Japanese Gardens

Contents:

  • Introduction
  • Essential Aspects
  • Design Principles
  • Basic rules in the design of  Japanese gardens
  • Elements of Japanese Garden
  • Types of Japanese Gardens
  • Case study
  • Bibliography

Introduction:

  • The art of gardening is believed to be an important part of Japanese culture for many centuries.
  • The garden design in Japan is strongly connected to the philosophy and religion of the country.
  • Shinto, Buddhism and Taoism were used in the creation of different garden styles in order to bring a spiritual sense to the gardens and make them places where people could spend their time in a peaceful way and meditate.

Essential Aspects:

  • The line between garden and its surrounding landscape is not distinct.
  • Gardens incorporate natural and artificial elements and thus, fuse the elements of nature and architecture.
  • In the Japanese garden, the viewer should consider nature as a picture frame into which the garden, or the man- made work of art, is inserted.

Design Principles:

  • Nature is the ideal that you must strive for. You can idealize it, even symbolize it, but you must never create something that nature itself cannot.
  • Balance, or sumi. The proportions and spaces are an essential Design principle
  • The “emptiness” of portions of the garden. This space, or ma, defines the elements around it, and is also defined by the elements surrounding it. It is the true spirit of yin and yang. Without nothing, you cannot have something. It is a central tenet of Japanese gardening.

Formality :

  • Hill and pond and flat styles can be shin (formal), gyo (intermediate) or so (informal).
  • Formal styles were most often found at temples or palaces,
  • the intermediate styles were appropriate for most residences, and
  • the informal style was relegated to peasant huts and mountain retreats. The tea garden is always in the informal style.

Concept of Time and Space:

  • The concept of wabi and sabi:
  • Wabi can denote something one-of-a-kind, or the spirit of something. Sabi defines time or the ideal image of something. While a cement lantern may be one of a kind, it lacks that ideal image. A rock can be old and covered with lichens, but if it is just a round boulder it has no wabi. We must strive to find that balance
  • Both the concepts of ma and wabi/sabi deal with time and space. Where the garden is our space, time is ably presented by the changing seasons. Unlike the western gardener  the Japanese garden devotee visits and appreciates the garden in all the seasons.
The changes with seasons:
  • In spring one revels in the bright green of new buds and the blossoms of the azaleas.
  • In summer you appreciate the contrasts of the lush foliage painted against the cool shadows and the splash of koi in the pond.
  • Fall wrests the brilliant colors from dying leaves as they slip into the deathly hush of winter, the garden buried under a shroud of snow.
  • Winters is as much a garden season in Japan as spring. The Japanese refer to snow piled on the branches of trees as sekku, or snow blossoms, and there is a lantern known as yukimi that is named the snow viewing lantern.
Miegakure or hide and reveal:
  • The fence is a tool to enhance  the concept of miegakure, or hide and reveal.
  • Many of the fence styles offer only the merest of visual screens, and will be supplemented with a screen planting, offering just the ghostly hints of the garden behind. Sometimes a designer will cut a small window in a solid wall to present the passerby with a tantalizing glimpse of what lies beyond.
  • Even if we enter the house to view the garden we may well encounter sode-gaki, or sleeve fences. This is a fence that attaches to an architectural structure, be it a house or another fence, to screen a specific view. To view the garden as a whole one must enter it and become one with the garden. This is the final step in the true appreciation of the garden, to lose oneself in it until time and self have no meaning.

Basic rules in the design of  Japanese gardens:

  • Natural: that should make the garden look as if it grew by itself
  • Asymmetry: that creates the impression of it being natural
  • Odd numbers: It supports the effect of the asymmetry
  • Simplicity: that follows the idea of ‘less is more’
  • Triangle: that is the most common shape for compositions made of stones, plants, etc.
  • Contrast: that creates tension between elements
  • Lines: that can create both tranquility and tension
  • Curves: that softens the effect
  • Openness: that indicates interaction between all elements

Basic elements in Japanese gardens

  • a stone lantern representing four natural elements: earth, water, fire and wind
  • statues of male and female lions, placed at the entrance of the garden in order to protect the garden from intruders, representing the two opposite forces: yin and yang (fire and water, male and female).
  • water basin known as a deer chaser, which keep deer away by making a special sound when filled up
  • the koi fish swimming in ponds, which has a decorative meaning
  • typical Japanese bridge, called a moonbridge, whose purpose is to reflect artistic feelings.

Elements of Japanese Gardens:

  • Ponds, waterfalls, wells, bridges (real or symbolic)
  • Stepping stones, Garden paths
  • Stone water basins, stone lanterns
  • Garden plants and trees
  • Fences and walls
  • Stones

WATER OR IKE:

  • It represents the sea, lake, pond or river in nature.
  • Non geometrical in appearance; in order to preserve the natural shapes, man- made ponds are asymmetrical.
  • The bank of the pond is usually bordered by stones
  • A fountain is sometimes found at the bottom of a hill or hillside or secluded forest.
  • Wells are sometimes found in a Japanese garden.
Paths or tobi-ishi:
  • Usually used in tea gardens.
  • flat stepping stones served to preserve the grass as well as orient the viewer to a specific visual experience.
  • step- stones are found near the veranda or entrance of the house or tea room. The visitor of the house or room is expected to place his shoes on the step- stone before entering.
Water basins & lanterns:
  • Two kinds of stone water basins-
  • kazari- chozubachi, which is kept near the  verandah
  • tsukubai for tea garden
  • Stone lanterns are placed besides prominent water basins whose luminance underscored the unfinished beauty of the tea aesthetic.

Plants:

  • Garden of the 10th to 12th centuries contained cherry, plum trees, pines and willows
  • Influence of the Zen sect and watercolor painting from Southern China transformed the colorful Japanese garden in the Middle Ages.
  • Flowers, flowering plants and shrubs were regarded as signs of frivolity and were replaced by evergreen trees that symbolized eternity.
Trees in Japanese Gardens:
  • Japanese garden is predominately green with its use of evergreen trees.
  • When flowering trees found in Japanese garden  are camelias, specifically the tsubaki and sazanka.

Japanese Fir:
  • Scientific Name: Abies Firma
  • Habitat: Evergreen

  • Texture: Coarse
  • Height: 40’ to 70’
  • Leaf: 1.5″ dark green needles are notched at base; sharp prickly point
  • Flower/Fruit: 3.5 to 5″ brown cones

Japanese stripped-bark maple

  • Scientific Name: Acer capillipes
  • Habit: Deciduous
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Site Requirements: Sun to partial shade; prefers moist, well drained soil
  • Texture: Medium
  • Form: Round head; low branches
  • Height: 30 to 35’
  • Flower/Fruit: Greenish white flowers on 2.5 to 4″ pendulous raceme; attractive samara in fall

Japanese maple :

  • Scientific Name: Acer palmatum
  • Growth Rate: Slow to moderate
  • Site Requirements: Light dappled shade; evenly moist, well drained soil; protect from drying winds
  • Texture: Medium to fine
  • Form: Low; dense rounded top; spreading branches; assumes a layered look
  • Height: 15 to 25′
  • Flower/Fruit: Small red to purple flowers; attractive if viewed closely but insignificant from a distance

Japanese alder :

  • Scientific Name: Alnus japonica
  • Site Requirements: Sun to partial shade; range of soil types including wet and infertile soil
  • Form: Slender, narrow upright habit
  • Height: 12 to 25’
  • Leaf: Oval, narrow leaves
  • Flower/Fruit: Yellow brown to red brown catkins (male flowers); female flowers on short purplish brown strobili which persist until winter

Japanese angelica tree:

  • Scientific Name: Aralia elata
  • Growth Rate: Rapid
  • Site Requirements: Sun to partial shade; range of soil types but prefers moist, well drained soil
  • Texture: Medium
  • Form: Irregular to spreading; often multi-stemmed
  • Height: 20 to 40’
  • Leaf: 3 to 5.5″ compound leaves; yellow to reddish purple fall color
  • Flower/Fruit: 12 to 18″ white flowers in August; purple fruit

Japanese cherry birch :

  • Scientific Name:Betula grossa
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Site Requirements: Sun; moist well drained soil
  • Texture: Medium
  • Form: Pyramidal
  • Height: 20 to 25′
  • Leaf: 2 to 4″ alternate, simple leaves; yellow fall color
  • Flower/Fruit: Nonshowy flowers

Japanese hornbeam:

  • Scientific Name: Carpinus japonica
  • Growth Rate: Slow
  • Site Requirements: Sun to light shade; moist well drained soil but tolerates a range of soil types
  • Texture: Medium
  • Form: Rounded; densely branched; wide spreading branches
  • Height: 20 to 30′
  • Leaf: 2 to 4.5″ leaves; yellow to nonshowy fall color
  • Flower/Fruit: 2 to 2.5″ fruit

Japanese cornel dogwood:

  • Scientific Name:Cornus officinalis
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Site Requirements: Sun to partial shade; range of soil types
  • Texture: Medium
  • Form: Picturesque; multi-stemmed ; low branches; oval to round habit
  • Height: 15 to 25′
  • Leaf: 4″ opposite, simple leaves; purple fall color
  • Flower/Fruit: Cluster of short stalked yellow flowers with drooping bracts on naked stems in early spring; .5″ shiny red fruit in clusters in fall

Japanese cedar:

  • Scientific Name: Cryptomeria japonica
  • Habit: Evergeen
  • Growth Rate: Moderate
  • Site Requirements: Sun to light, high shade; rich deep, well drained soil but will thrive in a range of soil types
  • Texture: Fine to medium
  • Form: Pyramidal; semiformal
  • Height: 50 to 60′
  • Leaf: Awl shaped, bright to blue-green foliage; smooth to the touch; bronze tones in winter, especially if exposed to wind.
  • Flower/Fruit: Small terminal cones

Fences and walls:

  • There are three types of fences:
  • the short fence which extends from the house into the garden
  • an inner fence and an outer fence.
  • Short fences or sodegaki are screens that hide unwanted views or objects.
  • They are about 6 or 7 feet high.
  • Add color and texture to the garden.
  • Materials used are bamboo, wood and twigs of bamboo or tree.

Garden Enclosures:

  • For the garden to be a true retreat, we must first seal it away from the outside world. Once it is enclosed, we must create a method (and a mindset) to enter and leave our microcosm. Fences and gates are as important to the Japanese garden as lanterns and maples.
  • As with most things associated with the garden the fence and gates have deep symbolic meaning as well as specific function. We are encouraged to view the garden as a separate world in which we have no worries or concerns. The fence insulates us from the outside world and the gate is the threshold where we both discard our worldly cares and then prepare ourselves to once again face the world.
  • Courtyards include a modern alfresco (sheltered outdoor living) area with a lush backdrop of plants.
Stones:
  • Stones are fundamental elements of Japanese gardens.
  • Stones used are not quarried by the hand of man, but of stones shaped by nature only
  • Used to construct the garden’s paths, bridges, and walkways.
  • Represent a geological presence where actual mountains are not viewable or present. They are placed in odd numbers and a majority of the groupings reflect triangular shapes
Kasan:
  • They are artificial mountains usually, built in gardens.
  • Generally between one and five of the hills are built.
  • They are made up of ceramics, dried wood or strangely-shaped stones.
Suikinkutsu (Water Harp Hollow):
  • Refers to a relatively small cave or hollow set underneath the ground near a washbasin in the garden.
  • The hollow produces a harp-like echoing sound effect as water drips into the hollow. Thus, it provides a mysterious sound for people strolling through the garden.
  • They are generally located the at gates of the garden.
  • The excess water running over the edge of the tsukubai drops down onto polished pebbles below.
  • Below the ground is another large basin, often a ceramic vase.
Bonsai and bonseki:
  • The art of Bonsai involves the training of everyday shrubs such as pine, cypress, holly, cedar, cherry, maple, and beech to look like old, large trees in miniature form.
  • The trees are usually less than one meter high and kept small by pruning, re-potting, growth pinching, and wiring the branches.
  • Bonseki is the art of developing miniature landscapes which may include smallest of rock pieces to represent mountains.
Scenery Methods:
  • The Japanese garden can include three possible methods for scenery:
  • The first is the reduced scale scenery method. The reduced scale method takes actual natural elements and reproduces them on a smaller scale.
  • The second technique called symbolization and it involves generalization and abstraction; this could be accomplished by using white sand to simulate the ocean.
  • Borrowed views is a technique that refers to artistic use of elements that imply scenes other than those actually portrayed. An example of this would be a painting of a house in the city with a seaside dock in the middle of the street to imply a seascape scene.
TYPES OF JAPANESE GARDENS:
  1. Karesansui Gardens or dry gardens
  2. Tsukiyama Gardens or hill garden
  3. Chaniwa Gardens or tea gardens
KARESANSUI/ DRY GARDENS:
  • Also known as rock gardens and waterless stream gardens.
  • Influenced by Zen Buddhism and can be found at Zen temples of meditation
  • Found in the front or rear gardens at the residences.
  • No water presents in gardens. raked gravel or sand that simulates the feeling of water.
  • The rocks/gravel used are chosen for their artistic shapes, and mosses as well as small shrubs.
  • Plants are much less important (and sometimes nonexistent)
  • Rocks and moss are used to represent ponds, islands, boats, seas, rivers, and mountains in an abstract way.
  • Gardens were meant to be viewed from a single, seated perspective.
  • Rocks in karesansui are often associated with Chinese mountains such as Mt. Penglai or Mt. Lu. Karesansui.
  • Stones are usually off-white or grey though the occasional red or black stone were added later.
TSUKIYAMA/HILL GARDENS:
  • They strive to make a smaller garden appear more spacious.
  • Shrubs are utilized to block views of surrounding buildings.
  • The gardens main focus is on nearby mountains in the distance.
  • The garden has the mountains as part of its grounds.
  • Ponds, streams, hills, stones, trees, flowers, bridges, and paths are also used frequently in this style as opposed to a flat garden.
CHANIWA/TEA GARDENS:
  • They are built for tea ceremonies.
  • Tea house is where the ceremonies occur, and the styles of both the hut and garden are based off the simple concepts of the sado.
  • There are stepping stones leading to the tea house, stone lanterns, and stone basins where guests purify themselves before a ceremony.
  • The teahouse is screened by hedges to create a sense of remoteness
Courtyard Gardens – Tsubo Niwa:
  • Courtyard gardens are small gardens.
  • One tsubo is a Japanese measurement equaling 3.3 square meters
  • The origin of the tsubo niwa lies in the 15th century when Japan’s economy was thriving. A lot of merchants had large house with several storage buildings around it. The first courtyard gardens were made in the open spaces between the house and the storage buildings.
  • The elements of a courtyard garden are similar to the elements of a tea garden, however more shade tolerant plants are used. The design principles of traditional Japanese courtyard gardens, are very suited for create contemporary small spaces on roofs or terraces
Strolling gardens – Tsukiyama:
  • These are large landscape gardens. Often existing landscapes are reproduced on a smaller scale, or an imaginary landscape is created.
Strolling gardens – Kaiyu-Shikien:
  • These are pleasure gardens, mostly built during the Edo-period. Most of these gardens are now public parks

Case Studies

  1. Ryoan – Ji temple, Kyoto
  2. Katsura imperial palace garden, Kyoto

Ryoan – Ji temple, Kyoto

  • Ryoan-ji (or The Temple of the Peaceful Dragon) is a Zen temple located in northwest Kyoto, Japan. Belonging to the Myoshin-ji school of the Rinzai branch of Zen Buddhism, the temple is one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • An object of interest near the rear of the monks quarters is the carved stone receptacle into which water for ritual purification continuously flows. This is the Ryoan-ji tsukubai, which translates literally as “crouch;” and the lower elevation of the basin requires the user to bend a little bit to reach the water, which suggests supplication and reverence.
  • To many, the temple’s name is synonymous with the temple’s famous karesansui (dry landscape) rock garden, thought to have been built in the late 1400s.
  • The garden consists of raked gravel and fifteen moss-covered boulders, which are placed so that, when looking at the garden from any angle only fourteen of the boulders are visible at one time.
  • It is traditionally said that only through attaining enlightenment would one be able to view the fifteenth boulder.
  • The researchers propose that the implicit structure of the garden is designed to appeal to the viewers unconscious visual sensitivity to axial-symmetry skeletons of stimulus shapes. In support of their findings, they found that imposing a random perturbation of the locations of individual rock features destroyed the special characteristics.
KATSURA IMPERIAL PALACE GARDEN, KYOTO:
  • Lake of 1.25 hectares was dug, hills and islands were formed, beaches made, pavilions built and planting undertaken.
  • Has 16 bridges connecting the lake.
  • Lake used for boating parties and the surrounding land as a stroll garden, in effect a tea garden on an enormous scale.
  • The ‘Katsura Tree’ (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) was associated with the God of the Moon and the garden has a platform to view its rising.
  • There are 23 stone lanterns to light the stroll path after dark.
  • Stone basins were used for hand-washing before a tea ceremony.
  • Garden designed not only for meditation (Zen) but also for ceremonious courtly pleasures.
Reference:
  • Japanese Gardens by Gunter Nitschke
  • Slawson, David A. Secret Teachings in the Art of Japanese Gardens
  • Yagi, Koji A Japanese Touch for Your Home
  • Wikipedia.com
  • Flickr.com

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