05 August, 2009


One of the things I love best about Seattle is the Japanese Garden at the Washington Park Arboretum. This is probably because I'm a sucker for Japanese gardens and most things Japanese in general.

They hold a Moon Viewing event there every August. I've missed out on it till now. This year, my intrepid explorer friend and I trekked there, and I can happily report that if you're in the Seattle area for the next one, you should absolutely make a point of going.

Amble with me through the garden. We'll stop by the waterfall first:

Good job for something man-made, eh?

They lined the paths with luminarias and hung rice paper lamps from the trees:

After dark, it became very obvious that these were no mere decorations.

One of the best spots in the garden is the wisteria arbor:

I did a fair bit of lingering in the shade, with a good view of all the goings-on in the orchard.

Up above the reflecting pool, they had the telescopes set up:

Members of the Seattle Astronomical Society kindly provided the telescopes, moon maps, and an up-close view of the moon. We got to see where the Apollo missions landed, which was a delight. If only they could've snuck Lowell Observatory's 44-inch telescope up here...

We probably should've spent more time soaking up the music and dances in the orchard, but I was having too much fun gawking at telescopes and taking artistic shots through one of the cloud tree pines instead:

Eventually, we did see some performance art, even if from a distance at first. This is the Jongara, a folk dance with fans depicting natural scenes:

And here we have Yasuko Honjo Harris performing on the shinobue (transverse Japanese bamboo flute):

That sound floated over the entire garden, haunting and lovely. There's nothing quite like a simple bamboo flute for setting the right tone for a moon-viewing.

Unless, of course, it's Taketori Monogatari, "The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter," one of Japan's oldest folk tales. Naho Shioya, with William Satake doing sound effects, told it wonderfully:

It's one of those outrageously-complicated magical stories that just begs for a movie with Ken Watanabe and Chow Yun Fat. If there's one moral to take away, it's this: men are complete idiots where mysterious beautiful women are involved.

At last, the sun went down, and the moon glowed over the garden. My poor little POS camera couldn't catch the enchantment of that moment, but it tried:

What you have to imagine is a nearly-full moon with its dark seas clearly visible, and a little tinge of red-orange on its edge, set between the trees like a gem in a sapphire sky. It completely transformed the garden.

While the moon set, the volunteers launched little boats all ablaze with candles:

And what better song to suit these things than Karaya, Moon Viewing?

Let's go together to see
the full moon today.
Even the sea wind must be
thinking of tonight's moon.

The clouds have been blown away
to let the moon shine beautifully.

Now we've enjoyed tonight's full moon,
let us go back.
My sweetheart might be

waiting for me by now.

Kinda have to have a sweetheart in order for that to happen. Hey, at least the cat'll be thrilled to see me.

Or not.

She's probably just jealous. After all, she didn't get to go see the moon float over the Japanese Garden.

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