Notes to the text

1: Acknowledgement and background.
We would like to acknowledge Anneke and Theo Visser (1927-2012) for raising our awareness of the Japanese garden.

There is an interesting anecdote behind this. In 1983 we moved house and became next-door neighbours. The new house was an existing one with a garden with a lawn, trees and plenty too large shrubs. The small front-garden was occupied by a single walnut tree that grow over the roof. One of the first things we did was the removal of the walnut tree. Then we changed this garden compartment into a small rock-garden. A gravel area with some small rock formations in it and some small succulent and Alp plants. On occasion, back in 1983, Theo asked about our interest in Japanese gardens. Our response to that question was one of surprise. Why did he think we where interested ? Then Theo's answer was both simple and unexpected, it was because of our Japanese-style front-garden. They had made their pilgrimage to Japanese temples (actually temple gardens) back in 1980 and saw lots of resemblance with what we had been doing. Now our interest was raised. Anneke and Theo had made lots of excellent slides during their trip and this was very much our first serious exposure to Japan, specifically to Japanese garden culture. This triggered us to move focus away from ordinary rock-gardens toward Japanese gardens and later to Japanese culture and nature in general. Prior to leaving for our Japan garden-trip Anneke and Theo told us about pilgrimage in Japan and how they, although it did not come any close to a real traditional pilgrimage, enjoyed their slimmed down version of it.
A popular custom is to buy a blank booklet at the beginning of the pilgrimage and have a calligraphy (Ofuda) painted in it at each of the temples. It is believed that one after one's death, when one can show this booklet to the deity at the gate of heaven, one obtains permission to enter heaven immediately regardless of one's sins. This is how we knew that the Japanese on their pilgrimage along temples and shrines have a booklet in which they, at every temple, ask a priest or monk to (after a small donation) calligraph the temple name, date etc. and put the temple stamps in the booklet. The place where this is done is called Nokyosho. At the first temple we visited (in May 1991) we bought our selves such hard-bound silk cover booklet and, although we where primarily interested in the gardens, we had it "signed" at each and every temple . Although one needs to stay alert because some clerk may try to push a stamp on one of your pages, some of these calligraphy's are genuine pieces of art. To us this booklet now is a precious trinket full of good memories and you never know if it may come in handy after all.

When, in 1987, we bought a new house we started from scratch. In the period prior to completion we studied Buddhism and its Zen form, Shintoism, Taoism, Confucianism and what have you. We also read a lot of books related to Japanese gardens and the culture around it.
The garden we designed, it was a small backyard of 10 by 10 meters, was a combination of aspects taken from different garden styles. We had a small pond but also a small karesansui cascade.It incorporated only few rocks and stone objects and had some tea garden characteristics like a tsukubai and a koshikake (watch house).
After our trip to Japan we only made minor adjustments and where satisfied with the garden as it was.
Then, as written in the introduction on Tsubo-en, in mid 1996 we yet had ourself built an other house for which we did the design during the building-period. This is the house with the the garden shown on these pages.
In 1999 we had our first Zen meditation ( Zazen) training and a few advanced ones in subsequent years. Not sure if this changed our garden interpretation but certainly it was and still is an interesting experience.
Note: As an example, The Shikoku Henro, one of the oldest pilgrimages in Japan. This pilgrimage which is located on the mountainous, southern island of Shikoku, covers a distance of almost one thousand miles and takes the pilgrim along 88 temples. The traditional way to do the pilgrimage is on foot, in white pilgrim clothes, shaven-headed, following the Buddhist precepts as closely as possible, and performing the usual rituals at all of the 88 temples. Apart from the white pilgrim clothes each pilgrim has a traditional Japanese straw hat, a wooden walking stick symbolizing Kôkai (in Japanese this custom is called dôgyô ninin: the pilgrim is accompanied on his way by Kôkai, who protects him), and a small white bag containing items like a small prayer book, a kesa (surplice), a tiny bell, incense, and a rosary.
Also see A Pilgrimage to 108 Japanese Temples.
our kesa


Our "temple booklet" with the Ofuda´s. The name of the shrine in the centre and the date of the visit on the left. The date is written top to bottom: year - month and day.
our kesa
This is the monk who drew the first ofuda in our temple-book in the Benzaiten temple in Tokyo.

See: Pilgrimage: Ofuda (charm, talisman), a shrine or a temple seal for an other one. Or A Shikoku Japan 88 Route Guide.

2: The influence of Zen on garden design was (probably) first described by Kuck [4] in the early 20th century and disputed by Kuitert [1 (p 154) ] by the end of that century. Whether this is Zen, Taoist or Song or China, we have applied the principles that appeal most to us.

3: Sen-no-Rikyû (1522-1591) is the most famous master of sado (tea ceremony) who raised the tea ceremony to an art form called wabi cha, a simple and austere type of tea ceremony, which is still widely practiced today.
In 1989 an impressive film "Death of a Tea Master" about the life of Sen-no-Rikyû was published, in which a warlord of Japan of the Tokugawa Shogunate, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, ordered Rikyû to commit seppuku (disembowelment), a death penalty.

4: Both daimyõ and commissioners:
a) Furuta Oribe (1544-1615) was a follower of Rikyû 3, that became a leading expert on tea.

b) Kobori Enshû (real name Kobori Masakazu, 1579-1647) an expert in matters of "early modern" garden art and technique. Enshû studied with Oribe who was at that time actively developing the elaborate tea architecture and garden. A number of gardens designed by Enshû have inspired us for the design of Tsubo-en. Fine samples are: Tofuku-ji, the Tofuku-ji sub-temple Reiun-in, and Konchi-in.
As Mirei Shgemori 6 respectfully acknowledged: o-karikomi reached its climax and its end with the life and death of this great garden artist [2 (p154) ].

5: The Sakuteiki [14] is a garden book with notes on garden making that dates back to the late seventeenth century. Its oldest title is Senzai Hishõ, "Secret Extracts on Gardens", and was written nearly 1000 years ago, making it the oldest work on Japanese gardening. It is assumed that this was written in the 11th century by a noble man named Tachibana no Tichitsuna. In this text lies the first mention of the karesansui in literature. Only recently we saw an English modern translation of this gardening classic.

A second manual in manuscribt form, was written in the 15th century (1466), the manual Sansui narabini yakeizu, (or "Senzui Narabi ni yagyou no zu") translated as "Illustrations of landscape scenes and groundforms" but also as "Illustrations for designing mountain, water and hillside field landscapes".
It is perhaps more applicable to the karesansui garden. This manual treats the composition of a scenic garden view as well as the technical use of garden materials such as rocks and plants, in detail.

An other book in the group that later made up the garden publications collectively known as "the Secret Books and Oral Transmissions on Garden Making", and that was reprinted many times is Tsukiyama Teizoden (Creating Landscape Gardens, by Kitamura Enkin), published first in 1735, is the first "do-it-yourself" Japanese garden manual in which the flat garden was first mentioned. The flat garden was a mostly secular residential garden type which also appeared adjacent to some temple residence halls. The flat garden, or hira niwa, was described in contrast with the hill garden (tsukiyama niwa), another type of residential garden. Although both terms were meant as classifications of gardens of the mid-Edo Period contemporary with the Tsukiyama Teizoden, some later historians of Japanese garden design began using them to categorize historical gardens as well.

6: A new type of karesansui garden [a] "For centuries the karesansui garden had mainly been a symbolic representation of the natural landscape. Then the Kyoto artist and scholar Shigemori Mirei (1896-1975) set out to explore ways to transform this traditional Japanese Garden type. His background as a painter allowed him to see several new ways to do so. Shigemori introduced lines, shapes and colors to the karesansui garden. Also he departed from the usual reference to a historical or natural landscape and based some of his new gardens on a story or the images a place's name evokes. The result is a new type of karesansui garden." (also see: Mirei Shigemori residence)

[III-8]: Mirei Shigemori created gardens in Japan between 1925 and 1975. While refusing to reproduce traditional gardens because they lacked any sense of modernity, he also refused to imitate European gardens because they were out of touch with Japanese culture. He saw the ancient roots of the Japanese garden in the memory of nature and the spirits that occupy it. Shigemori shared with traditionalists a deep interest in the study of the gardens of the past. With modernists he shared a definite will to innovate and to use modern means of expression, both technically and graphically. This enabled him to create a new approach to the ancient karesansui, or dry landscape garden, a style where little innovation had taken place over the past centuries. Educated initially as a painter, Shigemori approached garden design as an outsider; this is key to understanding why it was possible for him to renew the karesansui garden in the ways he did. Though he has been neglected by writers of the history of the Japanese garden, Shigemori’s approach is significant because it explores what a karesansui garden can be in the context of 20th-century Japan while remaining close to its cultural roots. This article is based on numerous translations of Shigemori’s writings, interviews with people he worked with, visits to many of his gardens, and a comparative analysis of 184 of his original design drawings made accessible for the first time since his death over 30 years ago.


7: "yohaku no bi": "the beauty of empty space", also ma or aki. [2 (p118) ] For the Western, non-Zen viewer, the art of yohaku is perhaps best described in terms of Mies van der Rohe's "less is more".

"Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add but when there is nothing left to take away"
. 8: "fuzei" [1(p55) ] In Sakuteiki "aesthetic sense".
When you place stones it is first and foremost necessary to grasp the overall sense.
... at some point "aesthetic sense" only refers to the mind of man, or more precisely, of the garden maker. To state it simply, it means both "beautiful appearance" and "aesthetic feelings".
... fuzei should therefore not be translated as "taste", ..."thinking over the lyrical aspects of a spot", ...exercising your tasteful senses...
"Create a subtle atmosphere" is fuzei wo megurashite. The Japanese word "fuzei" is composed of two characters and used with various meanings such as "atmosphere" and "taste". The character for "wind" or "air" and that for "feeling" or "emotion". This is illustrative for the fact that it was hard to be more concrete when talking about garden design.

9: Related to design and the desired qualities listed in Design the architecture we found an interesting study: "Visual perception in karesansui gardens" and "Visual perception in Japanese Rock Garden Design" [c.1 and c.3]. We found this only in June 2008, hence we could not use it during our design activity, it is however very recognizable material and may be of use to the reader. The approach of the thesis is rather, or actually pure, scientific, so one needs to be careful when applying it as the Japanese and in particular the Zen garden design approach very much is one of intuition and feel (see the above remarks on fuzei 8). If you are new to the concepts it may help you to get a quick-start and better understand the perception of what you see in real-world gardens.
The best appreciation and experience of the karesansui garden remains at an intuitive rather than a rational level. Interestingly in DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION the study states: "Designers have to simultaneously deal with objects and their surrounding empty spaces. Good designers probably do this effectively, already. However, we would like to suggest a reversed approach of conceptualization, where the structure of empty space is designed first." And this is exactly what we did intuitively or on "feel" (fuzei again). For information on how we did that see chapter Select the visible-objects below.
Statement of caution:
Please note that the essay should encourage additional informational research as the oversight of the essay not taking into account the burning of Ryoanji and the pathway omission in the newer design may influence a conclusion of representing a tree or other natural fractal pattern, such as the observation by Teiji Ito of the relationship of Ryoanji to the natural phenomena of viewing the Cassiopeia Constellation as a mirror image. (thanks to Edzard Teubert).
We are hesitant to bring this to notice because using this rational scientific approach may handicap you as a spectator. As we all know "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Your own garden experience as a beholder may be damaged for life with this knowledge as a basis because the approach is a complete opposite to the Zen philosophy that is based on intuition, subconscious, emotion and .... fuzei.
Often we have visitors asking questions, what is this and why is that ? Rather then enjoying the garden to its full extend. This, we think, is typical to the rational Western-mind. If the garden designer and the beholder are one and the same person (you ?), then reading the thesis and applying the proposed approach, may make it impossible to have an unconstrained garden experience in the way it was meant to be.
The both of us are Zazen practitioners and we did not use the thesis but based our design very much on emotion, intuition and our feel for aesthetic qualities. Therefore we think that reading the material did not do us or our Kansei, any harm. "Kansei", the perceptual and cognitive abilities to intuitively/deductively feel, comprehend, and appreciate the appearance of an object, scene, and consequently, the world around us.

10: "Mitate" means "to select", "to judge", and in tea mitatemono denotes the discarded objects rescued by tea masters for their beauty and usefulness, giving them new lives. Also see: mitatemono.

11: "Ground breaking ceremony" or Jichinsai. The Jichinsai ceremony is a Shinto ritual intended to calm the kami of the earth whenever a new building or other construction begins. It was and is believed that without going through the protocol of requesting permission from the earth kami, any building constructed would anger the kami and lead to it's destruction. Another purpose is to pray that the actual construction proceeds without any "incidents".
Even when Japanese construct buildings offshore a Jichinsai is inevitably held. The ceremony is not so much religious but more of a cultural more. There have been examples of court cases in Japan where the use of public funds to pay for Jichinsai for public works projects has been questioned due to the often official separation of religion and state, but so far at least the courts have ruled that the Jichinsai is purely a social custom. In any case it would be difficult to say otherwise in a country where there are few clear boundaries on just about anything (from Yamasa Student Network).
A video clip (low quality) of this ceremony is available in the list on: A collection of video clips related to Japanese gardens and gardening

12: "Daruma" also "Dharma" dolls. In Japan Daruma is a symbol of good luck and protection. A Daruma doll is traditionally given to someone starting a new venture, celebrating a birthday, or at the beginning of a New Year. At the start of an endeavor, one eye is painted and a wish is made for good luck. The other eye only gets painted when the goal is reached. At year end, it is customary to take the Daruma doll to a temple, where it is burned in a big bonfire. The Daruma doll is based on an ancient Buddhist monk who, after nine years sitting meditating in a cave, lost the use of his arms and legs. Often the doll possesses a weighted bottom and rounded shape, and so will automatically regain its balance after being tipped over, representing persistence of spirit and recovery from misfortune.

I made the animated Daruma on the home page with photo's of my first Daruma doll. My first Daruma was used on a professional project, named Electronic Warehouse, at Elsevier Science publishers. I was the lead IT Architect of the project that was very successful for all parties involved. The project was executed in 1995/96 but I could not get myself to burn it in a bonfire at year end. Hence the doll is still decorating my desk.
Also see: Daruma.

13: "living work of art" One needs to realize that every garden, by its very nature, is a work eternally in progress. Every garden is of an ephemeral nature. History proves that even the architecture as such is not static. Plants and trees grow and die, water levels change and even rocks can erode, be added, removed, replaced or repositioned, and buildings can be altered. For the sake of this treatise we assume that the garden architecture as such is static.

14: The religious or philosophical attitudes of a garden.
Many Japanese gardens are located in Zen temples, often as sub-temples. This has led many modern interpreters to regard them as direct expressions of Zen thought (contradictio in terminis ?). This is valid so long as one understands that contemporary Zen may not fully reflect all facets of Zen of the past [1].
It is also important to distinguish between contemplation and meditation. Japanese gardens are certainly meant to stimulate and support contemplation, but the practice and the goals of Zen meditation (Zazen) do not depend on the passive observation of external stimuli.
The creation and maintenance of a garden can be seen as a Zen activity, since labor is one of the principal paths to enlightenment, but the (temporal) end-product is not an object of Zen meditation.

15: Fukinaoshi.
Thinning [d] to preserve the natural habit of the branches and foliage is known as chirashi, while fukinaoshi is mostly used at the nursery. Fukinaoshi, a kind of revision (literally: "to re-do") is the technique for cutting back overgrown trees, creating a new shape. It is the basic technique used to shape established trees, that may have been neglected (just not) too long and involves cutting back to a framework of the trunk and main branches, before establishing a new shape [12].

16: Muso Soseki.
In [2, p110]: ...had become the domain of Zen priests. The most famous of these was Muso Soseki or Muso Kokushi [b], whose name is linked with Saiho-ji and Tenryu-ji, and who is even credited by some with the invention of the dry landscape garden per se.

17: Zeami.
Zeami (1363 - 1443), a contemporary of the architects of the karesansui garden, was the first to systematically expound the notion of monomane, the "imitation of things", in the Japanese arts [2, p116]. ....Only then can you express yugen (see yugen in Design the architecture).

18: Shunmyo Masuno (Zen priest).
Shunmyo Masuno of Kenkoh-ji temple is a modern day Zen priest who through this art form, strives to express his spiritual self [8, Introduction]. On an excellent website dedicated to Shunmyo Masuno you can see some beautiful examples of modern Japanese gardens domestic and overseas.

To see a beautiful 26 minutes filmed portrait of Shunmyo Masuno and his creations by Off-The-Fence go to the Video clips page and scroll to "The Zen Gardens of Shunmyo Masuno." close to the end of the list.

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