hair cap) moss colonized behind it. 

A really informative article about 7 flowers of autumn from the Urasenke Foundation of San Francisco here - enjoy!

Guess what: the next Cont. Ed. class (Sat., September 19, 10:30 am) for the guides is on the plants of our Garden and it contains info on Seven flowers of Autumn!  Hope you can join us!

• • • •
BOOKS!:  we had a very lively book club discussion on Ruth Ozeki's 'A tale for the time being'. Next (and last for this year) meeting will be October 21, Wednesday, 10-Noon: BOOK GROUP #4—The Life of Isamu Noguchi (2004) by Masayo Duus.  You may know him by the iconic black 'donut' sculpture in Volunteer Park...

SJG - 9/7/15 - Euonymus hamiltonianus has pink sachets of seed right now, Area L

• • • • •

While looking at  the SJG calendar - don't forget this in October:

•  October 7, Wednesday, Noon-3:30: FILM—“Kaidan” (1964) Tales of the supernatural
•  October 10, Saturday, 10:30 am - Semiannual Unit 86 mtg. There will be a thank you lunch for volunteers immediately following the meeting at 12:30.
•  October 17, 8 pm: butoh in the Taoist Studies Institute: Borderline: Kantor’s Dead Class Revisited, a new work directed by Joan Laage (Kogut Butoh, one of our guides!).

Monday, August 31, 2015

お月見 • O-tsukimi • Moon Viewing Festival 2015

by aleks
SJG • 8/29/15 - O-tsukimi:  the lanterns at the front gate. Photo by Nat S.

O-tsukimi (literally moon-viewing)  dates back to 8th century Japan and refers to festivals honoring and admiring the autumn moon;  in more modern times it also incorporates elements of harvest celebration.

SJG • 8/29/15 - O-tsukimi:  the paper lantern.... Photo by Nat S.
2015 has been one of the worst Washington state's years for wildfires - 1200 square miles burned so far,  3 firefighters killed, and the soil parched, even the rainforest (the WET forest) on fire...  So, understandably, we were all wishing for rain. Which finally came, right with the expected super-moon on 9/29.

SJG • 8/29/15 - O-tsukimi:  after the night fell... Photo by Peggy Garber

SJG's  2015 O-tsukimi somehow squeezed itself between the raindrops:  it was short, sweet and to the point - wonderful music, bento boxes, luminaries and boats all happened, albeit NO moon present.. The Seattle Astronomical Society people were there, but didn't open their instruments in this wet weather - they answered all questions, though.  The haiku contest winners at the celebration's closure were read faster and faster, while the rain poured more and more furiously;  until the winner of the first place was announced with this:  'That's IT. Enjoy the rest of the rain in your home'...

SJG • 8/29/15 - O-tsukimi:  after the night fell... Photo by Peggy Garber

• • • 

2015 Moonviewing Haiku Contest Winners

SJG • 8/9/15 - O-tsukimi: Gary Stroutsos on flute

Judged on a rainy night by Tanya McDonald & Michael Dylan Welch
Haiku Northwest, August 29, 2015, at the Seattle Japanese Garden

First Place:

the moon shines on high
but nobody can see it:
we had prayed for rain

                  —Maurice Varon

Second Place:

out in the garden
I am enjoying a moon
soon to be revealed

                  —Micah McCally

Third Place:

       the koi missed not
the light of moon nor sun’s warmth
       from its wet cold pond

                  —Kristen Beifus

SJG • 8/29/15 O-tsukimi:
Marsha and Kuniko Takamura on koto

Honorable Metions (in no particular order):

moon, rain, and music
make me reprioritize—
taping the Seahawks

                  —Dan Hamann

sweet music of evening
love song of the night garden
moon in my belly

                  —Mauri Dressman (baby due September 8)

SJG • 8/29/15 O-tsukimi: James Jennings on shakuhachi

the moon is shining
on the water the fish sings
and the turtle swims

                  —Yuuki, age 7

beautiful music
fills the void that is the moon
below the rainy skies

                  —Dan Yeo

August 29th
forecast rain
knowing moon
through mist

                  —Ellen McCown

storm scent fills garden
koto notes weave through the air
will full moon split clouds?

                  —Nancy Penrose

gradually the clouds,
just like time, pass on—
waiting for moon

                  —Aleks Monk

loneliness arises
the moon is banished tonight
by thoughts of home

                  —Rodney Smith

SJG • 8/29/15 - O-tsukimi: Gretchen Yanover on cello

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wandering & Wondering, August 16, 2015

posted by aleks

Annual butoh event WANDERING AND WONDERING by Daipan Butoh Collective took place on Sunday, August 16: as people strolled though the garden they encountered dancers and musicians interacting almost seamlessly with the garden...

SJG • 8/16/15 - photo by Peggy Garber 

SJG • 8/16/15 - photo by Peggy Garber 
SJG • 8/16/15 - photo by Peggy Garber 
SJG • 8/16/15 - photo by Peggy Garber 
SJG • 8/16/15 - photo by Peggy Garber 
SJG • 8/16/15 - photo by Peggy Garber
SJG • 8/16/15 - photo by Peggy Garber