Trentham NWR has been fortunate this year – with Japan as our themed country – to have had Chitose Ikawa from Tokyo as a member of our group while she was here studying at Keele. Nearing the end of Chitose’s year in the UK a few of us took her to Tatton Park to visit the famous Japanese Garden. Built by Japanese craftsmen in 1910 for the 3rd Lord Egerton it features acers, azaleas, water irises, a tea house and a Shinto shrine. Our guide walked us through explaining each item and its meaning, pointing out essential components such as the sacred fox Inari in his red bib, a turtle, water, bridges, stepping stones and zigzag paths to fool the devil.
Chitose has joined in many events this year with great interest. At our Japanese evening she treated us to a demonstration of her tea ceremony skills, talked about Satsuma ware, explained the purpose of an obi and admired a member’s holiday photos of Tokyo. In Japan much is made of the cherry blossom each spring and the custom of ‘Hanami’ or ‘flower viewing’ is a social event helped by blossom forecasts along with weather forecasts each day to enable the viewing to take place when they look their best. So one evening in May we walked the campus at Keele to see their National Collection of Japanese flowering cherries – our own ‘Hanami’. There was an illuminating meeting when each researched a famous Japanese person and contributions ranged from Issey Miyake to Hayao Miyazaki via Haruki Murakami and Shoji Hamada, while Chitose introduced us to the film director Naomi Kawase.
In our book group we have read four books by Japanese authors and also watched a DVD (with subtitles of course). Our discussions were always enhanced by Chitose’s perspective.
This is just a short version of what we have done but Chitose has written her own account of the year from her point of view, which you will be able to read in the autumn issue of NWR Magazine.