Posted in Kafevend Blog
We've spent several blogs looking at the inner workings of Chadō, the Japanese tea ceremony, so let's move outside and wander into the tea garden. Typically the garden is a relatively small area, carefully planned, grown and tended. It is secluded from the cut and thrust of the outside world and plays an important role in providing a peaceful environment for the guests to stroll through, calming their minds before the tea ceremony itself.
One of the most well known Japanese tea gardens outside Japan is situated within San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. There are a number of tea gardens in the USA, but this is the oldest public one. It began life in 1894 as a Japanese village exhibit for a world fair, namely the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. The exhibit was funded and designed by Makoto Hagiwara, a landscape designer and member of the Japanese nobility who had settled in the USA. Once the fair was over an agreement was reached that Hagiwara could turn the exhibit into a Japanese style tea garden. A thousand Japanese flowering cherry trees were imported along with many other plants, birds, goldfish and statues to create an authentic experience.
Hagiwara lived there with his family, maintaining the garden for many decades, until events at Pearl Harbour in December 1941 lead to the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942. The garden was renamed the Oriental tea garden, but without constant care and attention soon became rather dishevelled. Hagiwara wasn't allowed to return after the war, though order was restored to the garden over time, as was its original name in 1952.
The garden is a favourite with locals and visitors alike. The carefully tended plant life set alongside winding paths, tea house, pagoda, arched bridges and koi ponds make it a popular yet peaceful area within the wider park. Like the tea gardens in Japan that it emulates, it gives people a chance to reconnect with nature in a tranquil space and there's always a cup of tea to be had from the tea house in the centre of it all.