What is a Japanese Garden?
The roots of the world-famous and widespread art event such as the Japanese garden today are lost in the darkness of ancient traditions. However, it is generally believed that with the adoption of Buddhism, a conscious garden art based on design principles began to be emphasized, and there is an average of 1500 years of Japanese garden art. Although Japanese gardens include many man-made landscape elements, they include the design that symbolizes nature with all its features and depicts its mystery with a philosophical expression. However, Japanese garden art has an understanding of absolute realism and naturalism,
One of the strongest and most distinctive features of Japanese philosophy is its interpretation of the relationship between nature and human beings. Nature is taken as a separate element of equal importance to man.
Japan has a temperate climate and a wonderful landscape. All these have brought the Japanese nation closer to nature. Maybe that’s why the Japanese have been nature lovers since ancient times. They believe that the condition of living in peace is not to oppose nature or to belittle these beauties that their country has bestowed upon them, but to assimilate nature.
Japanese garden art, which draws its inspiration from nature, such as painting and poetry, has three common elements. Rock, water, and plant. In Japanese garden design, we see that the synthesis of the natural landscape takes shape abstractly. In this understanding, the aim of garden art is to make the beauties perceived from the natural landscape with human effort. The Japanese have tried their skills at all scales and species, from national parks to a miniature forest grown in a single pot.
Japanese Garden Types
Japanese Garden by Form
The types of Japanese garden is divided into two.
- Hill gardens (Tsukiyama)
- Flat gardens (Hira-niwa )
It consists of hills and lakes. These gardens have formed the basis of the gardens belonging to the nobles for centuries. Water is the most important element of the garden and is found in various forms in the garden. It can be found in the form of lakes, streams, and waterfalls. The garden features hills, stones, and plants that support the water view. All this has been cleverly designed in a certain harmony and balance. Hill gardens are placed in front of the main building to cover a large area. An ideal Japanese landscape is a combination of mountain and water elements, as in hill gardens. The direction of water flow is important in hill gardens. If possible, the flow direction of the water should be in the east-west direction.
Hill gardens are divided into 5 styles among themselves.
These; the ocean, stream, valley, swamp, and reed landscapes.
All these styles emerge with the use of stones in various ways to provide the desired landscape.
It is a style mostly used for planning flat areas between various buildings.
For a long time, both garden types developed together, and the selection was made according to the condition of the land. Especially in the times when the tea ceremony became a tradition, another variety from the flat garden type emerged, it is called chaniwa.
Four main garden styles emerged from the two main garden types, namely hill and flat gardens.
- Dry Stone Garden (Kare-sansui)
- Tea Garden (Chaniwa)
- Promenade Garden (Kaiyu-teien)
- Miniature Garden (Hako-niwa)
Dry Stone Japanese Garden (Square – Sansui)
One of the greatest developments in the history of the Japanese garden is the development of dry stone gardens. It developed at the end of the Muromachi Period. It is known as the classical form of Zen gardens.
The main elements in these gardens are rocks and stones. In this garden style, a strong water expression is created with no water, rock, gravel, and raked sand. The aim of Dry Stone Gardens is to create a large space in small areas. The biggest reason why this type of garden is considered unique in the history of garden art; is due to the fact that it gives the maximum effect with the least element that can be used. Dry Stone Gardens are poor in appearance but rich in content.
Many factors have been effective in the development of dry gardens.
- Economic Factors – After the Onin Revolution, a great deal of money went into the restoration of temples. Therefore, it was difficult to build large water gardens of the 15th century and karesansui type gardens were preferred.
- Water Resources – The difficulty in finding water resources, which have a very important place in the construction of water gardens, has pushed designers to create gardens where water is not used.
- Spiritual needs and Aesthetic Preferences of Zen Priests – Zen ideas in symbolism have produced dry gardens. Zen monks preferred deep narratives in simplicity. Therefore, perceiving the sound of water in the white sand had a mystical meaning appealing to the Zen spirit, and this was the most important feature of dry stone gardens.
- Proximity in Zen Architecture and Shoin Chamber Architecture – During this period, the temporary residences (hojo) of the high priests were built in the shoin style. The entire surface and patio was covered with tatami. As a result, they needed a landscape view close to the building that they could see from inside the dwelling. Therefore, Karesansui gardens, which do not take up much space and keep the streams and mountains alive in its small area, were preferred.
Dry Stone Japanese Garden Examples
Ryoanji Japanese Garden
The stone garden of the Ryoanji temple in Kyoto is one of the most beautiful and rare examples of this type. The Ryoanji temple garden was built in 1499 by the painter and gardener Saomi. It is the world’s most well-known of Japanese gardens.
10m wide, 30m long. One side is the veranda of the temple and the other 3 sides are surrounded by an earthen wall with a tiled roof. It consists of 15 large and small rocks placed on flat ground, covered with coarse-grained white sand. The rock groups consisted of 5, 2, 3, 2, and 3 rocks each. There is no other plant in the garden other than the moss formed over time.
An asymmetrical balance has been established, and rock groups have created certain dynamism within themselves and with other groups. The simple beauty of the garden evokes philosophical thought. This arrangement, in which fine white sand replaces water, creates one of the most elegant arrangements ever to be found. Because it evokes the movements of water flowing in different directions. Here, the landscape, complete with stacked stones, represents a tigress and her cub swimming on the river trying to escape the danger of the water.
Ryoanji Garden stands above all other Japanese gardens in terms of design. No one but the trained gardener can enter the garden.
Even walking around the garden is prohibited; one can just stop and contemplate. “Shinzo”, one of the Zen monks who lived in the 16th century, stated the philosophy in this garden was ‘to travel 30,000 miles in a single step’. Another Zen monk of the period described the garden with the words, “It cannot tire anyone to watch this type of garden, and one finds himself in a realm of thoughts without realizing the time spent here.”
Daisen-in Japanese Garden
It is a typical example of Kare-Sansui, made in Kyoto in 1513 by the priest Soho and the painter Soami. A section of 30 m 2 more 70 m 2 ‘is a ligand L-shaped spectacle garden.
The arrangement is created with symbols. Its soil is arid, and the impression of water created by fine stones contrasts with a bed of sand and moss vegetation. This masterfully designed garden was built not to be stepped into, but to be watched from the veranda. It is the most perfect type of illusion garden, that is, a ‘visual’ garden.
In the background is a mountain of pruned bushes. This image is highlighted by two standing rocks. There is a waterfall on the right. On the left is the turtle island made up of rocks and on the right is the crane island. The water pouring from the waterfall is symbolized by white-toothed sand. This symbolism stems from the Zen philosophy of reaching nothingness.
One of Japan’s most famous stones can be seen here. It resembles sailing ships in China and has been floating in a dry landscape river since the 1500s as a symbol of the passage of human life.
The karesansui gardens, which developed towards the end of the Muromachi period, are an entirely new style. It spread from Daitokuji and Myoshinji to the Monasteries of Gozan and from there to temples in the provinces. Its influence was also seen in the Zen-style monasteries of other sects in Kyoto.
Japanese Tea Garden
Tea garden style
This style, which first appeared in the Muromachi Period, reached its peak in the Momoyama and Edo periods, especially in the Edo Period, tea gardens were adopted as a garden style.
Tea philosophy, called Teaism, is not just an aestheticism but expresses views on humanity and nature through the partnership of morality and religion. Teaism is healthy because it requires cleanliness, economics because it shows peace in simplicity rather than complexity and expensiveness, moral geometry because it describes a sense of proportion to the universe. In short, it represents the true spirit of Eastern Democracy. Strangely enough, humanity has only ever met in a teacup. The tea ceremony is the only Asian ceremony that presupposes universal respect.
First tea room
The first independent tea room was the work of Sen no Soeki, the greatest of the tea masters, better known as Rikyu, who set the formalities of the 16th century Tea Ceremony and brought it to a high level of excellence. The tea room is quite plain in appearance. It is smaller than the smallest Japanese house, and the materials used in its construction evoke particularly refined poverty.
However, it should not be forgotten that all this is the result of deep artistic foreknowledge, and more attention was paid to all the details than to the construction of the richest palaces and temples. A good tea room costs more than a normal mansion. Because the craftsmanship and the selected materials require great attention and care. The simplicity and purity of the tea room are the results of imitating the Zen Monastery.
The arrangement of the garden part where the tea room is located is also under the deep influence of the tea philosophy. Tea gardens, called Chanhva, are a small venue in a Japanese garden where tea ceremonies are held.
In this garden, which is gathered for the purpose of drinking tea, it is possible to come across a tea house, a study room, a covered waiting area, and Japanese garden elements such as water bowls, stone oil lamps, and stepping stones. When entering the garden, guests are directed to the waiting bench with stepping stones. After washing hands and mouth in water bowls, guests go to the tea room.
Anyone who has walked this garden path can’t help but wonder how his soul is lightened and risen above everyday thoughts as he passes over the neat irregularity of the path stones, through the dawn of evergreens with dried pine needles, and past the musty-covered granite lanterns. The ingenuity of tea masters creating these effects of purity and tranquility is indeed great.
Tea gardens appear as gate gardens (roji) for the first time in Japanese history. They are built in narrow spaces between buildings. What is important here is what is felt while passing through this area. From the moment guests step into the garden, they participate in the tea ceremony. The tea gardens are designed in such a way that the guests can give their full attention to the act of walking. That’s why stepping stones used in the garden are very important.
Starting from the Muromachi Period, many tea gardens were built. After the retirement of Sen no Rikyu’s eldest son, Sotan, the family tradition was divided into 3 schools, and each of them was headed by Satan’s son. These are the Ura Senke, Mushanokoji Senke and Omote Senke Tea Schools. Zangetsutei and Fushin’an Omote Senke tea houses in Kyoto are known as the best examples of their era.
Zangetsutei is a Shoin type building, with living room-style tea rooms inside, Fushin’an is connected to Zangetsutei from the east wing by a wooden floor corridor. Guests at the tea ceremony enter this house through a square wooden shutter that opens from the back. Inside is a room with only 3 tatami mats. Jagged, split pillars and mud walls are distinctive rural symbols determined by the wealth and power of this era.
The emergence of the ride gardens, known as Kaiyushiki, dates back to the 17th century. It has emerged by combining the rural nature of the tea garden and the visual beauties of the old paradise gardens. Kaiyushiki includes almost all traditional design elements. Pools, mountains, islands, streams, bridges, lighthouses, and jumping stones are design elements used in this type of garden. The aim is to allow the visitors to have a good time by walking around the whole garden.
The main element in this type of garden is the pools with their islands. There is a path that goes around the pool. This road gives visitors a tour of the whole park, using jumping stones or a bridge when necessary, allowing the visitor to slow down and perceive the sights that require attention.
Pictures have been the source of earlier garden designs, so earlier garden styles tended to be pictorial, whereas we cannot say this for promenade gardens. Because the trend in this type of gardens is music. In this, it is effective that the garden includes the act of acting as in the tea gardens. Of course, the designers gave importance to the elements used in the garden, but they also gave equal importance to the best use of the space.
Promenade Examples of Japanese Gardens
Katsura Imperial Japanese Garden
Many examples of this type of gardens have been built since the second half of the Edo Period. The oldest extant excursion garden example is the Katsura Emperor Villa. Its construction began in 1620 and was completed in 1659. Made by the great tea master Kobori Enshu. It has incredible beauty in terms of scenery. The pond in the garden is fed from the nearby Katsura creek.
The area around the pond is covered with pathways. Some of these are covered with jumping stones, some with stone pavements, and some with pebbles. Access to 3 islands in the pond is provided by wooden, earth, and stone bridges. Attention was paid to the variety of materials used in the landscape and flooring. To create the effect of surprise, the landscapes are placed in such a way that they disappear and reappear as they walk through the garden.
There are 7 tea houses in the Katsura garden. This garden has been designed to meet many needs. such as aesthetic, spiritual, and recreational needs. Inside a small temple called Onrin-do, various fields for sports; There is a kind of football called kemari and a field for horse riding. The pond is large enough to hold boat parties in it.
There is a platform in front of the palace where the moon can be watched. The palace consists of 3 Shoin buildings. 42,900 grids on a field. Katsura garden set an example for the construction of many gardens later on.
Murin-an Japanese Garden
It is an example of a strolling garden built during the Meiji Period. Due to the absence of traditional plants in Murin-an, it is considered a turning point in the history of the walking gardens in Kyoto. Its construction began in 1893 by Ogawa Jihei and was completed in 1896. The garden has proven itself with its striking details. There is a 3-tier waterfall inside the garden. This waterfall spills into a wide, shallow stream. The mountains to the east can be seen through the trees.
Since the Japanese garden constitutes a world created for religious purposes, the need to integrate with that world, with that cosmos, necessitated the incorporation of the image of these gardens into everyday life. So the Japanese developed a garden art, with some reductions adapted to all kinds of circumstances of their life.
They named the box with a miniature landscape made to be put in a doorway or in a shop.
The small lake with a small redfish was the main element of this composition. The name Ban-kei is rounding, oval or rectangular, measuring 0.90m with 1.20m. porcelain, bronze, and even cement were placed on trays; In them, a real landscape was created by placing dwarf trees and tiny bridges on a backdrop of soaked and molded-painted old newspapers, mud, and sand. The Haka-Niva (miniature garden) is a miniature model of the Japanese garden on a small tray scale.
How to arrange a garden? What is taken into account? We also recommend that you read the detailed article we wrote about it.
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