More pictures from California!
As I mentioned, Nick and I had a very enjoyable time visiting the town he grew up in. California might be part of America but sometime it feels worlds away from the East coast- and this of course, is a good thing. One big difference that I noticed right away, is the large presence of Asian cultures. The Chinatown in downtown SF is probably 10 times bigger than the one in Boston and there are so many more shops, restaurants, and especially enjoyably- gardens, to explore. One of these, being right in Nicks hometown.
The San Mateo Central Park boasts a beautiful Japanese tea garden that we enjoyed on our visit. It was so quiet and relaxing, and one of those hidden gems that if you didn’t know it was there, you might walk right past it (and it was free!). The garden was designed by Nagao Sakurai, the landscape architect of Tokyo’s Imperial Palace.
After visiting I did a little research (of course) on some of the traditional elements of a tea garden. Japanese gardens are almost always fenced in, with a decorative gate for an entrance. The fence acts as a protective boundary from the outside world, and defines the peaceful, contemplative space.
All tea gardens feature water like a small pond or brook- it is the most important design element. The water features are laid out to attract good fortune, and everything from the flow of the water, to the shape of the pond has significance. The “sea” will always have some sort of inaccessible island, representing a utopia or sacred place of everlasting happiness. These sacred islands may also represent shumisen, the legendary mountain on which Buddha was believed to have lived. Koi are a common decorative element in the water.
Stone lanterns, like the one in the top right are also a common feature. The piece touching the ground represents chi, the earth; the next section represents sui, or water; ka or fire, is represented by the section encasing the lantern’s light or flame, while fū (air) and kū (void or spirit) are represented by the last two sections, top-most and pointing towards the sky.
The wooden bridge is another important element. An arched bridge over the water reflects a complete circle and the journey across represents the path to immortality.
The structure in the top right here is a shinden. It is a shrine to ancient spirits. This one was gifted to the city of San Mateo from their Sister City, Toyonaka, Japan, as a gift of friendship marking the 25th anniversary of the Garden.
The tea garden featured a Zen garden, with rocks and sand- these are designed for meditation and contemplation (kicking myself for not snapping a picture!) There was also a tea house, or chashitsu (again kicking myself) for traditional ceremonies and contemplation.
As we walked through I can say I truly enjoyed every aspect of the well thought out garden. It was a perfect was to enjoy a morning coffee and I hope someday we are able to return! Have you ever been to a Japanese Garden? What was your favorite part?
“The Secret Garden was what Mary called it when she was thinking of it. She liked the name, and she liked still more the feeling that when its beautiful old walls shut her in no one knew where she was. It seemed almost like being shut out of the world in some fairy place. The few books she had read and liked had been fairy-story books, and she had read of secret gardens in some of the stories. Sometimes people went to sleep in them for a hundred years, which she had thought must be rather stupid. She had no intention of going to sleep, and, in fact, she was becoming wider awake every day which passed at Misselthwaite.” – Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden