My ‘Furthest Visitor of the Day’ today came from Tokyo. I found a very pleasant couple sitting on the bench on the little island with the Japanese Lantern. They said it made them feel at home, and loved our little bridges and the Pagoda. I explained that Edith, Lady Londonderry, our gardener extraordinaire, had visited Nikko, Japan, in 1904 and had brought these items back. They told me that the Ishidoro or stone lantern was in the style of an Oribe Lantern designed by Lord Furuta Oribe (1544-1615) a feudal lord and leading tea master in charge of Kyoto’s Fushimi Castle. He had the greatest influence on the tea ceremony, tea house architecture and tea garden landscaping. The visitors were intrigued to learn that there was a blend of tea called Lady Londonderry Tea.
Stone lanterns were used to create ‘floating light’ on the water and so ours is appropriately sited beside the lake. You can see the traditional half moon cutout design facing east and on the opposite side is a full moon facing west.
Pagodas are built in odd-numbered tiers and ours has five. From bottom to top they represent the five elements, ie. earth, water, fire, wind, heaven or sky. The finial is also separated into five sections.
Visiting Japan in January of this year, I had the pleasure of seeing many mature Ashoka trees which we are growing on for planting in the gardens at the moment. I also had a remarkable ‘taken-aback’ moment in our hotel grounds – a gardener down on hands and knees painstakingly removing blades of grass from the moss lawn. When I chatted to him saying that at home it was the other way around, he said that in Japan moss is regarded as an essential element – a symbol of harmony, age and tradition. I hope our Japanese visitors felt that we had these attributes at Mount Stewart too.
Sayonara, till the next time.