The Lanterns of Roji-en

Toro (literally “light basket” or “light tower”) originated, like many elements of traditional Japanese architecture, in China. Originally, lanterns were only used in Japan to line the paths of  Buddhists temples. Stone lanterns were eventually popularized during the Momoyama period (1568-1600) by tea masters, who used them to decorate their gardens.

Many different types of lanterns can be found throughout Roji-en. Some are strategically placed just downstream from a waterfall, overlooking a water feature, or lining a path, but all serve mostly as decoration. Here are a few common styles of stone lanterns found in Roji-en, and where to look for them.

Kasuga-doro.  This lantern is a tachi-gata, or pedestal type, and represented a guardian at the entrances of temples or tea gardens. Kasuga-doro lanterns can be seen around the South Gate, Challenger Point, the Yamato-kan bridge and Yamato Island.

Challenger

Rokkaku Yukimi.  This lantern is known as the “snow-viewing” lantern.  The upturned roof catches snow, inviting viewers to appreciate a garden in a season when most gardens are frozen. This type of lantern can be found at the Modern Garden overlooking the pond.

Yukimi

KotojiKotoji means “harp tuner.”  The two legs of this lantern resemble the tuning forks of the koto, a quintessential Japanese instrument.  One leg of the lantern stands on land while the other dips into the water, reflecting the interdependence of land and water.  A kotoji lantern can also be referred to as a “wet foot-dry foot” lantern.  This type of lantern can be seen in our Modern Garden creek.

kotoji

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Q&A with the Curator: Who’s Genji?

Our current exhibit Genji’s World Through Japanese Woodblock Prints is open and ready for your visit, but some of you may be wondering – Who is Genji? We sat down with Curator of Collections, Veljko Dujin, to answer just that, and some of those other burning questions you might want answers to before visiting us. Here’s what we learned:

Who is/was Genji?

 Prince Genji, also known as Hikaru Genji, or the Shining Prince Genji,  was the fictitious son of an Emperor and his favorite concubine. Ever since Murasaki Shikibu wrote the novel The Tale of Genji, he’s been a popular figure in Japanese literature, theater and art.

 Why is Genji, and the Tale of Genji, such an important part of Japanese culture?

 Over time the popularity of Genji broadened from the Imperial court to the broader public. Parts of the novel originally appeared around the year 1008, and by Murasaki Shikibu’s  death (around the year 1025) the work was made into its final form of about 54 chapters.  The novel’s influence has long out-lived its author who was cruicial in developing Japanese as a written language. In fact, The Tale of Genji became required reading for court poets as early as the 12th century, and she has been highly regarded as a classical writer ever since. Murasaki had a lasting impact on Japanese literature, culture and art that hinged on this novel.

 What can guests expect to see in our Genji exhibit?

Woodblock prints. There are many great prints in this exhibit from some of the best known 19th century artists. By the 19th century Genji monogatari (or Genji epics) were tremendously popular in Japan, and while in the centuries prior many fine pieces of art were produced with scenes from the tale, most were one-of-a-kind paintings, either in the form of hand-scrolls, screens, accordion albums or scrolls. With woodblock prints, they were made available to the masses.

In the 1820’s a parody, originally published as a serial (several of the booklets are on display) called A Rustic Genji by Fradulent Murasaki, generated so much interest in Genji monogatari, that well over 1000 different prints were produced in the following decades. These prints depict scenes from both the original Genji and Ryutai Tanehiko’s 1820’s parody.

 Is there anything our guests should look for specifically (i.e. certain symbolism, images, or deeper meanings) in these prints?

 There are layers of symbolism in the Genji prints, so one has to be very familiar with the novels to be able to understand some of the subtle implications in some of the prints. In a few prints, however, viewers can see Genji-mon or Genji crests, which are rectilinear groupings of 5 vertical lines and one or two horizontal lines at the top. These were developed to correspond to each of the 54 chapters in the original novel, and are often placed on prints. They were commonly used in shell matching games where players try to match the two halves of a shell. One half  of the shell would have a Genji mon (like the ones on the prints) and the other half would have either a verse or an image from the corresponding chapter in The Tale of Genji.

 Which is your favorite piece in this exhibit and why?

 That would be two prints depicting the winter pastimes of  some ladies in waiting at the court. They are making a snow-rabbit in one and snow-frog in the other. I really like this particular print because it alludes to fun tradition that goes along with making these snow-creatures in the winter. Generally bets were placed on how long before the snow sculpture defrosted, or if they made two, like in this print, which one would last longer. 

 Anything else?

 Please come and see the exhibit, it is a great collection, seldom seen! We’ll also be hosting a lecture as part of our Speaker Series with Sarah Thompson of MFA, Boston. She’ll be speaking specifically about how Genji was translated to art and the Kabuki stage on April 17th. Don’t forget to check out Keeping in Touch: Culture of letter-writing in Japan, the other exhibit we have on display now, for some interesting artifacts, letters and more. 

Kunisada Woodblock Print, Genji's World Through Japanese Woodblock Prints at Morikami

 

Share the Good News!

We’re thrilled to announce that Delray Subaru has officially signed on as the Presenting Sponsor for Lantern Festival 2013! We’re asking our fans to spread the word by sharing our Saturday announcement on Facebook and in return, one lucky someone will snag some serious Morikami and Delray Subaru prizes. Here’s what’s up for grabs from yours truly:

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  • A pair of tickets to Lantern Festival, our sure-to-sell-out fall celebration coming up Saturday, October 19
  • Two signature Morikami fans, water bottles, mugs, and tote bags
  • $10 worth of festival food and beverage tickets and $10 to spend at the Cornell Café

And Delray Subaru didn’t skimp on their end either; they’ve offered up a FREE car spa package that includes the following, whether or not you drive a Subaru:

  • Detail service
  • Oil and filter change
  • Wash and wax

Gotten this far? It’ll take you a lot less time to enter to win! Visit our Facebook page this weekend to share our Delray Subaru sponsorship announcement and cross your fingers and toes till Monday. And if it’s not your lucky day, don’t despair: Lantern Fest giveaways will pop up till the big day right here on our blog, on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (as if you needed another reason to stay in touch!)

Got your tickets yet? Lantern Fest tickets WILL sell out and prices go up in just a few short weeks. Snag yours here to play it safe, and give the ones you win to your two favorite people. However you get there, we can’t wait to celebrate with you in October!

We Want You!

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to go behind the scenes at a Morikami festival, or if you’re searching for a fun way to give back, search no further – volunteering at Lantern Festival gets you Morikami insider status and most of all, supports yours truly!

Volunteer responsibilities range from lantern building to helping out in the galleries and everything in between. We’re looking for individuals, small groups and large groups to help us make Lantern Festival a success. Volunteers are the backbone of our programs and events, so we thank you in advance for being such an integral part in this celebration.

Want to see what you’re in for? Check out the gallery below for snapshots of our volunteers in action and head over to our festival volunteer page to fill out an application. We’ll see you in October!

 

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Memories of Bon – A Festival like No Other

After so many years, it’s hard to recall when the memories were made exactly, but the images remain like postcards from the Morikami in my mind… Every summer, the Morikami closes for one Saturday in August to open in the late afternoon for Obon, the cultural celebration that welcomes back spirits who have passed away for an evening of fun and music.

At the end of the festival, lanterns inscribed with messages to the spirits are set adrift on Morikami Pond, sending the loved ones back to the afterworld, as fireworks light the way.

This year, Bon is August 14 from 4-9 p.m. at the Morikami. If you have never been, wear comfy shoes and clothes, arrive early and marvel at the mix of humanity – because everyone goes to Bon sooner or later. Buy tickets at www.morikami.org/bon

Here are a few of my favorite recollections of Obon:

Bon Memory #1: Dancing in front of the Bon Odori stage with the kimono-clad Chitose Kai dancers should make you feel somewhat idiotic, but it doesn’t. The dancers are so elegant, and they’re all smiling at you, which makes you feel like you’re doing it right – even though you just learned the steps. Just step and wave, step and wave, step and wave…

Bon Memory #2: Standing at the base of the steps leading up to the Museum and the Cornell Café, pondering whether you want a meal with an eggroll from the Café or a piece of meat on a stick with Japanese beer from the fun, food vendors. Roll or stick, roll or stick, roll or stick…

Bon Memory #3: Just how warm and sticky can it get in South Florida on an August evening outside?? The world may never know, but you’re close to finding out…

Bon Memory #4: Seeing the message to your late aunt written on a lantern sleeve floating on the water among the many other lanterns, as you think you “feel” her in the air…

Bon Memory #5: A little boy sits motionless on his father’s shoulders watching the lantern-spirits float away, then tilts his head back and takes in the fireworks, still motionless, in little boy awe.

Bon Odori dancers

Bon lanterns

Obon fireworks

Nuptials in Nature, Morikami Does it Well

Years ago, a friend of mine got married at the Morikami.

If you’ve ever been to a wedding, overlooking Morikami Pond, surrounded by nature’s decorations, you know how it is. It’s gorgeous, a little sweaty and totally unique. The birds are chirping quietly, the water is moving gently, the breeze is blowing slowly, as you watch your best friend connect with his/her love, hopefully for the rest of their lives.

There is definitely something magical about being married among nature.

Granted, it’s a little scary. Rain? Bugs? Noise? Allergies? Yep. Yep. Yep and Yep. All definite possibilities. The sun may be a bit too bright that day or the heat too oppressive, for sure. You worry about stuff like hairdos falling and grooms sweating out of their expensive tuxedos.

But when it all goes right (or when nothing big goes wrong, depending upon your point of view), absolutely nothing beats a wondrous sunset, the twinkling of the night sky, or a robin’s egg-blue sky with a lovely breeze swaying the bamboos just so. Because nature never repeats.

Every time, it’s  different, special, one of a kind. I’ve been to the Morikami so many times, but I will always remember Erin and Kevin’s wedding. She was beautiful. He was handsome. And the evening was perfect, as the Morikami gardens put on a special show.

This is the season for weddings. Despite the humidity, temperatures, flying skeeters and biting gnats, couples are still tying the knot at the Morikami Falls, Morikami Pond, on the bridge  or under the trees.  If you’re invited to a summer, Morikami wedding, wear cotton or linen, a simple up-do and light makeup — then consider yourself lucky.

Because then you’ll know how it is. Just amazing.

A wedding at the Morikami, nothing like it

So unique, so natural, so Morikami

Posing on Morikami's bridge...

Next Month, Make A Wish Upon a Star…

OK, wishing on a star is a Disney theme, I know. But it is very fitting for a romantic (but not mushy) pastime at the Morikami.

From July 7-14, a bamboo tree will be in the museum lobby for visitors to decorate with their wishes written on colored paper streamers, or tanzaku, which symbolize the weaving of threads. Tanabata is a week of wishing, so to speak, for anything you want the Universe to receive. The activity is sweet and romantic if you know a bit about the back story –

Tanabata originated more than 2,000 years ago with an old Chinese tale called Kikkoden. Once there was a weaver princess named Orihime and a cow herder prince named Hikoboshi living in space. After they got together, they were playing all the time and forgot about their jobs. The king was angry at them and separated them on opposite sides of the Amanogawa River (Milky Way).

The king allowed them to meet only once a year on July 7th. This is why tanabata is also known as the star festival. It’s believed that Orihime and Hikoboshi can’t see each other if July 7th is rainy, so people pray for good weather and also make wishes for themselves.

To hang a wish is free and filled with tradition and another reason to swing by the Morikami this summer. There are so many cool stories behind Japanese traditions it makes you wonder if Walt Disney grabbed the idea of wishing on a star from another culture.

Things that make you say “Hmmmm……”

Make a Wish Upon a Tree at the Morikami

We Never Get Tired of Toys!

The new exhibit at the Morikami, which runs through October 17, is a throwback to a simpler, gentler time, when monsters came in the form of giant lizards or creatures from outer space that tore up cities with their giant feet and laser rays.

What fun!

Kaijū! Monster Invasion! features more than 100 toy figurines from the 60s, 70s, and 80s, inspired by Japanese tokusatsu films and TV shows. Remember Godzilla terrorizing the people, as they ran from his fire-breathing wrath? Before the days of 3D animation, CGI and other digital effects, it was a stuntman, in what was probably a really hot rubber suit, moving about on a miniature set. Back then, the special effects were called tokusatsu eiga, typically using an fx technique called sutsumeishon, or suitmation.

While my teenage sons might not be impressed by it, it seemed real enough and scary enough to me. (I was born in 1968; you do the math.)

The popularity of the show, which opened June 1, is already evidenced by the 100-plus hits the Morikami’s video  garnered on YouTube in only three days. Visitors, bloggers and sci-fi lovers are appreciating the loveable charm of Kaijū! Monster Invasion!

I mean, seriously, who gets tired of toys? No matter the age or gender, everyone can relate to a good, plastic action figure ready to tear apart the city in your imagination. The show is actually part of one person’s extensive, private collection, so just consider it playtime with culture – over at the house of the friend who has the really good toy box.

To see Tom Gregersen, senior curator of the Morikami, explain the delightful allure of Kaijū! Monster Invasion!, click here.

Kaiju! Monsters!

Decorating in Small Spaces

In a garden as large and as varied as the Roji-En, it can be very easy to overlook a small patch that is not as pretty as it could be …

But the staff that maintains and grooms the Morikami gardens aren’t into overlooking things, even a space as small as 10′ x 5′. Instead, they re-imagined such a space into a spot of inspiration and beauty.

In the Nelson Memorial Garden, there is now a lovely raked rock garden where there used to be only potential.  Staff used three existing small boulders, added a stone border and about a cubic yard of fine pea gravel — a feat easily replicated in a home garden or backyard for those looking for a project.

The staff finished its garden just in time for the Morikami’s Mother’s Day program, and it’s now available for admirers all summer long. Just like any other designer with a space too small to be elaborate but too big to ignore, the garden staff decided on its own to make the most of the area by using elements consistent with the rest of the Roji-En, designed by Hoichi Kurisu.

Visitors can find the new addition between the Modern Garden and South Gate of Roji-En. As it’s been said before, “sometimes less is more.”

Garden staff recreated a small area in Roji-En into a spot of inspiration.

Summer is Here! Time for Sushi, Strolls and Sunsets

When the Morikami first introduced its evening events for the summer, then known as Sunset Strolls, it was part of an attempt to get people to visit the gardens when it wasn’t 102 degrees in the shade.

The early evening events used to have an early-morning counterpart, Sunrise Strolls. However, it seemed like more people liked hanging out late than getting up early, so after a few years, Sunrise Strolls slowly faded away. As time passed, the Sunset Strolls grew a following — a hungry following — so the Cornell Cafe got in on the act.

The events were re-named Sushi & Stroll, a DJ showed up, a couple came and danced on the terrace, and people would lounge among the languid temperatures and chill in the Roji-En. Before things got too relaxed, someone brilliant came up with the great idea to add the energy of taiko drumming to the mix.  Now for a few dollars more, strollers can take in a taiko concert before or after their sushi.

Sushi & Stroll has evolved from a good idea to a great idea to a “why didn’t I see you at the Morikami on Friday night?” idea. It has become the perfect end to a hectic workweek, a chillaxin’ beginning to the weekend or a nature-inspired, sexy-back date night kinda thang.

What do you mean you’ve never been??!

OK, here are the dates: May 14, June 11, July 9, August 20, September 10; time: 5:30-8:30 p.m.

Cost: $7 adults, $5 children (4-17) (Museum members and children 3 and under FREE); $2 for taiko performance (optional)

I invite you to check out the “evolution” of an event for yourself — when it’s not 102 degrees in the shade.

Chillax by the Morikami Falls at the upcoming Sushi & Strolls this summer.