Momiji-en’s much anticipated visit by members of the Japanese Garden Society of the United Kingdom came and went without a hitch. The weather (at the last minute) cooperated with 72 degree warmth and a bright, lightly overcast afternoon. No umbrellas, no heavy clothing, just comfortable attire and leisurely timing to explore.
Arriving about noon, the group comprised 21 visitors. Eight of us “locals” were their hosts. All participants engaged immediately with conversations about sukiya living and about our home and garden. Among our guests were doctors, teachers, a nurse, a bricklayer, artists, an architect, public servants, and even a noblewoman, each embracing passion for things Japanese from netsuke and Japanese maples, to sukiya architecture and tea culture.
After a warm welcome and distribution of name tags, we began separate group tours: inside to explore Momiji-en interior with its associated garden views, and outside to introduce each of the prototype gardens that make up our kaiyushiki teien stroll garden.
After the short tours, we convened under cover of our great pavilion and served lunch at a 24-foot long communal table that was dressed in green linens and adorned with seasonal flowers. While we enjoyed panini sandwiches, salads, chips, seasonal cupcakes, and cold beverages, Momiji-en hosts fielded a variety of sukiya-related questions.
Tour members then seized their “free time” to return to favorite garden places to contemplate and make photographs. I prepared Momiji-en sencha tea and, in turn, hosted groups of four or five guests in the tea house. Together, we shared our home grown and processed tea along with unique tea house views and sounds of the Natural Garden.
Finally, near 4 p.m., we all returned to the pavilion to say our good-byes. Gwil made group photographs to document the day’s happy participants. As each boarded their tour bus, we presented our departing guests with special Momiji-en “goodie bags” containing Japanese edible treats, a printed resource guide including bibliography, our plant palette, and a glossary. We also included, as a souvenir, a 22-page photo book of Momiji-en that we made especially for the occasion.
As our guests boarded the tour bus, seated themselves, and prepared to leave Momiji-en, our eight-person host group quickly lined up facing the side of the bus. We stood at attention, then slowly bowed in unison, a farewell to our honored guests, and slowly rose together again to be rewarded by seeing a bus full of smiling faces and applauding guests standing pressed against the windows. Sayonara, new friends!
Our gift to them was humbly given, graciously accepted, and returned in full.