Thursday, April 26, 2012

Cont. Ed: The Sound of One Hand: the Hand in Japanese Culture

ATTENTION: Second presentation of the lecture Saturday, April 28 at 2:30 PM in Tateuchi Community Room

by aleks
SJG • 4/24/12 - Camellia
japonica 'Cheerful', Area C
‘The Sound of One Hand:  the Hand in Japanese Culture ‘was the title of Jesse Hiraoka lecture for docents at the first 2012 Cont. Ed meeting.   Jesse opened with stating that after 9/11 tragedy happened over 10 years ago, counselors and therapists were sent to NYC to help people deal with their anguish and pain; and that after Fukushima disaster in the spring of 2011 the haiku writers were sent to northern Japan to help people cope with similar feelings, and there was a big spike in writing haiku all over Japan.

Jesse referred to haiku written by Minoru Ozawa, who was asked by a poetry journal to write an encouraging work for the victims of Fukushima.  Ozawa initially wasn't able to write anything, as he was too pain stricken and overwhelmed himself, but eventually came up with this haiku:

 “Cherry blossoms
will bloom again
in harbours up north”

['Poetry after the Fukushima disaster' in Excalibur includes very interesting story from 9/21/11 on this  and other haiku and on how  “haiku is a collaboration between the dead and the living,” as Ozawa put it.]

Jesse’s  lecture was based on a thought that unlike in the western cultures, where emotions are often expressed by voice and oral output, the  Japanese culture expresses feelings via hand, not mouth, which leads to creation of origami, bonsai, gardening, writing and other forms of via-hand expression.

SJG • 4/24/12 - Camellia
japonica "Lily Pons', Area C
He also mentioned that while it's perfectly all right for a western type of counseling/therapy to allow the  expression of anguish come out in any, even the most clumsy form if necessary, the Japanese culture expects the person to somehow package the feeling into the form more manageable (comfortable?) for others before presenting it...

It made me think that it may be the reason the Japanese culture seems so elegant to many of us, and also that various forms of art therapy in western culture attempt to do the same: to channel rough feelings into another form of expression - strong, raw emotion can be a destructive force.   After all that is how artists the world over deal with their feelings of personal torment: they translate it into universal language of art - be it music, painting or literature - something that the rest of humanity can relate and connect to.

I want to share something new I learned about haiku from Jesse during his lecture; he referred to famous ‘frog haiku’ by Matsuo Basho and its many translations to the English language, all trying to ‘interpret’ it differently (proof here: this link to Bureau of Public Secrets  will take you to 31 translations and one commentary on the frog haiku):

Furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu

mizu no oto

Old pond — frogs jumped in — sound of water.
Translated by Lafcadio Hearn

SJG • 4/24/12 - Camellia
japonica 'Takayama', area B
Jesse explained that it’s up to the reader to figure out what to do with the haiku poem and how to take it in: if you know something about old ponds, connect on that level; if you know about frogs let your imagination do something with it; and if you know about sound of water it’s also up to you to make a leap (so to speak) in that direction.  One can relate to any one or all of the three thoughts presented, so all interpretations should be that of your own, and not the translator's;  it might be even somewhat insulting to tell the reader what to think of it and how to absorb it into his/her own word.

This notion is challenging for any translator and even the translation concept itself.  Yes, for haiku to find its own meaning in each reader is like any other perception of what's around us - we can only 'get' what somehow incorporates well into the rest of our understanding of the world, which is why opinions differ about books, films, music, even facts(!);  but the art of  literary translation is generally understood as an attempt  to convey the meaning of the language,  and not its separate words, as Horace famously said a long time ago: Nec verbum verbo curabis reddere fidus interpres - As a true translator you will take care not to translate word for word.   This means, I guess,  that every translation you'll ever read  is just a personal 'perception' of that translator, and nothing more;  the only difference from your own interpretation is that it was published.

SJG • 4/24/12 - Camellia
japonica ' Nuccio's Jewel', Area B
Jesse doesn’t like his lectures to be recorded or videotaped – he feels that once ‘published’ his thoughts would be ‘closed’, canonized  and kind of set in stone, with no room for further  divagation or evolving about the subject, so there are no handouts or notes from this lecture. When I asked him to look over this post for accuracy before pushing the 'publish' button, he smiled and said something to the effect (and true to the heart of his lecture)  that he will not interfere with my personal take on his presentation (paraphrasing from memory here, as there is no record of his actual words)...   So  I' m leaving this cluttered and rumbling subjective interpretation of his lecture as is, for at this point I'm unable to improve on it -  with hope of some day rewriting  it as  haiku or a string quartet :)....

Jesse has kindly responded to requests from garden volunteers who could not attend his talk on April 19 and is offering a second presentation of "The Sound of One Hand: the Hand in Japanese Culture." If you were out of town or committed elsewhere on April 19, here's your opportunity to enjoy his thought-provoking and inspiring talk:  at 2:30 PM, Saturday, April 28 in Tateuchi Community Room.

Thank you, Jesse!
Jesse Hiraoka, PhD, is a retired Professor of French Literature at Western Washington University, and currently a fellow docent at Seattle Japanese Garden.

P.S. It's camellia season - all pics come from the SJG plant committee ID session...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Visit to Portland Japanese Garden

by Lynnda

Purification bowl on the way to the entrance  LL
Last weekend, I had the opportunity to visit the Portland Japanese Garden.  I'd never visited it before, and my one goal was to find a unique water chime that Kathy, the former head gardener at the Seattle Japanese Garden, talked about once at a Unit 86 meeting.  I never did find the water chime, and my guide, Rick, didn't know where it was either.  So, my one goal was thwarted, but the tour was very worthwhile.
To get to the garden, I choose to walk the long trail uphill rather than take the shuttle.  If one has difficulty walking, the shuttle would be the best option.  It was a steep climb to the entrance, but the woods that morning were cool and misty, allowing for a stillness prior to entering the garden.

Entry to the entry area, Portland Japanese Garden  LL

The Portland Garden is larger than the Seattle Japanese Garden by about 2 acres.  It houses 5 separate garden styles and is considered a teaching garden.

The pathway leading to the garden had an entry, and as you entered the garden, there was another more formal entry.  The first garden visited was the stroll garden.  The supports for the wisteria arbor had rotted and were replaced by concrete pillars that looked like logs.  As I walked through the arbor, there was a 5-tiered pagoda, very similar to the one in the Seattle garden that has 11 tiers. 

Wisteria arbor, Portland Japanese Garden,  LL
5-tier Pagoda, PJG - LL

Stones in front of the pagoda are arranged in the shape of the northern island, Hokkaido and although it doesn't show in my photo, there is a rose colored stone near the pagoda that represents the city of Sapporo, the sister city to Portland. 

After passing the tea garden, I crossed the zig zag bridge and was fortunate that no evil spirits were able to follow me.

AZig Zag bridge through iris beds, PJG - LL

Heavenly Falls, PJG -  LL

Imagine how beautiful that area is when the iris are in bloom!
Rick, the guide, said they are deep blue.  The lower pond is reached after following the path that leads away from the bridge.  The Heavenly Falls flows into the pond, and koi can be seen swimming lazily.  Rick told a legend of the koi struggling to swim upstream to spawn, and if they make it, they turn into a dragon.  Parents use this story to convince their children they must work hard and struggle to succeed, and they will be greatly rewarded for their efforts.

Sand and Stone Garden, PJG - LL

The sand and stone garden is enclosed in concrete walls, and there are benches on one side to allow people to sit and meditate.  Gardeners have to rake the sand about every week, and it is a difficult process that takes several hours.  They use large, heavy rakes, and can design the patterns as they wish.
Flat Garden, PJG - LL

The Flat Garden has 2 large plantings symbolizing a sake cup and a gourd filled with sake.  This is symbolic of pleasure, wishing happiness for all visitors.

There is a beautiful pavilion that has an expansive view out over the city of Portland and Mt. Hood.  Unfortunately, the day I was there, Mt. Hood was in hiding.  I must go back and see it another time.

As I review all the photos I took last week, I'm struck by how monochromatic they are.  There were a few colorful rhodies, but very different from the Seattle Japanese garden in April and May.  Perhaps that is more typical of Japanese gardens, but I love visiting the Seattle garden during the spring to watch the unfolding of all the Pacific Northwest rhododendrons and azaleas.

Unidentified tree, PJG - LL
I would have enjoyed spending more time in Portland's Japanese Garden, but this very short visit was so worth it.  I know I will go back and visit again, any time I'm in Portland.  It's a gem of a garden, and it was so interesting to see so many similarities to the Seattle Japanese Garden.  I encourage all to take a trip to Portland and take time to visit the garden.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

'Coloring outside the guide lines'

by aleks
SJG • 4/17/12 - fragrant Osmathus
in full bloom right now
"Coloring outside the guide lines' is a tittle of an article written by Iain Robertson for the spring issue of Washington Park Arboretum Bulletin: the article is based on the delightful lecture/talk Iain Robertson gave to the Seattle Japanese Garden guides and the ensuing conversation we all had.

The lecture was on the topic on how can visitors get the most rewarding experience from their visit to the Garden, and suggested that the guides, instead of seeing themselves as encyclopedias of the Garden knowledge could think of themselves as choreographers who provide information in ways that promote and enrich each visitor's direct, individual experience of connecting with the Garden's 'place-specific intelligence' or genius loci (translated as the 'spirit of the place').

The article is as fascinating as was the lecture - a treasure of ideas for the guides and visitors alike;  the author writes about practical issues and concerns - the fear that some information may be omitted in such approach, the value of first impression upon entering the Garden and the idea of treating the path as a narrative for threading together of spacial experiences.

Now, I have to fess up to a few 'spiel' type of tours I gave, either because I myself couldn't connect to the spirit of the Garden and was just going through the motions, station to station like in a church, or because visitors resisted...  Oh, yeah, why not blame it on them?:) -  I particularly remember a a group of people from Baltimore who approached me as I was just finishing regularly scheduled public tour and asked for an ad hoc tour - they just happened to step in and were eager to have 'done that'; they promised they wouldn't take much of my time. Oh, boy, they truly didn't, practically sprinting ahead of me on the path every time I stopped to take a breath in the middle of the sentence, and I was chasing them while spitting fragments of my 'Garden-encyclopedia' knowledge at their heels. Entrance to finish 20 minutes gallop 'experience' it was.

SJG • 4/17/12 - Two (unidentified yet) rhodies, blooming in Area D

But of course, like all the other guides, I wouldn't last on the job 8 years if all our tours were like that - one could have simply died of boredom and repetition if the guiding was just sharing what we know about the place. Each tour IS a different experience: new day, new light, new weather, new season, new bloom or scent and new people, each of them with their own individual state of being open to the Garden, which is why Iain Robertson's article is a keeper.  It reminds visitors and guides alike, that each tour is a new adventure, and helps you to have a different adventure each and every time.

SJG - 4/17/12 - Rhod. Reticulatum,
three leaf azalea, at the entrance
to the Garden, Area C
If you are a member of the Arboretum Foundation you got your copy of the Spring Bulletin in the mail (Summer issue will have part 2 of the article), but if you are not, you can still pick up your copy at the Graham Visitor Center.  The printed article has beautiful photographs taken by the author (the pics in this blog just happened to be taken today during plant committee work, and were not supposed to be an 'experience', just a work record, but will have to do).  The bulletin is NOT on-line, because it is printed as benefit of the membership, but the Bulletin info is here.
Iain M. Robertson is an associate professor of the Landscape Architecture Department and an adjunct faculty member in the center of Urban Horticulture and School of Forest Resources at the University of Washington.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

First 2012 Guides' Meeting, April 19

by Monzie
Mark your calendar for 10:30 to noon, Thursday, April 19 in the Tateuchie Room when long-time guide Jesse Hiraoka  will give a  talk on The Sound of One Hand:  the Hand in Japanese Culture.

Jesse will begin shortly after 10:30.  If you arrive late, please enter the room from the garden by the north doors.   Refreshments will be available after Jesse's presentation, along with time  to chat and catch up after the winter's lull.

Help with setting up the room at 10 am and restoring it at 12:15 pm is - as always - very welcome!

The next monthly meeting will begin at 10:30 am, Saturday, May 19, when Sue DeNure will talk about the garden's proposed improvements.

SJG • 4/10/12 - unknown type of rhodie over the snow-viewing  lantern in area C
4/19/12 - now known type: Rhododendron hybrid  'Brocade' - deep red buds opening to peachy pink flowers

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

UW sakura 2012 on sunny day

by aleks [Click on pics to see them larger]
4/1/12 - UW yoshinos

Well, Seattle had 2 day break from the rain, one of them fell on Sunday - that brought lots of people to UW yoshino grove.  I couldn't stay away either, because the sun was NOT on schedule - the weather forecast announced rain for both days, so what could be better than snapping pics of the mother nature doing its own thing and not cooperating with humans, especially on such a delightful topic as cherry blossom.

4/1/12 - UW yoshinos

In one of the articles I read on the topic there was a mention of the cherry blossom festival  somewhere  (no, not in Seattle, but some major city on the east coast) cancelled one year due to rain, that must have sucked big time.  The cherry trees are beautiful wet or dry, but people are happier to see them under the blue sky. Geez, I didn't mean that cheep rhyme,  my brain must be punishing me for not joining the kids playing hopscotch under the cherry trees...

4/1/12 - UW yoshinos

Sharing the pics, since it's raining again + some Issa from David Lanoue...

birds and people 
creeping through... 
cherry blossoms

tori to tomo ni ningen kuguru sakura kana


by Issa, 1796

4/1/12 - UW yoshinos

kono yôna masse wo sakura darake kana

this corrupt world
with cherry blossoms

by Issa,  1814

4/1/12 - UW yoshinos

yoshino yama kawari sakura mo nakari keri

Yoshino Hill--
not a single cherry blossom
with a flaw

Yoshino is a famous place for viewing the cherry blossoms. Issa is saying that not a single blossom is "eccentric" or "different" (kawari). The scene is one of breathtaking perfection. 
by Issa,  1815

• P.S. Ah, for a great pic of a bird in a cherry tree in Tokyo go to Guardian 24 hours in pictures - Photograph: Yoshikazu Tsuno:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Japan - U.S. Cherry blossom centennial

by aleks
[Click on pics to see them larger]

Well, yoshino cherries at UW are in full bloom.  Wet sakura this year, but very beautiful still. It's been raining almost entire week, with a few hours here and there of sun breaking through...

3/31/12 - UW yoshino cherry blossoms in full bloom, and full of rain, too.

Because of the abundance of cherrie trees in Seattle, many of them a gift from Japan, the whole city looks like a giant Seattle sakura, although there are some better hanami locations then other - i listed them last year, along with links to hanami stories/pics.  And if you want more on Japanese/US connection head to Seattle Center on April 13-15 for Seattle Cherry Blossom & Japanese Cultural Festival at the Fisher Pavilion - you can learn the game GO, participate in a tea ceremony demonstration,  enjoy delicious food, Taiko drumming, Japanese artisan demonstrations and artwork.

3/31/12 • UW: wet snow of cherry blossoms

This year marks 100th anniversary of the gift of the cherry trees from the people of Japan to the people of the United States.  Here some links to stories about this event:

• An article in National geographic:
The cherry trees are blooming in Washington. Tuesday, March 27, 2012, marks 100 years since First Lady Helen Taft and the Japanese ambassador’s wife, Viscountess Iwa Chinda, planted the first two trees. No photographs of the event exist, and newspaper accounts were sketchy. But historical records offer a picture of what happened that day and how it came about.
The rest is here...

•  A story from Consulate General of Japan in Seattle:

This year Consulate General of Japan in Seattle is participating in the nationwide celebration of the gift of cherry trees to the United States. These trees were planted on the tidal basin in Washington D.C. Originally, over 3,000 trees were sent as a gift to build and cement the friendship between Japan and the United States. As the friendship between the U.S. and Japan has continued to deepen, more trees have been added to locations accross the United States. At present, cherry blossom festivals are held each year throught North America to celebrate the blossoming of these beautiful trees.
The rest is here....

•  Embassy of Japan in the United States of America website has a great photo gallery and a map of cherry blossoms across USA.

If all of that Cherry Blossom festivities put you in a mood for writing haiku (it should!) check the upcoming events of Haiku Northwest - you can register for “Haiku in the Woods” free haiku workshop and haiku walk led by Michael Dylan Welch, sponsored by the Sammamish Arts Commission.

SJG • 3/30/12 - Magnificent trunk of 100 yo+ maple

And, of course, don't forget to visit us, at  Seattle Japanese Garden in Washington Park Arboretum!  This is the only time of the year when you can observe magnificent maple trunk structures and the bare bones of the Garden, before it leafs out;  it is my personal favorite time in the Garden: you can freely spy on its design without being distracted by all that comes later in the shape of leaves, blooms and scents. Some  rhododendrons and camellias are blooming already, if you must have a color to go with it, and of course pieris japonica is on permeant flower display, and about to shoot red new growth, and so is buttercup winter hazel and Japanese spicebush; yesterday I noticed  osmanthus has buds, too, about to fill the whole eastern path with incredible scent, woo hoo!

3/31/12 • Sakura Seattle:
cherry trees in my neighborhood
BTW, I shyly started SJG 2012 bloom record - shyly, because it's in a new platform and I'm learning to navigate still - have trouble with pic sizing, text manipulation and a few other things: Keiko noted that there is too much scrolling there, therefore I'm trying to figure out how to limit the format to 1 post per page, but that's so far like fighting the windmills - it's predetermined to hold 10 posts per page and without some serious html study on my part... Well, don't hold your breath yet - that's not where my talents are...