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Tea Garden

A Japanese tea garden (cha-niwa or roji) is a place for quiet reflection on the beauty of nature and the art of living in harmony with one another and with all things. Amid a wooded setting, a pathway with carefully placed stepping stones and lanterns leads through the rustic garden to the teahouse. The gardens are designed to present a peaceful, natural space that serves as an interval—both in space and time—a place to detach oneself from the hectic everyday world before entering the teahouse and the tranquil world of chanoyu (tea ceremony). This spiritual and aesthetic practice focuses on achieving a heightened awareness of the beauty of the present moment through the simple act of sharing a bowl of tea with friends in a tranquil setting.

The tea garden consists of a pathway (roji) that leads to Kashintei (Flower-Heart Tea House), connecting inner and outer gardens, separated by a simple bamboo gate. The outer garden path (soto-roji) leads guests to the machiai (waiting place), until the host greets them and invites them to enter the inner garden path (uchi-roji). Here guests pause at the tsukubai (arrangement of stones around a water basin) to rinse their hands and mouth, symbolically removing the dust of the real world behind. The path through the gardens represents a journey that is so important to the creation of the proper state of mind for the tea ceremony that the word roji has become synonymous with tea gardens themselves.

The Tea House

Kashintei (literally “Flower-Heart Room”) is the name of our Tea House. The structure was made in Japan by master craftsmen employed by Kajima Construction Company. It was constructed using wooden pegs rather than metal nails, in the style of traditional structures in Japan. Kashintei was dedicated on June 1, 1968. Tea houses are composed of several strictly defined spaces. There is an anteroom (mizuya) where the utensils for the ceremony are readied beforehand. The actual sitting room (zashiki) is where the tea ceremony is performed. There are mats (tatami) on the floor; in fact, Japanese rooms are measured by the number of tatami they contain.

While our Tea House is an authentic structure, it is also unusual as it has walls of sliding papered doors (shoji) around the tatami mat area, a surrounding slate floor, and outer walls of sliding doors, making it useful for tea demonstrations as well as tea gatherings in our Garden. Most tea houses are 4.5 tatami mats or smaller and are enclosed by solid walls with very small, paper-covered windows. Most have a tiny door that requires guests to crawl into the inner space. The sense of enclosure and intimacy help the participants focus on each other and the tea ceremony.

Kashintei Tea House is small, as most tea gardens are, built historically in urban environments. Yet the experience of walking through the roji to the tea house was meant to give a sense of traveling a considerable distance: out of the city and deep into the mountains to the hermitage. As the guest walks the winding path, all his cares drop away. He arrives at the tea room composed and serene.

This garden itself was renewed in 1998-99. Artifacts were relocated and a new fence was installed. Renovation was conducted in collaboration with a Japanese landscape consultant and members of local tea schools. The tea garden is appropriately more rustic than most other garden styles. This is particularly evident in the use of naturally shaped stepping stones. Tea gardens were the first kind of garden in which stepping stones and lanterns were used.