The detour around the car show taking place on the streets of lovely, manicured City of Saratoga took seven minutes, making me exactly seven minutes late to the Japanese tea ceremony at Hakone Estate & Gardens (“the oldest Asian estate and garden in the Western Hemisphere”) to which I had paid a whopping $7 to attend. Sitting then mutely and uncomprehendingly through the ceremony itself, my thoughts drifted to nothing in particular. (“Boy, they bow a lot in these things. How do people with bad backs in Japan deal with this constant bowing?”.) Being late, I also had to rush. Eat the sweets. Drink the tea (bitter, bitter, bitter). Nod in befuddlement. Chop, chop. The saving grace of the entire ceremony was our host’s humor. “A Japanese tea ceremony is characterized by one thing. Being appropriate” he told us, after first informing us how bad the tea, the tea utensils, the tatami mats and all the rest of the materials on which we’re sitting, from which we’re drinking, with which are being used to prepare our matcha are. I nodded, and wondered how many times I would’ve to commit seppuku already for all my inappropriate thoughts, clothing, gestures, and eyeing of the company. Then a wad of $100 bills — no exaggeration — fell out of my host’s kimono, and I was both comforted and bothered by the fact that my seppuku wouldn’t have been the lone one that day.
Tea ceremony over. Back outside in the sun. Back in the gardens that I had paid $7 for admission. I began to enjoy myself tremendously after my camera died from its uncharged battery and I was relieved from snapping photo after photo. (“For the blog,” I told myself, clicking away earlier when the clicking still elicited some response from the camera.) So I’ve hardly any pictures, but here’s got I got for you.
Despite my poor photos, Hakone is a lovely space, much more relaxed than the exquisite, if super miniaturized and tightly controlled Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco Golden Gate Park.
And speaking of that garden, I had wanted to do a photo-comparison between the two since I also had photos from an earlier visit to the San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden. Alas, the operative word there is “had”. So I haven’t any photos. Ditto for Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden in Vancouver. Ditto for the Japanese garden at the Huntington Library, which was closed for renovations when I was there (plus I forgot my camera on that trip anyway). After much searching on my desktop, here’s a photo from Fioli, however.