Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Japanese Gardens Abroad

SJG • 6/22/15

How can we respond to a question of 
"What is Japanese Garden?” 
in a simple and clear manner for Japanese gardens outside of Japan?

by Koichi Kobayashi, June 2015

I started writing this paper to create an introduction as to how best to develop, design andfoster Japanese gardens abroad.

Japanese garden has been said to be an important aspects of Japanese culture which nurtures international understanding and friendship. Many Japanese gardens have been built as products of attraction to things oriental, government public relations in form of expositions , friendship-sister city relationship, showing of wealth of individuals and others over the years in America and in Europe.

Even though these initial roles still exist, today the role of public and private Japanese gardens, especially in North America has expanded beyond landscaping and recreation; they are used in commercial settings, for weddings and events, for cultural programs for professional medical therapy and more.

I am, however, observing recurrent problems at some gardens facing changes in a name of making the gardens adapting to modern requirements and sustainability contrary o the soul of Japanese garden and problems in creation of gardens which astray from the soul of Japanese garden in my understanding.

I truly believe we should come back to the following to challenge questions:
What is Japanese garden (in Japan ) ? and
What is Japanese garden abroad?

I am staring this inquest by searching for answers to:How can we respond to a question of

“What is Japanese Garden?” in a simple and clear manner for gardens outside of Japan?
Or is that possible, productive and meaningful?

Section 1. Introduction
Although I have been involved in studying, designing, caring and visiting Japanese gardens in Japan and abroad over the years , I have come to point needing to deepen my understanding on “What is Japanese Garden?”, especially for creating and fostering of

gardens outside of Japan. In order to do that, I have come to realize that I need to be able to describe Japanese Garden in a simple and as much a clear manner in achieving this.

That is the reason why I have started writing this paper.

I have started it first by learning and exploring basics of Japanese gardens based on existing literature written by many scholars and professionals from Japan and abroad. Some of the literature I reviewed are listed in bibliography attached.

Subjects matters reviewed included the following: Basics of Japanese garden: Principles, Technology, Elements and Styles.But this examination of existing literature has still not given me a satisfying answer but only a beginning.…………

On my way home from the Second Conference of the North American Japanese Garden Association in Chicago, 2014, I came to realize that I have been evading an important question on Japanese Garden. The question is “What is Japanese Garden (Abroad)” and how you define it.

A number of us, Canadian (German), American(Japanese), and British sat around a lunchtable at historic Oak Park after touring residence of Frank Lloyd Wright and started talking about on what makes Japanese Style Garden. There has been continuing discussion on Japanese Style Garden and Japanese influenced/inspired Garden. I remember that we had a round table discussion session on this subject at the Fourth International Japanese Garden Symposium in Seattle, 2004. Prior to the symposium I distributed a questionnaire on this subject to help guiding the discussion. Survey outline and findings from this survey are briefed in the following section.

At the lunch table I told my friends that I recall two occasions when I found a sensation of experiencing Japanese Garden: one at a time entering into the forest of high country in Yosemite and the second when visiting a private residential garden designed by James Rose in Ridgewood, New Jersey. The garden did not have any trimmings of traditional Japanese Garden but there was a spirit. What were they that I felt? My understanding of Japanese garden at that time was limited as compared to today. I must have relied mostly on my spatial and aesthetic sensitivity on landscape space as much the same way as Professor Garrett Eckbo explained his way of seeing Japanese garden.

I hastily develop a survey in order to find the answer to this difference as shown below before the 2014 conference and mailed them to potential Japanese respondents and other friends.

I would like to challenge you to share your knowledge and wisdom. I would be delighted to have your continuing support. You could fill in an attached table and answer few questions on Japanese Garden.

At Japanese Garden, there exists following characteristic as contrasted to other gardens in Europe, America, and others:
A. It is naturalistic in space, form and texture
B. It is curve linear in form and shape
C. It recalls natural scenery ( famous/historical location)
D. It recalls religious teaching 
E. It is symbolic/miniature.
F. It has dynamic balance and asymmetry
G. When entering a garden, it does not reveal whole.
H. It contains traditional landscape furnishing such as lantern, bridge etc.
I. It consists of traditional landscape elements such as earth, water and feature vegetation.
J. It heals your soul and mind....

The rest of article is here:  (you have to register at Academia, it's free):

SJG • 5/2/15

Monday, June 15, 2015

Moss viewing & 'Myogi' azalea

by aleks
SJG • 6/14/15 - Moss in Area S, behind the azumaya...Maggie got the name from Patty,
the senior gardener: probably Polatrichum commune
-  the stems appearing like a Cryptomeria Tree.

• MOSS:  One of the most frequent questions from visitors is about moss in the Garden: so much of it, but it is not even listed in the Plant List...  So the Plant Committee decided to take closer look at it, and 'look' is about all we got so far:  books got opened, libraries visited and great email discussion on the moss ensued.  According to local literature (Arthur Lee Jacobson: 'The Crytogamic Carpet --Mosses in Seattle' ) we might have about 100+ or more different mosses here, and nobody seems really that interested to study them.  Found The world of Mosses, which lists 430+ different mosses for Ontario!

SJG • 6/14/15 - shaggy, carpet like moss in tea House Garden (Area W) 

So a couple of days ago I took my camera and signed myself for 'moss viewing' at the gate; what I found was most fascinating:  we have at least 4-5 different kinds of moss on the ground: some short, looking like tiny stars, same longer, thick and shaggy like a carpet, and some wavy/curly, appearing like bunch of spiders on the ground.

SJG • 6/14/15 - spider-like braided curly moss on the hill at the end of ZZE

And then, of course, there is a moss on the trees... I don't think I even want to venture there, before we figure out what kind of mosses we have on the ground; but I took a few pics.

SJG • 6/14/15 - moss on osmanthus x burkwoodii tree in D

Edit 6/16/15: to add to references from Maggie on moss:

1.)  her favorite book for identifying mosses in the NW: 'Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska' by By Andy MacKinnon & Jim Pojar (link will take you to Elliot Bookstore)
2.) link to Zen Garden in Netherland, where she found a very informative webpage on grand-covers, including moss

• 'MYOGI' azalea: finally caught blooming!  It lives in a long clump in Area B, along the connector path, listed as 'corolla white', and eluded me for a number of years. This year  it bloomed mid June and is indeed white with small pink sections here and there. Very beautiful!

SJG • 6/14/15 - Rhodeodendron indium 'Myogi', azalea - Area B

SJG • 6/14/15 - bonus picture for your enjoyment:  little visitors on a stepping stone ...

Monday, June 1, 2015

子供の日 • kodomo no hi (Children’s Day) 2015

SJG • 5/31/15 - sumi-e painting

The Sixth Month
rokugatsu ya mine ni kumo oku arashiyama

sixth month—
clouds resting on the peaks
of Arashiyama

-Basho.  From:  Bonsai, PIE Books, Tokyo, 2011, 
translated by Emiko Miyashita and Michael Dylan Welch

SJG • 5/31/15 - aikido demonstration

by aleks
Another wonderful children's day in Seattle Japanese Garden, and this year we had several new activities: youth aikido demonstration (with audience volunteer participation),  Iaido sword demonstration, haiku workshops for children,  show-and-tell presentation of a day in the life of a child in Japan and sumi-e water color painting.

SJG • 5/31/15 - miniature zen gardens

Previous year shows and activities were met with usual enthusiasm: Kaze Daiko drum performance, origami workshops, puppet show, koi feeding, building miniature zen gardens, scavenger hunt and koinobori (carp streamer) making. 

SJG • 5/31/15 -  origami workshop

For grown-up children we had two garden tours, and frankly some of the adults seemed jealous of being excluded from certain hands-on activities:  I saw several grown-ups at the origami and zen garden tables folding paper and raking sand on the sly, while small kid's attention went to puppet, aikido or sword shows and had one adult man asking me where the pagoda is - he was enjoying a scavenger hunt, I'm sure to 'help' his kid :) (which was nowhere to be seen around)...

SJG • 5/31/15 - Iaido sword demonstration

SJG • 5/31/15 - while haiku master is away giving workshop at the meadow, Thomas and Sarah mind the haiku station

SJG • 5/31/15 - koinobori making
SJG • 5/31/15 - koi feeding

Monday, May 25, 2015

May going fast in the garden

The Fifth Month
surugaji ya hanatachibana mo cha no nioi

Suruga road—
even the wild orange blossoms
smell of green tea

From: Twelve haiku translations from Bonsai, PIE Books, Tokyo, 2011, 
translated by Emiko Miyashita and Michael Dylan Welch

SJG • 5/24/15 - a duck by the lantern on suhana  (pebble beach on the rocky peninsula)

by aleks
Usually April and May are the months when rhododendrons and azaleas overtake the Garden, making it extravagantly showy with colors, almost gaudy. And although most westerners like it that way, and actually many come for the show (jugging from comments I overhear: 'let's go on the Azalea Way, there is even more there', 'now it's the best time for color'), it s during those months that I find myself taking the time on my tours to explain that this was NOT the original intent of our Garden and his architects, nor the aim of any Japanese style Garden.

SJG • 5/24/15 - wisteria blooms almost over, the trellis returns to its natural
green statement role, with Japanese irises beneath. 

My explanations are often met with quizzical looks on the faces of visitors (reading like  'who would want to give THAT up?!'),  leading to more explanations that the aim of the Garden is to create a feeling of calm, permanence and continuity, which is why evergreen trees (especially pines) and shrubs,  predominate in the Japanese garden and brightly colored flowering plants are generally not planted.

SJG • 5/24/15 - after taking this pic I went to see what's the attraction. Crayfish  perhaps?
They like to congregate there...  No, it's was a turtle that seemed to want to come out
(lay its eggs maybe up the path?), but  all that attention!

I visited our Garden yesterday and noticed that it is returning faster than usual to its typical shades-of-green palette: after unusually warm winter some blooms appeared as much as four weeks early, and  speeded away just as fast.

•  •  •  •  •

REMINDER: 子供の日 • (kodomo no hi) Children’s Day THIS Sunday, May 31, 11am - 3 pm

SJG • 5/24/15 - Japanese irises up-close

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Scenes from the garden

by aleks
SJG • 4/21/15 - fiery orange r. kaempheri lining up the path to waterfall

I was in the garden to catch a few pics to update  the Plant List blog and for the first time I was comfortable enough to look at the patterns in planting (the horticultural information is pretty intimidating for me, and for the last several years I was barely at the level of identifying singular plants and not much looking at the overall design).

SJG • 4/21/15 - r. 'Bouquet rose' on the bend, ''arnoldiana'on the wall in the north

in 1960 Juki Iida, the designer of our garden, was given over 160 rhododendrons from Arboretum to play with; he thought it was a bit too many, and at this time of the year, and 55 years later, I can understand his trouble:  the garden looks like a rhododendron park, and not really Japanese style garden. Still pretty though.

SJG • 4/21/15 - I take this pic of the benches under azaleas several times a year...

When we guide people around the garden we tell stories: some are about the concepts of Japanese garden, other stories are about the art and poems connected with it, and yet another about architectural gifts the garden carries.

SJG • 4/21/15 - the turtles don't care...  hey are just sunning themselves up

But sometimes it is OK to be silent and quiet about it; just look, be peaceful and part of it :).

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Photographs and Memories

by Cara I.; pics by aleks
One of the first tours I led this season was of a group of older adults from a residential community. When I met the group and their leader, they expressed some familiarity with gardens, Japan, and even the Seattle Japanese Garden, so it was with anticipation of learning from them that I started our garden stroll.

Stepping on the threshold stone, we shed our outside cares away and walked into the garden. Individuals noticed the pines, the dry stream bed. I spoke of the ‘hide and reveal’ principle in Juki Iida’s design of the garden.

The group leader said that one member, Sally, was here in 1960 when the garden was built; in fact, Sally’s husband had helped to build it. He was one of the Japanese American gardeners on Juki Iida’s team that constructed the garden. What a wonderful opportunity to hear about that group of gardeners, whose assistance was invaluable to create what we see in the garden today, 55 years later!

The stone is there (in the water to the R of the men), but not the lantern on it yet ... The archival photo was taken during the construction in spring of 1960; Aleks found it at the Miller Library. The original photographer is unknown.

Sally said the garden looks very different now, noting the maturity of plants and the weathering of stone elements her husband had helped to place. She shared a story about observing the construction one day. She remembered her husband in the pond with a heavy lantern, patiently following Iida’s instructions to move it this way and that till it was placed exactly on a stone as the designer wished it. “It was that one,” she said, pointing to the yukimi-toro (snow-viewing lantern) on the south shore of the pond, a favorite lantern in the garden for many visitors and certainly one of the most-photographed due to its mossy cap, the probable consequence of its placement at the shoreline and the direction it faces.

Similar angle, the pic taken in spring 2011; the zigzag bridge is to the north and stone peninsula to the right.  The lantern  has now been sitting on the stone for 55 years - or since Sally's husband helped to place it there.

That day in 1960, Sally took a photo of her husband, crouched low in the pond to avoid blocking the designer’s view and still be able to move the lantern. She really liked that photo, although it's become misplaced over the years, she mentioned. As she shared her memory of that day, I knew I'd think of Sally and her husband every time I see the yukimi-toro from now on.