Monday, August 23, 2010

Tsukimi no kai - moonviewing

SJG - moonviewing 2010; Roji
Moonviewing is a traditional Japanese custom of greeting and honoring the full moon on the night of August 15 in the lunar calendar.  The moonviewing custom was introduced to Japan from China during Nara and Heian periods (710-1185).  Traditionally, Japanese rice cakes and sake are placed on a tray as offering to the moon, together with susuki (pampas grass), arranged in a vase.   People view the moon quietly at home, parks, shrines, temples and anywhere they can see it.

 Every August in SJG the guests gather in the orchard and wait for the moon to raise over the valley in which the Garden is located, above the moonviewing platform.  Music, poetry reading and writing, tea ceremony and quietly enjoying the beauty of the harvest moon are part of the tradition, just as they have been part of traditional moonviewing in Japan for centuries.

This year Marcia Takamura and Chigusa Kitai on koto and shakuhachi filled the air with beautiful music before dusk, while  the Kogut Butoh troupe were indeed mingling with guests as coy geisha and rogue samurai. I had trouble to find them at first and asked two passing young women in yukatas: 'are you the coy geishas?' and they gave me a 'look';  nope, they were simply guests in summer kimonos....  The rogue and the coy pair looked much more theatrical, of course, I saw them later.

SJG - Kogut Butoh Dancers; moonviewing 2010
The Haiku Northwest was present with moon-related poetry and a haiku contest.  My duties as luminary started at dusk:  along with other volunteers I lit the tea candles placed along the path in paper bags and  in the paper lanterns on the trees.  Now the Garden started to look really magical,  Kogut Butoh group was dancing on the moonviewing platform and everybody was glancing on the sky above them waiting  for the moon to appear;  but apparently it had something better to do and it kept us waiting, only briefly appearing between the clouds.

SJG - Kobe Lantern
Perhaps the Seattle Astronomical Society telescopes up at the mountain hills afforded a better view of the sky and stars, but I didn't venture there this year.  Have you?  I also missed my favorite part of the evening:  small boats with candles in them being launched on the pond - a combo of brief rain and darkness sent me to the gate prematurely...

I just looked out of the window:  Hey, Mr. Moon - sitting up there in the full glory and with a beautiful  white glow -  didn't you get a memo from Mary to show up Saturday, like the rest of us?

鳶が鷹を産む。 (Tonbi (or Tobi) ga taka wo umu) Literally: A kite breeding a hawk. 
Meaning: A splendid child born from common parents.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Saturday educational meeting and upcoming Moonviewing

SJG - rock peninsula

I was finally able to attend one of the educational meetings set up by the guides for the guides.  It was about differences between Japanese and Western gardens.  The presenter, Barbara Engram, projected onto the wall pictures of both types of gardens asking us to note how various  elements - gates, walls, color, size of the plants, their trimming and overall sense of balance - are used in a quite different manner.

And indeed they are:  gates and walls in Japanese garden are often part of the design, sometimes as freestanding architectural structures or blended with their surroundings, while western gardens use them mainly for utilitarian purposes of entry and bordering the garden off.  Vibrant colors of flowers in Western garden is never a goal in the Japanese one:  shades of green + seasonal changes found in nature is all that usually happens there.  The balance of the Japanese garden is achieved through asymmetrical approach, where the focal point is never in the center of the garden, while most Western gardeners tend to go for quite symmetrical balance  with a central focus point.

As for trimming and training practices:  imagine a peacock topiary by the pond, and then imagine a pine with branches trained to look like clouds  by the rose garden... Oh, well,  the English and the Japanese gardeners must have swapped their lives for a week or so.

Moonviewing is coming up this Saturday in SJG - to me one of the most enchanting events to participate in.   One of our guides, Joan, is a dancer who will be performing with her troupe that evening, when I asked her for short description this is what she wrote:

A performance by Kogut Butoh will include a rogue samurai and coy geisha wandering through the Garden (7-7:45 pm). Later in the evening (8:30-9 pm), Kogut Butoh will perform an ethereal dance inspired by ukiyo-e images.

A rogue samurai and coy geisha!  Now I know what has been missing all those years in the SJG;  I hope we can keep them for good...

蓼食う虫も好き好き (Tade kuu mushi mo sukizuki) Literally: There are even bugs that eat knotweed. 
Meaning: There's no accounting for taste. / To each his own.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Anybody interested in visiting Juuki Iida scroll?

Juki Iida scroll (image from Miller library)

The scroll is sitting in Miller Library, in a dark room, no doubt. Here is a link to the library page on the scroll. Please comment below if you'd be interested in visiting it sometimes maybe the end of November, when the Garden closes. The staff of the Library preliminarily agreed to give a tour of the scroll, and we could invite someone to speak about it, too.

...He brushed this scroll at leisure during his stay in Seattle and then gave it to Richard Iwao Yamasaki, who worked closely with him. The scroll reveals the essentials of the Japanese garden: trees, water and rocks, which, when brought together in quiet and harmony, grow, age, and become natural.... (stole this info from the Miller Library page; BTW - they spell his name Juuki over there; have you seen it spelled that way before?).

猿も木から落ちる。 (Saru mo ki kara ochiru) Literally: Even monkeys fall from trees. 
Meaning: Everyone makes mistakes. / Nobody's perfect.

Monday, August 9, 2010

here will be the title of the post

SJG - Dry River Bed and Snow-Viewing Lantern
the date will post itself (look up), no work on the blogger part.

and here someone will blog summary of the saturday meeting. i'm not going to think now what form it could take, but frankly any form is fine: you can write a dry informative post, real summary that is; or you could write it as an opinion piece on the topic and use the lecture for your own musing.

or you could be scatter-brained and write whatever and on the end say: ooooops, spaced out, and on the topic of lecture: it was fine, we had cookies and 15 people attended.

i hope you realize i'm just trying to fill the space here, so don't read too much into any of the above, just so you can see how it looks like when it is 'posted' as a blog entry.

ciao. aloha. and till we meet again, on the white cliff off dover or however that song went (i have a Vera Lynn earwarm).

門前の小僧習わぬ経を読む。 (Mon zen no kozō narawanu kyō wo yomu) Literally: An apprentice near a temple will recite the scriptures untaught. 
Meaning: The environment makes our characters.