Japanese Tea Garden, Gorge Park, Esquimalt, B.C.
The Japanese Tea Garden at Gorge Park in Esquimalt, B.C. was originally designed and built in 1906-1907 by Isaburo Kishida for his son, Yoshihiro Kishida (known locally as Joe Kishida), and Yoshihiro’s business partner, Hayato Takata (known locally as Harry Takata), who had contracted with the B.C. Electric Railway Company to provide the park with an authentic Japanese Tea Garden.
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of our Butchart Gardens History:
“……Over the winter of 1906-07, the B.C. Electric Railway Company decided to create more new attractions at the Gorge Park. Among these was to be an authentic Japanese tea garden. The B.C. Electric Railway Company stressed that Gorge Park’s Japanese gardens “shall be really Japanese. No base Westernized imitation,” it told the Victoria Daily Colonist, “would be permitted.” To make the tea gardens “really Japanese” the streetcar company leased an acre of Gorge Park to two Victorians of Japanese descent, Yoshihiro Kishida (known locally as Joe Kishida) and Hayato Takata (known locally as Harry Takata), who contracted to provide the park with an authentic Japanese Tea Garden.
To ensure their Japanese Tea Garden was “no base Westernized imitation,” Joe Kishida and Harry Takata brought Joe’s father, Isaburo Kishida, a professional gardener, from Yokohama, Japan in late 1906 or early in 1907 to design their Japanese gardens and supervise their installation. They also found a local source of Japanese labourers to work under him. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Victoria was home port to a large fleet of seal hunters. Some of the sealers were Japanese who would often winter over in Victoria before heading back to sea when sealing resumed the next spring. With time on their hands during the winter and early spring of 1907, many of the Japanese sealers went to work for Joe Kishida and Harry Takata…..
The Japanese Tea Garden in Gorge Park was formally opened on Saturday, July 13, 1907 and almost immediately became the park’s most successful attraction. Its popularity made Japanese gardens highly fashionable in Victoria and Isaburo Kishida soon found his services in demand among Victoria’s elite……”
Here are some photographs of the Japanese Tea House and Japanese Tea Garden at Gorge Park, 1912:
This City of Victoria Archives photo shows another Japanese Tea House on the Gorge Park waterfront, circa 1920. We will do some research to find out more about this second Japanese Tea House at Gorge Park.
Unfortunately the Japanese Tea Garden no longer exists. It was confiscated from its owners, and apparently demolished, when Japanese Canadians were interned during the Second World War.
There is currently a plan to rebuild it.
Here is a map showing the location of Gorge Park:
Isaburo Kishida’s Japanese Garden installation was allowed to deteriorate for decades but the site has been rejuvenated recently.
Here are some photographs of the site as it now appears:
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