An online guidebook on how to make a Japanese (Zen)garden
Based on a real-world example this is the on-line "living" guide to realize a Zen garden.
This site gets frequently updated.
Tsubo-en anno 1987, 1998
An (almost) genuine private ¹ Japanese Zen ²
karesansui garden in
the "Low Lands"
(that is what "The Netherlands" means).
This is shown by Daruma. Click to find out
This is the hako-zukuri part of our
main O-karikomi, throughout the seasons.
Last updated: 17 March 2012
See: History of changes.
Our child Buddha,
or better Jizo bodhisattva
Japanese gardens are a living work of art
in which the
plants and trees are ever changing with the seasons. As
they grow and mature they are constantly sculpted to
maintain and enhance the overall experience. Hence a
Japanese garden is never the same and never really
finished. While the underlying structure is determined
by the architecture, that is the framework of enduring
elements, such as buildings, veranda's and terraces,
paths, tsukiyama (artificial hills) and stone
compositions, over time it is only as good as the
careful maintenance that it receives by those skilled
in the art of training and pruning.
As the Japanese garden evolved over 15 centuries it is
difficult to label or "put in a box".
As there are many garden types in Japan, to typify it
as (just) "a Japanese garden" is not enough.
It is not workable nor does it do justice. The
differences between e.g. a Tea-garden and
Karesansui-garden are just too big to talk about in general terms when
working to design one.
It is important to know what type of Japanese garden
you are "planning" so you can name it and focus
on the relevant characteristics. There are of course
commonalities between all Japanese garden types but
these are often not the subject of discussion.
It is required to typify it one degree more precise to
be able to successfully realize a Japanese garden,
either of a single type or a composition of divers
One of the first thoughts should be: "what type of
Japanese garden do I want to realize ?" (see
Phase-1 in: Approach
to realization of a (Japanese Zen) garden
Then when decided upon, this typification can become
the basis for further study, investigation, discussion,
architecture design and elaboration.
Use of Archetypes of gardens according to the Tokyo
Agricultural University has proved to be a good
Then you can talk about your
Japanese "Tea garden
" or perhaps a combination of elements
from different garden (arche)types
On this website we try to be of help to those who want
to realize their own "Japanese garden",
in our case the focus is on the Zen or Karesansui
garden. Please have a look at:
How to typify, architect and compose a Japanese garden ?
if you have not yet made up your mind on this important subject.
A brief definition of
(kare=dry, san=mountain, sui=water) from the "Bilingual dictionary
of Japanese Garden Terms" [10
"Dry landscape (garden); dry garden. A garden
style unique to Japan, which appeared in the Muromachi period (1392-1568). Using
neither ponds nor streams, it makes symbolic
representations of natural landscapes using stone
arrangements, white sand, moss and pruned
trees.For a more elaborate description of the term
karesansui see: Introduction page.
5 of the Heian period (794-1185), the term
indicated a stone arrangement in a part of the garden
This Tsubo-en website is made available to share
information regarding the Japanese karesansui garden
in general and more specific to the Tsubo-en
realization and maintenance. Feel free to send an
email if you have any questions or suggestions. Our
experience is broad and stems from our own private
gardens, the latest and current one being Tsubo-en in
Lelystad, The Netherlands.
Tsubo-en is a karesansui-type garden, according to
the historical Zen dry rock garden principles, in a
more modern form. We not only show you the romantic,
poetic and esoteric side of the garden that visitors
normally get to see, but also allow you a more
pragmatically-oriented glimpse behind the scenes and
under the covers. What is documented here is our
experience that includes the lessons learned on all
aspects, from developing a vision and architecture
design to construction details and fighting
In May 2010 we started our own Blog, well we call it our
Blog-based diary. This offers additional dynamics and
interaction to and with our readers.
Here we reveal all
Click the "blog"
pictogram in the upper right margin to learn more.
For a brief run-down see:
What to expect on this site ?
The structure of this site is very much that of a
book but in a "living" version and with all the nice
facilities that an Internet-connected web browser
interface can offer.
We want to be a single entry
point and book of reference for those who have
accepted the challenge of creating and maintaining a
karesansui garden or garden compartment. Rather than
duplicating or re-inventing terms and concepts, we
make use of information available on the Internet
when ever possible, using hyperlinks. Although the
focus of this site is the dry rock garden, in
principle you may find help while realizing any
Japanese or actually whatever garden, because the
methodology as such applies the same to all.
In the Introduction
page you find a brief
description of the garden and the karesansui
The individual chapters are directly accessible from
the Table of contents
or indirectly via the
menu options. Here you can have a quick look on what
information is available and how the site is
structured. Here you also find a short section
Important usage notes
to help ease and optimise your use of this site.
chapter shows recent
activities in the garden, mostly updated once every
The name we gave our garden is "Tsubo-en". This name
was initially given to our first Japanese style
garden back in 1987 (not counting prior attempts
). Our first serious Japanese
garden was a small more or less enclosed courtyard
garden, about 10 m by 10 meters (33 x 33 feet) in
size. Back in 1998 we moved to this house, with a
garden that is not enclosed and not that small (at
least to Dutch standards). The size of this garden is
about 30 by 30 meters (98 x 98 feet). Nonetheless we
kept the name of the garden.