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Hansen–Takata Wedding: The Japanese Garden at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific

In July, at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, a very special marriage took place in the bonsai garden. Dillon Takata, descendant of the founder of the Takata Japanese Gardens married Lisa Hansen. The Urasenke Tankokai Victoria Association1 was pleased and excited to perform the traditional Japanese tea ceremony for Dillon, his parents, grandparents, and guests prior to the wedding ceremony.

The following is a presentation by Dillon’s father, David Takata, describing how the gardens came into existence.

* * * * *

The photo is courtesy of Christian Tisdale / The Grove Photographers.

I’m very honoured to have the opportunity to speak briefly at Lisa and Dillon’s wedding. They have asked me to tell you a little about the Takata Japanese Garden and by extension something of the Takata family history in Victoria.

The Japanese garden here at the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific, which you’ve hopefully had a chance to tour and admire, is actually a memorial garden commemorating the original Takata Japanese Teahouse and Garden, which was located at the Gorge Park in Esquimalt. You may have noticed that there are two maple trees here that are over 100 years old that grew in the original Takata Garden and were successfully transplanted here.

The original Takata Japanese Teahouse and Garden was built in 1907 on the Gorge Waterway in Esquimalt on 1.5 acres leased from the BC Electric Rail Co. for the exorbitant sum of $50 a month. The founders were Yoshitaro (Joe) Kishida and Dillon’s great-great-uncle Hayato Takata who was also known as Harry and who in his later years, we called “Grandpa with the pipe”. It was designed by Isaburo Kishida who also designed the Japanese garden at the famous Butchart Gardens.

The garden and teahouse became a very popular attraction for Victoria residents from Victoria Day in May until Labour Day every year. Despite the Japanese design and motif, the teahouse served a very “English” menu including tea with buttered toast, poached eggs, and ice cream which is somewhat ironic given the popularity of all forms of Japanese cuisine today.

When Joe Kishida moved back to Japan, Dillon’s great-grandfather Kensuke took over as a partner in the garden with his older brother. Hayato was a bachelor while Kensuke and his wife Misuyo had six children; 4 boys and 2 girls including Dillon’s grandpa who grew up, played, and worked in the garden and learned to swim in the Gorge. The family lived in a converted bunkhouse that was expanded as more children arrived and had a Japanese-style bath with a wooden tub on top of a metal sheet.

Kensuke was very handy and had an eye and talent for gardening. He built a greenhouse to raise plants for the garden and a pond that he stocked with Mandarin ducks, many of which were eaten by the local rat population.

One of my favourite stories is the day my grandma Misuyo was alone and a limousine pulled into the garden. A distinguished gentleman got out with his chauffeur and asked if he could purchase one of the Japanese maple trees. My grandma didn’t speak English very well so they were unable to conclude a deal. The limousine left but the chauffeur returned the next day and was able to purchase a tree on his passenger’s behalf. It turned out he was the then Governor General of Canada, the Honourable Lord Tweedsmuir or John Buchan. He’s also well known as the author of a famous mystery novel called The 39 Steps which was made into a movie directed by Alfred Hitchcock and which gets a 98% rating from Rotten Tomatoes.

Unfortunately, time marches on and business at the Garden began to decline in the 1930s. The car made it possible for people to travel farther for their recreation. The Gorge became too polluted for swimming and the Great Depression of 1929 caused a further reduction in business. In April 1942, the garden and teahouse closed for good and the family was sent to internment camps in Slocan and Sandon never to return to Victoria. It fell into disrepair and was eventually completely demolished.

Interestingly, none of the Japanese families who were living in Victoria at the time returned to Victoria after the war ended. The Takata family moved to Toronto to restart their lives and where Kensuke was one of the first to introduce the art of bonsai to the city. Dillon’s grandpa attended the University of Toronto and graduated with a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Fast forward to more recent times; in 2006 the Township of Esquimalt announced plans to construct a Japanese garden on the site of the original Takata Teahouse and Garden. A landscape designer and architect, Michael Greenfield, was hired and work commenced. In 2012, which was Esquimalt’s centennial year, a dedication ceremony was held at the Garden, which was attended by the surviving Takata children who grew up on the Gorge, Dillon’s grandpa and his great-aunts Marie and Toshie.

And what became of Dillon’s great-great-uncle Hayato and his great-grandpa Kensuke? Well, Hayato died in Japan where he had returned to prevent the family estate from falling into the hands of his oldest brother’s wife’s family after the family had relocated to Toronto.

Kensuke was born in 1884 in the dining room of the ancestral Takata home in the Mukai Nada District of Hiroshima. In October of 1979, he put his bonsai into storage and left to visit relatives in Japan. While he was there he contracted pneumonia and died at the age of 95 in the same room in which he was born, which coincidentally is the same room Dillon’s grandpa was born in almost 91 years ago.

In June 2014, when Lisa and Dillon moved to Victoria it represented the return of a descendant of one of the original “pioneering” Japanese families after an absence of almost 75 years and for now at least, they are continuing the family legacy here. I’m sure Hayato and Kensuke are smiling and enjoying the moment immensely.”

Group shot at the wedding. David Takata is in a blue shirt 3rd from the left (Photo courtesy of Dillon Takata)

Note:

1. Urasenke Tankokai Victoria Association became an official member of Urasenke in June of 2015 as the 107th Chado group outside of Japan. With 30 students ranging in ages from 11 to 84, a special inaugural luncheon was held April 2016 which was attended by Ms. Christy Bartlett Soei; Director, Urasenke Foundation San Francisco Branch representing the head office in Kyoto.

 

* This article was originally published in the newsletter of the Victoria Nikkei Cultural Society (September/October 2016 issue).

 

© 2016 Kathy Harris

Canada Esquimalt garden Hayato Takata Horticulture Centre of the Pacific Isaburo Kishida Japanese Garden Joe Kishida Kensuke Takata Takata Japanese Garden Takata Japanese Teahouse and Garden teahouse Victoria