After First Viewing Shinto blessing ceremony on March 4th, the Seattle Japanese Garden is now open for the 2018 season. Visitors can now enjoy the Garden in the Washington Park Arboretum from noon until 5 p.m. on Mondays in March, and from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Hours extend until 6 p.m. in April, and 7 p.m. May through August. Admission is $4-8.

The opening ceremony started with representatives from Seattle Parks and Recreation offering a brief welcome to guests, followed by remarks from representatives of the Arboretum Foundation; the partner organizations that operate the Garden. Then, Reverend Koichi Barrish from the Tsubaki Grand Shrine proceeded with the First Viewing blessing ceremony.

As the first religion practiced in Japan (according to the Reverend), Shintoism is a very old practice based on the belief that spirit animates all living things. Therefore, this First Viewing blessing is meant to honor the spirit living in the garden’s water, trees and stones, which is known as kami.

By chanting and using an altar of offerings, the Reverend purified the surrounding energy. He asked visitors to unite with him in the ceremony by bowing during special parts of the ritual. There were three guests of honor who offered a camellia branch called tamagushi, to bless the new year. After all guests were given the opportunity to make a wish, Rev. Barrish splashed aromatic sake in four directions to conclude the ceremony.

“May the ceremony bring good fortune to the garden and everyone who visits it this year,” said Skip Vonckx, Japanese Garden Committee Chair, in his opening remarks.

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