First Viewing: The Garden Blessed for 2018

Photo credit: Aurora Santiago

Photo credit: Aurora Santiago

The garden is now officially open for 2018 visitors! The First Viewing Shinto blessing ceremony, held on March 4 under a pale blue sky and the warm glow of morning light, ushered in auspicious ki energy and invited in blessings to the garden and to every person in attendance.

After brief welcome remarks from representatives from Seattle Parks and Recreation as well as the Arboretum Foundation--the two organizations that operate Seattle Japanese Garden together in partnership--Reverend Koichi Barrish of Tsubaki Grand Shrine addressed the crowd.

May the ceremony bring good fortune to the garden and everyone who visits it this year.
— Skip Vonckx

According to Rev. Barrish, Shintoism predates all religions practiced in Japan, dating back to times where the prevailing belief was that all living things are animated by spirit. The First Viewing blessing ceremony is conducted to honor that spirit, known as kami, living in the garden: in the water, in the trees, and in the stones.

Facing an altar full of offerings and auspicious objects placed on the moon viewing platform, the reverend chanted as he purified the energy around him. Visitors were asked to bow slightly during certain portions, uniting the crowd in a reverent hush. Three guests of honor offered tamagushi, a branch of camellia, as they made wishes for a blessed new year in the garden. Each participant was offered a chance to make a wish of their own before Rev. Barrish concluded the ceremony with a dramatic splash of aromatic sake in four directions.

With the conclusion of First Viewing, the 2018 season begins in earnest, with unfurling foliage, rhododendron blooms, and a series of new First Thursday and Family Saturday programming right around the corner. As Japanese Garden Committee Chair Skip Vonckx said in his opening remarks, "May the ceremony bring good fortune to the garden and everyone who visits it this year.”