Friday, July 14, 2017

Our granddaughters

by aleks
Sophie and Ellie, docent Lynnda L.'s and my granddaughters, meet every summer  in the Seattle Japanese garden - we created a tradition for the girls to visit each other while exploring the garden.  This year Lynnda created a book for Sophie, memorizing several years of those visits -  the girls looked at the book while having an after tour snack.

SJG • 7/5/17 -Sophie, her little brother Nick and Ellie feed the koi

SJG • 7/5/17 -Ellie reading Sophie's book about their Garden visits

SJG • 7/5/17 - the annual 'bridge' picture - this year fantastically bombed by our  Master Gardener, Pete Putnicki :)

For the Lynnda's entire adorable book for Sophie go here (sorry, some pages copied upside down - don't know how to fix it, but you can still read them!)

P.S. I'll post links to posts about their previous Garden visits later tonight.

Monday, July 3, 2017

July 5th, noon: BOOK CLUB: Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata

by aleks
SJG - 5/31/17 - Miriam, our Gardener, sheering the azaleas

Our Book Club meets this Wednesday at noon at TCR to discuss ''Thousand Cranes' (千羽鶴 Senbazuru, 1952), by Nobel Prize laureate Yasunari Kawabata and translated by Edward G. Seidensticker.

From wikipedia: [...] Set in a post World War II Japan, the protagonist, Kikuji, has been orphaned by the death of his mother and father. He becomes involved with one of the former mistresses of his father, Mrs. Ota, who commits suicide seemingly for the shame she associates with the affair. After Mrs. Ota's death, Kikuji then transfers much of his love and grief over Mrs Ota's death to her daughter, Fumiko. [...]

I agree with this thought from a review posted on 'Japanese Literature Book Group': [...] The novels by Kawabata, more than any of the other Japanese classics I’ve read, really make me regret the fact that I can’t read in Japanese. His writing is just so sparse and poetic. Although the translation does a good job at trying to portray the artistry behind the words, it simply must be more beautiful and meaningful in the original Japanese. I’ve heard Kawabata’s writing described as brush strokes, like writing haiku in traditional Japanese calligraphy, and I think that is a very apt description. [...]

Here a picture and about Shino ware (water jar), featured in the book...

From M.A.Orthofer, 20 January 2013 Review of the book: [...] An effective story of deep emotion and suffocatingly binding personal ties (that still exert a hold even after death), Thousand Cranes is uncomfortably but powerfully understated -- with the slightly stilted feel of the translation working quite well as well here. Presented like the smooth surface of a body of water, the roiling underneath is suggested but barely shown, leaving much for the reader to read into the text, as Kawabata presents a surprisingly deep, layered, and disturbing story in such a short space and with such simple brushstrokes. [...]

As much as I enjoyed the book and particularly the topic of Japan in 1950s being a transient state between cultural practices of the past and beginning to adopt western cultural and social customs, the words from the above review by Orthofer struck me as reflecting my own reading experience of this masterpiece: suffocating, uncomfortable and disturbing - but obviously that was the author's intent, so not unhappy about getting into his head for this reading journey :)...

If you are an over-thinker, and like to analyze everything in depth, this Eslkevin's Blog post titled 'THOUSAND CRANES, BEAUTY, WAR, WARES and SUICIDES' will be really up your ally - i know I appreciated every thought in it.  {About eslkevin: I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.}.

So, book lovers: see you Wednesday at noon at TCR!

SJG - 5/31/17 - blooming irises

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. [...]

The entire text and supporting documents are at link below (free to sign up and create password to enjoy all the articles there):

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.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Snow in the Seattle Chinese Garden

photos by Dewey Webster
About a week ago  beautiful snow fell on Seattle - the Asian gardens look especially interesting under snow...  We haven't have anybody to take the pics in the Japanese Garden, but Dewey took a stroll in our sister-garden: the Seattle Chinese Garden 西华园  (Dewey is a docent in both Japanese and Chinese Gardens),  and he shared these images - thank you, Dewey!

Seattle Chinese Garden - 2/2017 - Main entry gate from inside Knowing the Spring Courtyard

Seattle Chinese Garden - 2/2017: The Welcome Garden welcomes the first snow. 

Seattle Chinese Garden - 2/2017 - Even the fish loves a snow day

Seattle Chinese Garden - 2/2017:
Snow falling on the peaks of the Stone Mountain in Knowing the Spring Court

For more of Dewey's pictures of snow in the Seattle Chinese Garden go to SeattleChineseGardenblog page.

Dewey is in California now, and this an image that he sent along the snowy pics above - YES, the cherry blossoms!  Coming up north, to Seattle soon!

2/19/17 - cherry blossoms in California - photo by Dewey Webster

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Kaguya-hime and other Japanese tales

by aleks
Our Japanese book club was recently reading 'Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye' by Marie Mutsuki Mockett.  It was the most excellent book to read and ponder about, and it caused a spirited discussion, but this post is not about the book itself, but something I found in it:  a story of The Moon Princess - a tale as well known in Japan as "Cinderella" or 'Thumbelina' are in America.

SJG • 12/20/16 - winter garden

The legend of Kaguya-hime, sometimes known as ‘The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter’ (繪入竹とり物語, Eiri Taketori monogatari), dates back to the 9th or 10th century, and is considered  the earliest surviving Japanese narrative.  There are many short and longer versions of the story of the tiny, beautiful baby girl that an old and poor bamboo-cutter found in the shiny stalk of bamboo on his way home one day.  The childless bamboo-cutter and his wife were overjoyed to raise her as her own and they named her Nayotake-no-Kaguya-hime, the Princess of the Bending Bamboo that Scatters Light.

From the day the bamboo-cutter found the girl, he had been finding a gold nugget inside every bamboo he cut.  In a comfortable, loving home Kaguya-hime grew up to to be a gorgeous young lady of extraordinary beauty and kindness and soon attracted many suitors, including the emperor of that time, who fell in love with her at first sight. But Kaguya Hime did not want to marry anyone.

I will leave aside here what happened to her suitors and jump to the part of one mid-autumn when the bamboo-cutter and his wife grew very concerned about their daughter erratic behavior: they would often find her looking at the moon with tears in her eyes. It was soon revealed  that Kaguya-hime came from the moon, that she doesn’t belong to this world and it was soon time for her to return there. That made everyone very sad.  The bamboo cutter did not want Kaguya Hime to leave and he asked samurais to protect her from the moon people.

Kaguya-hime gave parting gifts to her parents and to her friends, including the Emperor, whom she gave a letter and a small bottle of the Elixir of Life.   On the night of the full moon the moon people came and  took Kaguya-hime back to the moon. The samurai could not do anything.

Her parents were heartbroken, and so was the Emperor, who asked his people to burn Kaguya-hime's letter and her gift at the top of the highest mountain - immortality meant nothing to him without her. The tale has it that this mountain was then named "Fuji" which means "immortality". The smoke from Kaguya-hime's burned letter can still be seen subtly rising form the top of Mount Fuji...

Here is a nice English language illustrated pdf long (72 pages) version of the Moon Princess story translated by Clarence Calkins, 1994.

And there is a 'The Tale of The Princess Kaguya' from Studio Ghibli, 2013, trailer here:

Japanese folktales are very rich and offer a different view of the world than American ones. Some day I'd like to do a children's tour of our Garden where instead of the usual garden narrative I'd just take the children for a quiet stroll around, and stop on the bench here, grass there and in azumaya, and simply share with them Kaguya-hime story and a few others.  Being in a Japanese style garden and listening to real Japanese stories must be at least as interesting and educational as explanations about the look of the garden. Or maybe more. Some other stories I might tell on that tour: Momotaro (Peach Boy) and Yuki-onna (Snow Woman), but there many, many more to chose from.

SJG • 12/20/16 - Polytrichum or 'sugi' (cryptomeria) moss- one of the most prized in Japanese temples and gardens

For adults I have this recommendation  (also from  Marie Mutsuki Mockett's book mentioned at the beginning of the post):  'Dreams, Myths and Fairy Tales in Japan' by Professor Hayao Kawai,  which 'addresses Japanese culture insightfully, exploring the depths of the psyche from both Eastern and Western perspectives'  (Amazon description). I normally try not to link to Amazon, but the book has only review there and  it's hilariously bad - wonder if I'll agree after reading the book, which is a collection of psychoanalytic lectures.

Seattle Japanese Garden opens March 1st for the public • First Viewing Ceremony Sunday, March 5th, 2017