Thursday, May 31, 2012

Two tours, one day, two similar experiences

by Lynnda
Mallard Drake, photo by Lynnda
 Why does the duck cross the road?  Why does the duck's mate cross the road?  I couldn't figure it out, but I watched them walk the perimeter of the south west area near the Korean pagoda.  I wonder if they were looking for a good place to hide a nest.  They were not at all secretive about their trip.  But, it was fun to watch them waddle near the fence.  They were very determined and not concerned about the number of people watching them.  I had to get back to the gate house to meet my group, so I don't know why they crossed the road...

Female Mallard, photo by Lynnda
 I guided two tours last week on the same day, two very different groups.  The first was a group of women from a local garden club.  Guiding garden club tours sometimes makes me nervous.  Just a few questions from them and they'll immediately know I am a least knowledgeable plant identifier.  I am not a botanist nor a biologist, hardly even a gardener.  I love walking around the garden, and I love to share that love with garden visitors.  Fortunately, this delightful group of women didn't ask plant questions that I couldn't answer.  Had they asked for specific identifications, I would have directed them to the link for the plant book, found here.

Rhody, photo by Lynnda
The second group I guided was first grade girls from a Brownie troop.  I've not guided very many children's tours, actually, only one.  And that one was almost a disaster (2 dads, 7 fourth graders, 7 magnifying glasses and a dad-taught quickie on fire starting 101).  Two years later, I'm guiding my second youth group.  These girls were GREAT!  They had small notebooks and pencils, and were diligent in recording what I was saying.  What surprised me was my talking about the same items to each group.  We stopped to look at the sapsucker holes in the cypress.  On the back trail near the start of the stream, we stopped to feel the softness of the Rhododendron yakushimanum.  Both tour groups loved the rich suede leaf.

Acer palmatum 'Shigitatsu Sawa', photo by Lynnda
Both tour groups were enchanted by the view looking up into the leaves of the Shigitatsu Sawa maple, just to the south-west of the tea house.  The delicate leaves are often missed because we are being careful to watch where we're walking.  At this point on the tour with the girls, I found I was taking time to spell words for them to write in their notebooks.  They were doing a lot of writing! I told them their memories were so good, they could listen to what I was telling them, and then we could choose one or two words to write in their note pads to remind them what they saw. 

Turtle enjoying the sun, photo by Lynnda
The sun was out and there were so many turtles lounging on rocks near the water.  Feeding the koi is always a treat for all ages.  The fish never seem to be full.  The Brownies especially enjoyed trying to place the fish food close enough for the turtles to grab it before the ducks or fish devoured it.

Koi feeding, photo by Lynnda
We talked about all the senses that come alive in the Garden.  Fragrances would suddenly arrive, and the source could not always be identified.  We enjoyed the difference in sound between the stream and the waterfall.  Many birds were flitting throughout the trees.  The sun was brilliant on some of the paths, and on others, we were in the shade and couldn't feel its warmth.  There were so many shades of pink, from the palest, almost white, to brilliant deep pink.  Each group had interesting observations throughout the Garden.

Although the two groups were very different in so many ways, the joy of the Garden was appreciated by each group in their own way.  The experience for me was equally pleasurable with each group.  I have new enthusiasm for leading school groups.  I'm still gathering my courage to volunteer for a high school Japanese class.  Maybe next year...

Iris next to inland sea, photo by Lynnda

Monday, May 28, 2012

Introduction to Zen Buddhism

The Philosophy Department of Bellevue College hosts "Introduction to Zen Buddhism" in their  Philosophy Talks series. This informative presentation is free and open to public.

When: Thursday, May 31, 11:20-12:20
Where: BC’s Library Media Center, room D106
Presenter: Alanna Gram

Gram will offer a brief survey of Zen Buddhism from its historical origins to its philosophical principles. She’ll examine the historical influence of Zen, the significance of Zen koans and sitting meditation, ethical precepts and the notion of Enlightenment, anti-intellectualism in Zen, and the perplexing nature of Zen metaphysics. Listeners will learn and be able to identify Zen motifs and core tenets, as well as gain an understanding of key Zen principles and an appreciation for the complexity of Zen thought.

Gram is a past president of the BC Philosophy Club and one of their top philosophy students.  Gram is also the first BC student to offer a presentation in the Philosophy Department’s quarterly Philosophy Talks series.
For more information, please contact Mark Storey, BC philosophy instructor and series coordinator at or 425-564-2118.

• • • • • 

p.s. aleks chimes in: which campus it will be, Keiko? do you know? Main or North campus? (links to both included)

SJG • 5/28/12 - Today was the Children's day in SJG, including a fun-workshop
on zen-gardens.  More on this event coming soon;  pic by aleks

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Japanese Films in Tateuchi Community Room

Hello SJG community:

The Unit 86 Japanese Film non-committee (Shizue, Monzie, Nat S. and aleks) would like to share documentary and feature films depicting different aspects of Japanese history and culture. Each film will be prefaced with a short introduction.  And there will be time for a post-screening discussion.  Volunteers and staff of the SJG, and their guests, are invited to attend the following movies in Tateuchi Community Room: 

•  JUNE:  Thursday 6/28/12, 1:30 pm  - Dream Window: Reflections on the Japanese Garden, 1992, from the Smithsonian video collection; it features the gardens of Saiho-ji, Shugaku-in, Katsura Villa, Tenryu-ji, and Sogetsu Hall, plus contemporary landscapes.  A diverse group of Japanese artists provides an excellent commentary.  Trailer here,  IMBd. 1992, music by Tôru Takemitsu. 57 minutes

• AUGUST:  Thursday 8/23/12, 1:30 pm - Japan, Memoirs of a Secret Empire, Part One: "The Way of the Samurai".  In 2004 PBS aired a 3-part documentary series on the history of Japan's opening to the outside world; viewers' comments on shoppbs and at amazon. 60 minutes

•  OCTOBER:  Thursday 10/18//12, 1:30 pm - Tokyo Story  (Tōkyō Monogatari), 1953, by widely acclaimed director Yasujirō Ozu.  It is regarded as one of the 10 greatest films of all time.  The story is of a visit made by an aging couple from a small town to see their children and grandchildren in distant, growing, postwar Tokyo. With elegance and sensitivity the film portrays characters with whom we can identify, and taps human experiences common to us all.  (For more background click Roger Eber review from 1972 and 2003.) 136 minutes - a brief intermission is planned.

• NOVEMBER:  Thursday 11/1/12, 1:30 - Shall We Dance? 1996, dir. Masayuki Suo. A successful but unhappy Japanese accountant finds the missing passion in his life when he begins to secretly take ballroom dance lessons.  Trailer here, Rotten tomatoes reviews here. 120 minutes.

If you want to see these films, befriend SJG volunteer or a staff person, OR become a volunteer for SJG yourself (SJG needs all kinds of people: gardeners, event organizers and general lovers of Japanese culture  + paging Kenn of 'Deputy Docent'  who volunteered programming of iPhone app for SJG).  

See you at the movies! 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chado: a multifaceted living embodiment of Japanese culture: a conversation with Naomi Takemura

by Thomas Hargrave

Note from aleks:  • Below is a transcript of the interview that Thomas conducted this spring with Naomi Takemura, the Chief Administrator of Chado Urasenke Tankokai Seattle Association, one of the Chado schools that presents Tea ceremonies at our Garden. Enjoy!  

• • • • • •

Naomi Takemura,  February 2012
Chief Administrator of Urasenke Tankokai Seattle Association

CHADO: a multifaceted living embodiment of Japanese culture: a conversation with Naomi Takemura

Sensei, what is your title and organizational affiliation?

I have received the teaching degree of Seikyoju, from present Grand tea master, Sen Soshitsu of Urasenke in Kyoto.  Currently I am a Chief Administrator of Urasenke Tankokai Seattle Association.

What are your primary duties in this role?

One is to introduce and promote the Way of Tea (Chado) to the community and another is to maintain contact and communication between local members and Urasenke Headquarters in Kyoto, Japan..

How long have you studied the Way of Tea?

I took my first lesson when I was 10 years old.  During high school and college, I really began to appreciate the atmosphere of the tea room.  To me, this is a lifelong study, so there is no graduation day.              

How much of this training was in Japan? 
Most of my training was in Japan before I came to the US in 1966. I learn a great deal about Chado through teaching it to my students.       

Is instruction in the Way of Tea approached differently in Japan, than from in the United States?  
Even though the objective of instruction remains the same, certain aspects of the ceremony are modified in the United States since its lifestyle and customs are different from those in Japan.

Naomi Takemura, April 2012
How has this training shaped your life experience?    
It is a kind of meditation to me.  It gives me time to reflect, and shows me the right path.  Chado has taught me to appreciate what you have, and to make good use of the time you have now.  It also taught me the importance of history and tradition.  When you can concentrate on what you do in everyday life, as in the tea ceremony, you will find many discoveries and receive many benefits.

When one studies the way of tea what areas of Japanese culture does one get exposed to?

You should know the items necessary for the tea setting, such as tea utensils (metal, wood, and ceramics), calligraphy, and flower arrangements.  As time passes, you develop the sense of appreciation and knowledge for these items.  Proper etiquette and manners are essential at the tea gatherings. There they develop a sense of trust, respect, and understanding between the host and guest.

How much of the study of tea is experiential, rather than book based?

There are three basic aspects in learning tea; these are knowledge, discipline and practice.  Even though you can learn much by reading books, the most important thing is practice.  With practice, everything becomes part of you.  With proper basic training, you can learn much from solo practice.  It may take time, however, students will acquire these sooner or later.

Do you think that this kind of training changes the way we move, think, or see things?

Yes, I definitely think so.  My life is so entwined with Chado that I cannot think of myself without associating myself with Chado.  When I think of Chado, the following words come to my mind: tradition; manner; friendliness; kindness; thoughtfulness; humbleness; humility; truthfulness; concentration; discipline; appreciation; responsibility; dedication; consideration; sympathy; togetherness; congeniality; integrity; and simplicity.

Can you give me some examples? 

Well, how to walk, hold a cup, greet guests, speak, eat and so forth.

The Way of Tea guides me to change me, not other people.  It teaches me the importance of retreat from a self-centered way of life.  To me, the most important quality for those who love Chado is omoiyari ( 思いやり) which in English is a mixture of kindness, sympathy, consideration, and thoughtfulness.  I have met many people who have posses this important quality.
How might a garden visitor benefit from being exposed to this practice in a public tea ceremony?

Garden visitors would have chance to experience a very different kind of culture.  Through their participation, it is my hope they will catch a glimpse of the essence of The Way of Tea, which is WA (harmony), KEI (respect), SEI (purity) and JAKU (tranquility).

Takemura Sensei, let me thank you for sharing your time and insight with us today.

SJG •  - Shoseian Tea House
We encourage all that are interested in learning more to visit the Garden and participate in a public tea ceremony at the Shoseian Tea House.  Please call us at the garden for information on available dates and times.  Reservations can be made over the phone and are highly encouraged as these teas typically sell out well before the day of presentation.

Thomas Hargrave
Assistant Coordinator
Seattle Japanese Garden
Ticket Booth 206 684-4725
The SJG 2012 Tankokai  and Shoseikai Chado Presentation and Demonstration Schedule is on calendar page.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Announcements: butoh dance and films coming

by aleks
One of our guides, Joan Laage, is also an accomplished butoh dancer - she and her group staged a very interesting 'Wandering & Wondering' butoh-happenings last summer in SJG (link to pics here);  they will be doing it again this summer:  Saturday, August 4 - don't miss it!  But before that, the group will have 2 more performances you might want to see:
• • • • •

PHOTO: Briana Jones

BUTOH: New works by Sheri Brown, Helen Thorsen, Diana Garcia-Snyder, and Joan Laage.
Seattle's most esteemed Butoh-inspired choreographers premier dances that deepen the exploration and raw terrain of the human experience.

June 22 & 23, 2012 • 8 pm • Velocity Dance Center • 1621 12th Ave

June 22
Sheri Brown
Diana Garcia-Snyder (interactive media performance in collaboration with media artist Eunsu Kang and software developer/composer Donald Craig)
Danse Perdue

June 23
Joan Laage (with musician Stephen Fandrich)
Helen Thorsen
Mary Cutrera

Tickets: $20/Seniors & Students $15
Info: Helen 206 723-2315/ •

• • • • •

FILMS: the Unit 86 film non-committee (we are working on non-mission statement) would like to show you 4 japanese films this season  (2 documentaries and 2 feature movies). We booked  TCR for these THURSDAYS (watch for the further announcements, as our non-committe still quarrels, debates about the actual titles and is meeting the very next week to screen the films):

- JUNE:  Thursday 6/28/12 - 1:00 pm
- AUGUST:  Thursday 8/23/12 - 1:00 pm
- OCTOBER: Thursday 10/18//12 - 1:00 pm
- NOVEMBER:  Thursday 11/1/12 - 1:00 pm

The films will be open to SJG volunteers and staff + their invited guests. Tip:  if you want to see the films: befriend a docent or staff person.