Notes to the text
Acknowledgement and background.
We would like to acknowledge Anneke and Theo Visser (1927-2012) for raising
our awareness of the Japanese garden.
There is an interesting anecdote behind this. In 1983 we moved
house and became next-door neighbours. The new house was an
existing one with a garden with a lawn, trees and plenty too
large shrubs. The small front-garden was occupied by a single
walnut tree that grow over the roof. One of the first things we
did was the removal of the walnut tree. Then we changed this
garden compartment into a small rock-garden. A gravel area with
some small rock formations in it and some small succulent and Alp
plants. On occasion, back in 1983, Theo asked about our interest
in Japanese gardens. Our response to that question was one of
surprise. Why did he think we where interested ? Then Theo's
answer was both simple and unexpected, it was because of our
Japanese-style front-garden. They had made their pilgrimage to
Japanese temples (actually temple gardens) back in 1980 and saw
lots of resemblance with what we had been doing. Now our interest
was raised. Anneke and Theo had made lots of excellent slides
during their trip and this was very much our first serious
exposure to Japan, specifically to Japanese garden culture. This
triggered us to move focus away from ordinary rock-gardens toward
Japanese gardens and later to Japanese culture and nature in
general. Prior to leaving for our Japan garden-trip Anneke and
Theo told us about pilgrimage in Japan and how they, although it
did not come any close to a real traditional pilgrimage, enjoyed
their slimmed down version of it.
A popular custom is to buy a blank booklet at the beginning of
the pilgrimage and have a calligraphy (Ofuda) painted in
it at each of the temples. It is believed that one after one's
death, when one can show this booklet to the deity at the gate of
heaven, one obtains permission to enter heaven immediately
regardless of one's sins. This is how we knew that the Japanese
on their pilgrimage along temples and shrines have a booklet in
which they, at every temple, ask a priest or monk to (after a
small donation) calligraph the temple name, date etc. and put the
temple stamps in the booklet. The place where this is done is
called Nokyosho. At the first temple we visited (in May
1991) we bought our selves such hard-bound silk cover booklet
and, although we where primarily interested in the gardens, we
had it "signed" at each and every temple . Although one needs to
stay alert because some clerk may try to push a stamp on one of
your pages, some of these calligraphy's are genuine pieces of
art. To us this booklet now is a precious trinket full of good
memories and you never know if it may come in handy after
When, in 1987, we bought a new house we started from scratch. In
the period prior to completion we studied Buddhism and its Zen
form, Shintoism, Taoism, Confucianism and what have you. We also
read a lot of books related to Japanese gardens and the culture
The garden we designed, it was a small backyard of 10 by 10
meters, was a combination of aspects taken from different garden
styles. We had a small pond but also a small karesansui
cascade.It incorporated only few rocks and stone objects and had
some tea garden characteristics like a tsukubai and a
koshikake (watch house).
After our trip to Japan we only made minor adjustments and where
satisfied with the garden as it was.
Then, as written in the introduction on Tsubo-en, in mid 1996 we
yet had ourself built an other house for which we did the design
during the building-period. This is the house with the the garden
shown on these pages.
In 1999 we had our first Zen meditation (
Zazen) training and a
few advanced ones in subsequent years. Not sure if this changed
our garden interpretation but certainly it was and still is an
Note: As an
example, The Shikoku Henro, one of the oldest pilgrimages in Japan. This pilgrimage which
is located on the mountainous, southern island of Shikoku, covers
a distance of almost one thousand miles and takes the pilgrim
along 88 temples. The traditional way to do the pilgrimage is on
foot, in white pilgrim clothes, shaven-headed, following the
Buddhist precepts as closely as possible, and performing the
usual rituals at all of the 88 temples. Apart from the white
pilgrim clothes each pilgrim has a traditional Japanese straw
hat, a wooden walking stick symbolizing Kôkai (in
Japanese this custom is called dôgyô ninin:
the pilgrim is accompanied on his way by Kôkai, who
protects him), and a small white bag containing items like a
small prayer book, a kesa (surplice), a tiny bell,
incense, and a rosary.
Also see A Pilgrimage to 108 Japanese Temples.
Our "temple booklet" with the Ofuda´s. The name of the
shrine in the centre and the date of the visit on the left. The
date is written top to bottom: year - month and day.
This is the monk who drew the first ofuda in our temple-book in the Benzaiten
temple in Tokyo.
Pilgrimage to 108 Japanese Temples for an other one.
The influence of Zen
garden design was (probably) first described by Kuck [4
] in the early 20th
century and disputed by Kuitert [1
(p 154) ] by the
end of that century. Whether this is Zen
we have applied the principles that appeal most to us.
(1522-1591) is the most famous master of sado
ceremony) who raised the tea ceremony to an art form called
, a simple and austere type of tea ceremony, which
is still widely practiced today.
In 1989 an impressive film "Death of a Tea Master"
about the life of Sen-no-Rikyû
was published, in which a warlord of Japan of the Tokugawa
Shogunate, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, ordered Rikyû
to commit seppuku
(disembowelment), a death penalty.
Both daimyõ and
(1544-1615) was a follower of Rikyû
, that became
a leading expert on tea.
Enshû (real name Kobori Masakazu,
1579-1647) an expert in matters of "early modern" garden art and
technique. Enshû studied with Oribe who was at that time
actively developing the elaborate tea architecture and garden. A
number of gardens designed by Enshû have inspired us for
the design of Tsubo-en. Fine samples are: Tofuku-ji, the
Tofuku-ji sub-temple Reiun-in, and
As Mirei Shgemori 6 respectfully acknowledged: o-karikomi reached
its climax and its end with the life and death of this great
garden artist [2 (p154) ].
5: The Sakuteiki
 is a
garden book with notes on garden making that dates back to the
late seventeenth century. Its oldest title is Senzai
Hishõ, "Secret Extracts on Gardens", and was written
nearly 1000 years ago, making it the oldest work on Japanese
gardening. It is assumed that this was written in the 11th
century by a noble man named Tachibana no Tichitsuna. In this
text lies the first mention of the karesansui in literature. Only
recently we saw an English modern translation of this gardening
A second manual in manuscribt form, was written in the 15th
century (1466), the manual Sansui narabini yakeizu,
(or "Senzui Narabi ni yagyou no zu") translated as
"Illustrations of landscape scenes and groundforms" but also
as "Illustrations for designing mountain, water and hillside
It is perhaps more applicable to the karesansui garden. This
manual treats the composition of a scenic garden view as well as
the technical use of garden materials such as rocks and plants,
An other book in the group that later made up the garden
publications collectively known as "the Secret Books and Oral
Transmissions on Garden Making", and that was reprinted many
times is Tsukiyama Teizoden (Creating Landscape
Gardens, by Kitamura Enkin), published first in 1735, is the
first "do-it-yourself" Japanese garden manual in which the flat
garden was first mentioned. The flat garden was a mostly secular
residential garden type which also appeared adjacent to some
temple residence halls. The flat garden, or hira niwa, was
described in contrast with the hill garden (tsukiyama
niwa), another type of residential garden. Although both
terms were meant as classifications of gardens of the mid-Edo
Period contemporary with the Tsukiyama Teizoden, some later
historians of Japanese garden design began using them to
categorize historical gardens as well.
6: A new type of karesansui
garden [a] "For centuries the karesansui garden had mainly
been a symbolic representation of the natural landscape. Then the
Kyoto artist and scholar Shigemori
Mirei (1896-1975) set out to explore ways to transform
this traditional Japanese Garden type. His background as a
painter allowed him to see several new ways to do so. Shigemori
introduced lines, shapes and colors to the karesansui garden.
Also he departed from the usual reference to a historical or
natural landscape and based some of his new gardens on a story or
the images a place's name evokes. The result is a new type of
karesansui garden." (also see: Mirei
||[III-8]: Mirei Shigemori created gardens in Japan
between 1925 and 1975. While refusing to reproduce traditional
gardens because they lacked any sense of modernity, he also
refused to imitate European gardens because they were out of
touch with Japanese culture. He saw the ancient roots of the
Japanese garden in the memory of nature and the spirits that
occupy it. Shigemori shared with traditionalists a deep interest
in the study of the gardens of the past. With modernists he
shared a definite will to innovate and to use modern means of
expression, both technically and graphically. This enabled him to
create a new approach to the ancient karesansui, or dry landscape
garden, a style where little innovation had taken place over the
past centuries. Educated initially as a painter, Shigemori
approached garden design as an outsider; this is key to
understanding why it was possible for him to renew the karesansui
garden in the ways he did. Though he has been neglected by
writers of the history of the Japanese garden, Shigemori’s
approach is significant because it explores what a karesansui
garden can be in the context of 20th-century Japan while
remaining close to its cultural roots. This article is based on
numerous translations of Shigemori’s writings, interviews
with people he worked with, visits to many of his gardens, and a
comparative analysis of 184 of his original design drawings made
accessible for the first time since his death over 30 years
7: "yohaku no bi": "the
beauty of empty space", also ma or aki.
[2 (p118) ]
For the Western, non-Zen viewer, the art of yohaku is
perhaps best described in terms of Mies van
der Rohe's "less is more".
"Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add but
when there is nothing left to take away"
(p55) ] In
Sakuteiki "aesthetic sense".
When you place stones it is first and foremost necessary to
grasp the overall sense.
... at some point "aesthetic sense" only refers to the mind of
man, or more precisely, of the garden maker. To state it simply,
it means both "beautiful appearance" and "aesthetic
... fuzei should therefore not be translated as "taste",
..."thinking over the lyrical aspects of a spot", ...exercising
your tasteful senses
"Create a subtle atmosphere" is fuzei wo megurashite
The Japanese word "fuzei" is composed of two characters and
used with various meanings such as "atmosphere" and "taste".
The character for "wind" or "air" and that for "feeling" or
"emotion". This is illustrative for the fact that it was hard to
be more concrete when talking about garden design.
Related to design and the desired
qualities listed in Design the architecture
we found an
interesting study: "Visual perception in karesansui
" and "Visual perception in Japanese Rock
" [c.1 and c.3
]. We found this only in June 2008, hence
we could not use it during our design activity, it is however
very recognizable material and may be of use to the reader. The
approach of the thesis is rather, or actually pure, scientific,
so one needs to be careful when applying it as the Japanese and
in particular the Zen garden design approach very much is one of
intuition and feel (see the above remarks on fuzei
). If you are new to the concepts it may help
you to get a quick-start and better understand the perception of
what you see in real-world gardens.
The best appreciation and experience of the karesansui garden
remains at an intuitive rather than a rational level.
Interestingly in DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION the study states:
"Designers have to simultaneously deal with objects and their
surrounding empty spaces. Good designers probably do this
effectively, already. However, we would like to suggest a
reversed approach of conceptualization, where the structure of
empty space is designed first.
" And this is exactly what we
did intuitively or on "feel" (fuzei again). For information on
how we did that see chapter Select the
Statement of caution
Please note that the essay should encourage additional
informational research as the oversight of the essay not taking
into account the burning of Ryoanji and the pathway omission in
the newer design may influence a conclusion of representing a
tree or other natural fractal pattern, such as the observation by
Teiji Ito of the relationship of Ryoanji to the natural phenomena
of viewing the Cassiopeia Constellation as a mirror image.
(thanks to Edzard Teubert).
We are hesitant to bring this to notice because using this
rational scientific approach may handicap you as a spectator. As
we all know "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Your own
garden experience as a beholder may be damaged for life with this
knowledge as a basis because the approach is a complete opposite
to the Zen philosophy that is based on intuition, subconscious,
emotion and .... fuzei.
Often we have visitors asking questions, what is this and why is
that ? Rather then enjoying the garden to its full extend. This,
we think, is typical to the rational Western-mind. If the garden
designer and the beholder are one and the same person (you ?),
then reading the thesis and applying the proposed approach, may
make it impossible to have an unconstrained garden experience in
the way it was meant to be.
The both of us are
practitioners and we did not use the thesis but based
our design very much on emotion, intuition and our feel for
aesthetic qualities. Therefore we think that reading the material
did not do us or our Kansei, any harm. "Kansei
perceptual and cognitive abilities to intuitively/deductively
feel, comprehend, and appreciate the appearance of an object,
scene, and consequently, the world around us.
" means "to
select", "to judge", and in tea mitatemono denotes the discarded
objects rescued by tea masters for their beauty and usefulness,
giving them new lives. Also see:
" or Jichinsai
The Jichinsai ceremony is a Shinto ritual intended to calm the
earth whenever a new building or other construction begins. It
was and is believed that without going through the protocol of
requesting permission from the earth kami, any building
constructed would anger the kami and lead to it's destruction.
Another purpose is to pray that the actual construction proceeds
without any "incidents".
Even when Japanese construct buildings offshore a Jichinsai is
inevitably held. The ceremony is not so much religious but more
of a cultural more. There have been examples of court cases in
Japan where the use of public funds to pay for Jichinsai for
public works projects has been questioned due to the often
official separation of religion and state, but so far at least
the courts have ruled that the Jichinsai is purely a social
custom. In any case it would be difficult to say otherwise in a
country where there are few clear boundaries on just about
Yamasa Student Network
A video clip (low quality) of this ceremony is available in the list on:
A collection of video clips
related to Japanese gardens and gardening
" dolls. In Japan Daruma is a symbol of good luck and protection.
A Daruma doll
traditionally given to someone starting a new venture,
celebrating a birthday, or at the beginning of a New Year.
At the start of an endeavor, one eye is painted and a wish is made for good luck.
The other eye only gets painted when the goal is reached.
At year end, it is customary to take the Daruma doll to a temple,
where it is burned in a big bonfire.
The Daruma doll is based on an ancient Buddhist monk who,
after nine years sitting meditating in a cave,
lost the use of his arms and legs.
Often the doll possesses a weighted bottom and rounded shape,
and so will automatically regain its balance after being tipped over,
representing persistence of spirit and recovery from misfortune.
I made the animated Daruma on the home page with photo's of my first
Daruma doll. My first Daruma was used on a professional project, named Electronic Warehouse,
at Elsevier Science publishers. I was the lead IT Architect of the project that was
very successful for all parties involved. The project was executed in 1995/96 but I could
not get myself to burn it in a bonfire at year end.
Hence the doll is still decorating my desk.
Also see: Daruma
"living work of art
One needs to realize that every garden, by its very nature,
is a work eternally in progress.
Every garden is of an ephemeral nature.
History proves that even the architecture as such is not static.
Plants and trees grow and die, water levels change and even rocks can erode,
be added, removed, replaced or repositioned, and buildings can be altered.
For the sake of this treatise we assume that the garden architecture
as such is static.
The religious or philosophical attitudes of a garden
Many Japanese gardens are located in Zen temples, often as sub-temples.
This has led many modern interpreters to regard them as direct
expressions of Zen thought (contradictio in terminis ?).
This is valid so long as one understands that contemporary Zen may not
fully reflect all facets of Zen of the past
It is also important to distinguish between contemplation and meditation.
Japanese gardens are certainly meant to stimulate and support contemplation,
but the practice and the goals of Zen meditation (Zazen) do not depend on the passive
observation of external stimuli.
The creation and maintenance of a garden can be seen as a Zen activity,
since labor is one of the principal paths to enlightenment,
but the (temporal) end-product is not an object of Zen meditation.
] to preserve the natural habit of the branches and foliage is known as
, while fukinaoshi
is mostly used at the nursery.
, a kind of revision (literally: "to re-do") is the technique
for cutting back overgrown trees, creating a new shape.
It is the basic technique used to shape established trees, that may have been
neglected (just not) too long and involves cutting back to a framework of
the trunk and main branches, before establishing a new shape [12
In [2, p110
...had become the domain of Zen priests.
The most famous of these was
or Muso Kokushi
], whose name is linked with Saiho-ji
, and who is even credited by some with the invention of
the dry landscape garden
(1363 - 1443),
a contemporary of the architects of the karesansui garden,
was the first to systematically expound the notion of monomane
"imitation of things", in the Japanese arts [2, p116
....Only then can you express yugen (see yugen in Design the architecture
Shunmyo Masuno of Kenkoh-ji temple is a modern day Zen priest who through this art form,
strives to express his spiritual self [8, Introduction
On an excellent website dedicated to Shunmyo Masuno
see some beautiful examples of modern Japanese gardens
To see a beautiful 26 minutes filmed portrait of Shunmyo Masuno and his creations
go to the Video clips page
and scroll to "The Zen Gardens of Shunmyo Masuno." close to the end of the list.
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