Shadowed Autumn Leaves
From Shishinza’s Dossier
Among the nobility of the City of Salt & Storms no part of a home is as honored or cherished as the garden. Every garden on the island is a triumph of beauty over barren rock. Due in large part to the difficulty and expense of creating a proper garden, they are valued, not only for the rare peace they offer, but as a symbol of a family’s financial and social health. Lavish and glorious gardens are often exhibited at exclusive garden parties for the societal elite. This practice, of course, trickled down to the lesser samurai, and even wealthy merchants, though, of course, no true samurai would ever be seen at such a heimin’s event. Most garden parties occur during the late spring, summer, and early fall, though I have seen more than a few so-called “rock garden parties,” during the colder months. Garden parties are the height of social vogue, and as such, it is likely the esteemed Emerald Magistrate will have many invitations to attend such engagements. It is important to arrive and follow proper protocol if one wishes to save on among his social peers. Above and beyond standard etiquette, which I would hope an esteemed Emerald Magistrate would already be familiar with, there are several further observances which apply specifically to garden parties. If it is a particular garden’s first showing, it is expected that guests will arrive with a single seed, stone, or other particular to add to the gardens. It is considered a high honor to be invited to a garden’s first exhibit, and the more clever or artful your contribution, the higher esteem you will be held in. Gifts are nearly always exchanged during a garden party, and those who arrive giftless are likely to lose on, as well as appear to be a social buffoon; an unenviable position for anyone, let alone an esteemed Emerald Magistrate. All the norms of gift-giving are observed, of course, though, often the best gifts are added to the garden in some way. After gifts are exchanged, there is walking of the grounds, during which the host generally shows his guests through the gardens, making sure to point out interesting (or expensive) elements to his hopefully awe-struck guests. Even if a garden is dreadful, it is considered uncouth to criticize the garden until after the walking has concluded. Certainly one would not dismiss a novel by its prologue; the same, it is expected, goes for gardens. After the walking of the grounds, there is a formal Tea Ceremony at the garden’s focal point for the host and his chosen guests. Other guests often hold their own Tea Ceremonies throughout the gardens, though, some meditate or sit quietly. After the Tea Ceremony, there is generally a light meal, and courtly activities. Kemari, sadane, games of go or shogi, storytelling, and gossip are all common, though that is not an exhaustive list, to be certain. Garden parties are likely to become a common part of your social calendar, so it is paramount that an esteemed Emerald Magistrate impresses at his first occasion, so as to keep the honored position strong in a social sense.