Restored Japanese Gardens, Gorge Kinsmen Park, Esquimalt, 2015.
Born in Esquimalt, in 1920, Takata’s family returned to Japan in 1925 for a couple of years where Toyo received education in Japanese, before returning to Esquimalt. Toyo Takata attended Lampson School, Esquimalt High, and Sprott Shaw College. His father and uncle secured a lease and started the popular ‘Takata Japanese Tea Gardens’ in Kinsmen Gorge Park, where Takata worked every day after school.
The advent of the Second World War saw the Takata family in to internment camps in Vancouver, and after the war the family was relocated to Toronto where Toyo Takata lived out the rest of his life. He made many journeys back to Esquimalt for visits where he was/is fondly remembered. Toyo Takata died on March 12, 2002, in Toronto. A bench has been built in Kinsmen Gorge Park, in memory of Toyo and the Takata family.
Mark Brown, 2002 ‘Toyo Takata dead at age 82; Despite more than 55 years in Toronto, this town was his home – Roots were in Esquimalt’, Esquimalt News, Wednesday, March 27, 2002
Esquimalt Archives, Vertical Files
Tea Garden in Ruins – Magic Touched Visitor
Although I live in the Gorge neighbourhood, it had been many years since I had walked over the bridge to the other side to visit the Gorge Kinsmen Park. In the early 1990’s, I visited the Tea Gardens many times, finding solace during some difficult days siting on a bench in the terraced ruins. One day, as I sat in contemplation I wondered what this place was. Nearby to where I was sitting I admired the most beautiful single flower growing alone and abandoned in the unkept bed. Feeling kindred with the flower I timidly picked and preserved it as I had never seen anything like it. Although I was unaware of the rich history that this site held, I could sense that it was a very special place. It felt safe to sit in the quiet protection of the garden walls warmed by the sun’s energy. No signs or postings existed interpreting its significance or importance so I closed my eyes and imagined a beautiful garden.
Many years would pass before I would visit the gardens again. Over the past several weeks I have visited the gardens several times to connect with the ‘Takata Tea Gardens’ history. I was amazed at the transformation and beauty that lay before me. This magical place was alive with lush, cultivated plants and water falls, continuing to evoke a sense of tranquility, peace and love for the visitors, the people of Esquimalt and the Takata family. A bench in remembrance of Toyo Takata was built in the park. After several visits I am still trying to locate it.
I have never forgotten my early visits to the gardens and today still have the Chocolate Lily I picked that day preserved in a box. I find it quite ironic that I would come back to this place to find that my purpose here was more profound than I ever imagined all those years ago.
‘Takata Tea Garden Society’,
Esquimalt Archives v010.19 A b/1