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New Gorge Park Pavilion opens in Esquimalt, reflects Japanese teahouse roots

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For the first time in 80 years, a Japanese pavilion stands in Esquimalt Gorge Park.

The original Japanese pavilion and teahouse was built in 1907 and stood two storeys tall. It was destroyed by vandals in 1942 during the internment era of the Second World War in Canada.

The new pavilion is based off the original teahouse design that was created by Isaburo Kishida, before his family was forced into internment, according to the District of Esquimalt.

Kishida also designed the Japanese gardens at Royal Roads and Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, according to the municipality.

Visitors are seen at the former Japanese teahouse in Esquimalt in 1915. (Toyo Takata Fonds/Esquimalt Municipal Archives)

Several hundred people explored the new grounds over the weekend for tours, speeches, and a performance by Vancouver Island-based group Uminari Taiko, which promotes the art of Japanese drumming.

The pavilion measures 6,000-square-feet and features floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies that overlook the park's Japanese gardens.

The district says the Japanese gardens at Esquimalt Gorge Park are the oldest such gardens in North America.

The new Gorge Park Pavilion is shown. (CTV News)

Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins says the new Gorge Park Pavilion will breathe new life into the park.

"For me, it's bringing back the excitement, the energy, that occurred in Gorge Park in the turn of the century with the Japanese pavilion, the teahouse," she said Friday.

"But also it honours that Indigenous history that was here," she said.

The new pavilion will be used as a community gathering place, a space for yoga and art classes, and can also be rented for events.

The pavilion took about two years to build and was funded through the Capital Regional District's $17-million McLoughlin Point Amenity fund, which also used for rec centre and infrastructure improvements in Esquimalt.

With files from The Canadian Press

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