ROCKFORD – Just before Anderson Japanese Gardens officially opens for the season on May 1, visitors have a special treat in store.
A hanami chakai, or traditional Japanese Flower Viewing Tea Ceremony, will be demonstrated April 26 at the Sukiya-style guest house.
The ceremony begins with the participants gathering at the visitor center. Here the stage will be set with a cup of genmaicha (roasted rice flavored tea). In the background, guests will be able to view the gardens themselves.
After an introduction, the visitors will make their way to the guest house. The ceremony host, Kimiko Gunji, then will show the process of the tea ceremony, centering around a cup of green tea and a Japanese sweet treat. The host is a professor at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.
Three tea ceremony times have been established. Each of them has room for just 15 people, so early reservations are essential.
After the demonstration, visitors are free to look over the guest house. Tim Gruner, the garden curator, will be on hand to answer questions and to talk about the history of the building.
On the way back to the visitor center, the guests are welcome to look over the gardens. And before leaving for home, there will be an opportunity to purchase ceramic tea bowls and items related to the tea ceremony.
An additional immersion in the culture of the tea ceremony can be found in a lesson by Gunji the morning of April 27. For $45, guests will have hands-on training in the steps of serving tea. Class size is limited to 12, so reservations are necessary.
Anderson Japanese Gardens, even without tea, is a pleasant escape from the outside world. Filled with ponds, waterfalls, gardens, and easy paths, visitors can stroll or sit and contemplate its features.
Guests also can take advantage of special programs. One, Mindful Meditation Orientation, will be offered from 10:30 a.m. to noon the fourth Friday of each month through October. Participants will learn meditation techniques at no cost other than the admission fee of $8 for adults, $7 for seniors, $6 for students, and free for children younger than 5.
Visit, relax and enjoy.
If you go
What: Traditional Japanese Flower Viewing Tea Ceremony
When: 10:30-11:30 a.m., 12:30-1:30 p.m., and 2-3 p.m. April 26
Where: Anderson Japanese Gardens, 318 Spring Creek Road, Rockford
Addition: Tea serving procedures class, 9 a.m.-noon. April 27; $45
Reservations for ceremony or class: Call Katie Weston at 815-316-3306 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to secure a place.
Information: Visit www.andersongardens.org or call 815-229-9390