We at Tozy Tea have wanted to help bring attention to one of Saginaw County's cultural treasures, the Japanese tea gardens, for a long time. Their mission is "to promote intercultural understanding and peace through a bowl of tea." If you enjoy tea and its culture we think you'll enjoy this series.
For our first installment about the Japanese Cultural Center, Tea House and Gardens of Saginaw we’ll cover the beauty of the physical layout. We’ll concentrate on the garden itself. In future installments, we’ll discuss the tea we had and the people we met in the teahouse itself, as well as some of the history of the Sister City relationship between Saginaw, Michigan and Tokushima, Japan. We want to develop the story by giving you a feel for the setting.
First, there is a bit of a trick to getting to the tea gardens. The address is listed as 527 Ezra Rust Dr. in Saginaw, but that is the main gate, which works only for pedestrians. The parking lot entrance is on the South Washington side of the gardens, across Washington from the Saginaw Children’s Zoo.
When you enter the garden you leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind. The purpose of the garden is to create a sense of serenity. Although by American standards the garden is not a large open space (only 3 acres), it feels open because each element has its own space while still working in harmony with the surrounding elements. As Mr. Yataro Suzue, the Japanese designer stated: "beauty is not trickery, not illusion ... but arranging elements like trees, water and rocks in a way that there is no crowding, no competition for attention."
For example, many of the well-trimmed trees stand alone. You can appreciate their beauty, colors and shapes for their own sake. Sometimes, however, you’ll find a stone lamp together with a plant like a Japanese yew bush. The stone lamps can be used to hold candles to light the garden at night. That alone would be worth a return trip to see.
We were fortunate to find many of the trees in bloom. I’m pretty sure this is a Japanese dogwood (cornus kousa).
Here’s a good example of how several elements work together. Here we have the fence line, both mature and young trees, and a lamp welcoming visitors at the parking lot.
Another feature we found curious were the rock garden formations. Here, we have a Japanese yew surrounded by small pebbles and larger rocks. The pebbles and rocks, we are told, symbolize the sea, with the waves breaking on the larger rocks. We appreciate the deep relationship that the people of a seafaring, island nation like Japan must have to the ocean.
The southeast side of the garden is mostly open, with smaller trees allowing the sun to shine through. The central part of the garden creates a different mood. Here you’ll find large shade trees that give the trail a cool and relaxing vibe. Here’s Heidi finding her way down the trail, note the contrast between light and dark.
The trail opens up as you approach Lake Linton, which is really just the Saginaw River between Ojibway Island and the south bank. On the lake, you’ll find a Japanese style place to relax. We find another stone lamp, bench, and Asian trees arranged around the lakeside. In addition, the white stones are arranged together with the trees to create and interesting and calming atmosphere.
Next time, we’ll show you the Japanese gazebo and the teahouse itself. We’ll also post some photos of some of the things around the teahouse to bring a bit of Japan to mid-Michigan. We can then introduce you to the interior of the teahouse and our gracious hosts.
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