Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rediscover the Beauty of Japanese Gardens

Awaken your senses to their undeniable charm and elegance that continually astonish millions of people across the world. By Kaye Langit-Luistro

Just walking down the streets for 10 minutes leave you coughing from all the fumes and smoke around. You sometimes wish that you can go somewhere without the alarming noise and pollution of the city. But where can you find such a place? Thank goodness we still have the Parks and Wildlife at the Quezon Memorial Circle and the infamous Luneta Park in Manila for those craving for a quick rendezvous (RAN-DE-VU, French for meeting or date) with nature.

But what if you don’t want to leave the sanctity of your own home? You can still find what you’re looking for by simply redecorating your garden. Why not pattern it after the world-famous Japanese gardens? Once you get your parent’s permission, begin your research, to help you learn everything there is to know about them.

When It All Began

During the Edo (Old Tokyo) period (1603), the rich known as feudal lords or Daimyos in Japanese, used their money and influence by building intricate, lovely gardens. They did not only use trees but also landscaped stones into mountains, created miniature rivers, ponds and bridges done in a harmonious fashion. Today, there are three styles of Japanese gardens that you can see all over Japan. They are:

The Tsukiyama-style

This arrangement shows nature like hills, ponds and streams in miniature. A tea-house is also present for that all too important “tea ceremony” (art of preparing, serving and drinking tea) done to keep the Japanese culture alive in families and guests.

In Tokyo, the Kiyosumi Garden follows the Tsukiyama style. It showcases a small pond with some 10,000 carp (large freshwater fish) surrounded by landscaped huge rocks brought from all parts of Japan. This scenic spot is located near the Tokyo City Air Terminal and is open everyday between 9AM and 4:30 PM for a minimal fee, according to the Japan National Tourist Organization.


The Karesansui-style

This particular type was developed during the Muromachi era (1338 AD) to represent Zen spiritualism, a method or sect dedicated to rid oneself of worldly cares to achieve spiritual enlightenment. That’s why Karasansui-style is known both for its simplicity and force, seen in the use of sand and gravel to represent rivers or the sea.

The stone garden in Ryoanji temple in Kyoto, (west of Tokyo) constructed in the 15th century is an excellent example of the karesansui-style, according to the booklet “An Illustrated History of Modern Japan.” The garden is filled with sand and stones to show water flow.


The Daisen-in Temple, still in Kyoto also follows in the tradition of the
Karasansui. It has a large boulder to represent a waterfall, a rock to represent a boat, and another rock to represent a mountain.


The Chaniwa

This is usually a garden put side by side to a ceremonial teahouse, according to the book Illustrated: A Look Into Japan. This style downplays showiness and strives for simplicity and naturalness by using 5 main features:

• Ishidoro which is a stone lantern, in Japanese.
• Tsukubai refers to a stone basin and ladle used by guests to wash their hands and rinse out their mouths before entering the teahouse.
• Kakei is a bamboo pipe through which water flows.
• Sekimori-ishi is a small round stone bound with straw rope in the shape of a cross; meaning guests are not permitted beyond this sign.
• Tobi-ishi refers to stepping stones.

A Japanese garden may just be the haven you’ve been looking for to escape from an avalanche of school deadlines! Ask your parents if you can look for cheap materials to create a Tsukiyama, Karasansui, or Chaniwa-style garden at home. Better yet combine all three for a “sanctuary” of your very own!

Approximately 360 kilometers west of Tokyo, or about three hours’ ride aboard the Shinkansen (or bullet train), lies Kyoto, one of the largest cities in Japan. Here, the Kinkakuji Temple or Golden Pavilion prides itself of a Tsukiyama-style garden surrounding the whole temple. The pond is so clear, you can actually see the temple’s reflection! The garden also shows lush trees planted on grayish rock formations, which seem to float gently on the pond. It is not surprising to know that ever since the Kamakura period (1192 AD), the Kinkakuji Temple’s garden has been designated as a national scenic spot and a special historic monument.

Japan Tokyo Guide. Japan National Tourist Organization: Japan, August 1997.
Illustrated: A Look into Tokyo. Japan Travel Bureau: Japan, 1997.
Illustrated: A Look Into Japan. Japan Travel Bureau: Japan, 1997.
An Illustrated History of Modern Japan. Japan International Cooperation Agency: Japan.
Kyoto: The Friendship Programme for the 21st Century. Japan International Cooperation Agency: Japan.

This article appeared in Buhawi Magazine (2005), a High School reference material published by Diwa Publishing Group.
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