This is my first experience of a proper Japanese Garden, and it was at the Shirotori Garden, where previously the closest I got to see one was a bonsai garden. This garden was designed to represent paths running along the banks of streams and ponds. The man-made mound is meant to represent Mt Ontake, the second highest volcano in Japan, and the stream running through the gardens is the Kiso River. The garden is typical of a Japanese design where it is a miniature of what an ideal garden should look like. The area is about 3.7 hectares, but it was very pleasant to walk around. As with any Japanese gardens it had a Seiu-tei (tea ceremony complex) consisting of a tea ceremony house and a Shioiri-tei (tea room). This was one main reason why I visited this garden today as it was the Spring Romanticism event, one of the few annual special events the garden holds. They have special tea ceremonies, markets and a garden concert. I did enjoy a short cut version of a tea ceremony – I sat down and got served my Mancha and sweet. The proper tea ceremony takes up to 3 hours and I came in the middle of one (and I didn’t make a booking!) nonetheless, I enjoyed my Mancha and sweet. Tea ceremonies dates as far back as the 9th century. I am also reading The Way of the Tea by Aaron Fisher, which tells about the history and stories of tea. It is an interesting read and lets me understand where this sublime practice of enjoying such a simple beverage originated.
The tea ceremony for the public was at the Shioiri-tei (tea room) in an open garden. The Seiu-tei (tea ceremony house) was a beautiful complex of tea rooms designed after an image of a swan “Shirotori” flying down to rest it wings.
All around the garden elements typical of a Japanese garden such as stone lanterns, basins, bridges, rocks and sand, trees and water are visible.
As it was the 5th of May, Kodomo-no-hi is celebrated all over Japan and there would be fish banners hanging from apartment balconies, houses, temples and here at the park.
I had a most relaxing, wonderful day at the Shirotori Garden. Mental note to self, I must come back in Autumn, when all the Japanese maples change colours as well as for a proper tea ceremony.