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About Japanese Gardens
« on: May 30, 2010, 07:58:09 AM »

I have some notes to share about Japanese gardens specifics, I though some people may be interested. I hope you will not find them boring. One may find a lot of information on the web, what I am posting is a sum of main ideas, although presented in a personal approach and not intended to be a resource for PhD  Grin

I'll try a brief presentation of the concepts. Not being a spet, but only a nature lover, all I can do is a compilation of information offered to me by various good-willing people and other sources, while I was in that marvelous part of the world.
As the subject is generous, I planned everything as a succession of posts that will follow depending on the time available.

I'll try to post links to some Japanese sites; if you can’t link by clicking on them, try to copy-paste the link into your browser.

And first of all, I would like to urge those tempted to engage in such a venture, to think about what they want to achieve - and why. A “clone” that looks like a copy of a Japanese garden in Japan, or an European garden, designed by the criteria and philosophy of Japanese gardens?  Remember that Japan climate is more humid than Malta's. Consider the plants you can have, the plot available, the money and the time and, especially, the message you want to convey.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2010, 15:28:41 PM by gomez99 » Logged
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Re: About Japanese Gardens
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2010, 08:00:07 AM »

Japanese gardens – Basics
Japanese garden starts from the basic idea that everything must fit in nature. Elements of nature – landscapes or plants - can be refined, simplified, symbols can be associated to them, but they cannot be manufactured, faked or modified, one cannot include in such a garden elements which nature cannot create. For example, in a Japanese garden we can find a stream, a lake, a waterfall, but not a fountain. A Japanese garden may be made only of sand and stones.

For a Japanese garden the space, area of development, is not essential, essential is the layout. A Japanese garden is an independent entity that communicates, initiates moments of meditation or relaxation. The Japanese garden does not accept the formal congregation of French gardens, neither the cheerful agglomeration of English cottage garden. Japanese garden provides one or more reference points, each placed so that it can offer the best scenery – and message - to the viewer.

It is useful to know that most gardens of Japan were designed as private gardens. In this respect they convey the philosophy of owner or the gardener. Only latter, in Edo era, public gardens have been build, which were designed to accommodate large groups of wandering people. Meditation takes precedence over beauty, so the aim is first to have the visitor achieve "wa" – internal balance and tranquility – and then to induce meditation. And this by replicating a part of nature, or refining a corner of landscape.

Before talking about the garden configuration, one should consider the philosophical concepts set as cornerstones:
Wa – (inner) tranquility
Sumi – balance (harmony of contrasts)
For a (traditionalist) Japanese, our delight in front of the vegetal lace of Fontainebleau or Versailles is an artificial one, for him all has to begin from harmony and tranquility. Tranquility can be conveyed by shapes and colors, harmony by the relationship between objects, plants and their placement. One will not built a tea house in a 5x5yards garden, nor will mark the entrance of such a garden by a solitary maple tree.
A Japanese garden may include:
  - plants – most of them trees and bushes
  - sand
  - rocks
  - ornaments – stone lanterns, water basins, fences, gates
  - water – ponds, creeks, waterfalls.
They may not be all of the in the same garden,

The three principles of Japanese garden

First principle:
The garden should fit the location, do not alter the location to accommodate the garden.

The second principle
Set appropriately first the stones, then the trees, then the bushes.

The third principle
Know well the styles and rules of setting the kind of garden you want to build.

If the third principle may have many interpretations, the first two are immutable in all Japanese gardening schools
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Re: About Japanese Gardens
« Reply #2 on: May 31, 2010, 15:26:51 PM »

Types and styles
 Considering the fundamental concepts, there will be three main types:
- Duplication, which refers to small-scale reproduction (sometimes "literally" using bonsai) of a part of nature. Lately, miniature gardens, small terrarium-like dioramas with bonsai and dwarf plants, of 0.5-2 square meters, became very fashionable in the West, but most of them are of pure western influence.
- Inclusion, which refers to the inclusion in the garden of the existing landscape elements
- Symbolize, which represent elements of nature with sand and stones.
In general, we can talk about three to seven styles of Japanese gardens (depending who counts   ). Following I will mention six, because I insisted on their constructive side, but also because their evolution was dissimilar and various schools of Japanese gardening have different opinions.

Stone Garden - karesansui

It is probably the most famous Japanese garden style and is designed strictly for contemplation, for that reason is also called by Westerners the "Zen garden." Consists of sand, gravel and large stones. The garden tries to represent nature in the form of abstract symbols (water = sand, stones = islands), or a representation of a subject more or less mythological (islands of eternal youth, Buddha's meditation, etc.).
Can be built indoors, smaller, a few square meters. Regardless of size, Japanese stone garden is designed to be contemplated from exterior; the viewer circling around it and stopping in key points.

Islands on the Water - Shinden
Is built on a lake, using the islands already there or man-made. Islands can be linked by bridges. Sometimes aristocratic mansions were built with a view to such a garden. The largest lakes could be used for pleasure boats, the smallest were only for contemplation. It is designed to be contemplated only from one side, that of house. Not very common, and are mostly found embedded at a small-scale in kaiyushiki.

Borrowed scenery - shakkei
It is a garden built so as to emphasize a fragment of nature, or using an already existing element in nature (but which may not be necessarily part of the garden): the view of mountain, lake, valley, a temple on a hill, a secular tree, etc. Components of the garden will be located to gradually guide the sight to the key point and allow contemplation. Usually the viewer has access only from one side of the garden, the other side being occupied by "borrowed" landscape.

Promenade Garden - kaiyushiki

Is a large garden, where the visitor can walk freely. Can contain any specific elements of Japanese gardens and can include even a rock garden or tea house. Paths are marked by stone paving, walking stones or – less often - sand and gravel and the key points are suggested to the visitor, key points which may be contemplated from several angles.
Some purist and consider Shinden and shakkei as derivated from kaiyushiki.
In modern times, some of these gardens have been open to the public. One of the largest such garden is the Imperial Garden in Tokyo.

Tea Garden - roji
Is a small garden that separates the house and tea house and is not meant to linger in it more than a few moments. Aims to prepare the visitor for tea ceremony, by giving him peace and tranquility. It is a transit area, crossed by a single path of stepping stones, in which the key can be the patch itself leading to the tea house. On entering the tea house there is a water basinet where guests wash their hands. It's probably one of the most difficult forms of Japanese gardens. Stones found in the roji garden are only stepping stones, stone lantern and water basins (Tsukuba)
There are gardens [Chaniwa] which include a Tea House. These are actually kaiyushiki where (one of) the key point is the tea house.

Indoor garden - tsuboniwa
The literal translation of "inner garden" or "garden of two tatami”.
Tatami = mat of rice straws used by Japanese as sleeping futons as well as for carpeting the floorboards. One mat is about 190x95 cm and is at the same time used as a measure of area.
It is the most common garden, very popular today. Is usually small and comes in diverse forms. Its purpose is to bring a piece of nature and even a moment of contemplation right at home. May contain only a baby-maple and a rock or can sneak through some buildings and include the driveway entrance. For interior can be built on terraces or balconies, on roofs or scaffolding, can be found even in office buildings or small restaurants. Usually indoor gardens are designed to be contemplated from outside, mostly from one direction.
« Last Edit: May 31, 2010, 15:29:33 PM by gomez99 » Logged
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