Season opens for Seattle's beloved Japanese Garden

The Japanese Garden at the Washington Park Arboretum offi cially reopened for the 2008 season on Tuesday, March 4, with an opening ceremony and blessing on Sunday, March 2.

The opening ceremonies included a Shinto blessing of the garden, as well as a newly renovated water feature. The Seattle Kokon Taiko drum group fi lled the garden with traditional percussion sounds.

According to Thomas Hargrave, assistant coordinator, the Japanese Garden offers a landscape that has been shaped in culturally significant ways.

"The garden is a park site in an old tradition, a place where you can go and be introspective," said Hargrave.

The 3.5-acre formal garden was designed and constructed by Juki Iida, world-renowned Japanese garden designer, in 1960. The garden boasts its own, fully functional tea house where chado or "The Way of Tea" demonstrations are offered. A variety of visitors spend time in the Japanese Garden, from tourists to Seattleites who have season passes and come often to see the garden change from month to month, said Hargrave.

"Our garden is very colorful and with many different types of plants. It changes from one month to the next," Hargrave said.

Free tours are conducted by docents on Saturdays and Sundays at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m., as well as on Wednesdays at 12:30 p.m. from April through October.

Additionally, from May through August, a fourth weekly tour is offered on Mondays at 12:30 p.m. A docent is a guide and a source of information to visitors, who conducting tours, aid in arts and crafts, as well as directing guests. All docents are volunteers, Hargrave said."We couldn't do what we do without our docents."

Vandals in paradise

Over the last 10 years there have been a few random acts of vandalism to the garden, said Dewey Potter, manager of the Seattle Parks and Recreation public information department (see this month's police report, Page 7). The Rev. Koichi Barrish performs a Shinto blessing of the garden for the 2008 season at the opening ceremony of the Japanese Garden was Sunday March 2nd. According to Potter, since 1998, there have been 17 incidents of graffi ti, six cuts in the fence around the garden, an incident of damaged turf and a few rope-cutting incidents.

"It's not that much really," said Potter. "Seattle Parks and Recreation does everything they can do to prevent and respond to incidents of vandalism. Either the public or staff can call a work-order hotline, where a crew chief dispatches a crew to deal with incidents."

The respective staffs of the Japanese Garden and Seattle Parks and Recreation try to respond to all vandalism incidents within 48 hours of a report in order to preserve the area's landscape.

"It's the most beautiful place we have in the spring," Potter said.

CHARLES CADWALLADER may be reached via

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