The front garden compartment

For your orientation, the groundplan is available in the Design the architecture section of the Specifics on the realization of Tsubo-en chapter.

Front garden or, zentei, is a general term referring to the garden in front of a building. In contrast to the main garden, which is a focus of attention, the zentei is typically more utilitarian, often just the planted area around an entry path.
In Tsubo-en the term has been interpreted more loosely, although combined with the required utilitarian facilities, we have tried to make the front garden also a focus area offering a "natural" entry and a transition into the main garden. An important reason of doing this is the "openness" of the garden. That is the garden not being enclosed and being particularly open to the street side.
One way of doing that is by extending the ginshanada into the front garden and to design it in such a way that it seems as though the ginshanada encircles the house that stands in this "open see". The same is true for the tsukiyama that looks the same as in the main garden (to the left around the very right side of the house) and left garden compartment.

1859 The front of the house seen from the street when standing on the left most corner. Here, at the left, we already see the ginshanada in which "the five Islands of immortality" float (read below).

The front garden wall is made of loose lying stackable "Garden wall" stones.

The same have been used to build the walls at the back of the house in the water front compartment.

Note that this photo does not show all of the front garden.

To the left of the front entrance, beside the drive Hõrai-jima, "symbol of the islands of the Blest" (Taoist myth) [2, page 27] sometimes represented as mountainous islands, "houraiseki". Here "the five Islands of immortality". These islands where thought to float in a remote sea, carried on the backs of giant turtles. The inhabitants lived in perfect harmony and where carried by cranes to move across the islands.

This gravel area is one of the extensions of the ginshanada.

One of these islands is Mount Sumeru or Shumi-sen. It is symbolized by the upright heavy rock in the main garden and is one of few stone arrangements, ishigumi, in Tsubo-en.

Shumi-sen symbolizes the mountain at the center of the World in ancient Hindu-Buddhist cosmology and one of the islands.
A winter impression of "the five Islands of immortality". 0792
The Nothofagus antarctica (Deciduous trees) behind "the five Islands of immortality" has a slender trunk with an attractive scaly bark and very small leaves that show resemblance with those of the Ulmus parvifolia. It is now getting shape and will be trained and pruned to get layers and islands. 1848

Preferable all materials used should be of natural origin. Unfortunately this will not be feasible in all cases. Restrictions on availability, budget, accessibility and so on can all be reasons to look for alternatives. The "garden wall" bricks that form the pathway border are such an alternative. We have used pallets of these. This is one of the few applications where they are partly used in only a single layer. These brick have been used to construct walls throughout the garden. The front garden boundary, the "waterside terrace", and over the whole length of the waterfront at the back of the house. The bricks can easily be piled up, without cement, and have a natural look because the front edges are broken. The pavement for the drive is also a compromise. The brick used is named "boomerang". This refers to its shape and makes it look less industrial. The anthracite-gray color was carefully chosen to fit both the purpose and style.

This view shows the right side of the front-garden as seen from the drive.

The Prunus lusitanica and the triangular Buxus sempervirens in front of it have just been pruned and clipped in the so called Hako- zukuri style (see: Karikomi and hako-zukuri).

To the left the tsukubai with the beautiful Acer palmatum(Momiji) disectum garnet (Japanese maple) and the Ulmus parvifolia"seijn" just behind it.

The tiny Rhododendron "Scarlet wonder" in the middle only just survives.
Here you see a fine collection of our trees, shrubs and groundcovers.

For additional detail on the planting please see the related chapters in Plants and planting.
In The Netherlands rocks are rarely found. This is an original stone in that it was found close to our house in this ground that was "taken from the sea" only around 1942
(also see: Where we live). It is said to have got here from Scandinavia during the second last glacial period (200,000 year ago), transported by a glacier.

At the entrance of the garden the path with the Tobi-ishi ("floating stones") stepping stones. This path shows one of the subtle design principles. The illusion of depth and length is reinforced by the fact that the pathway border is not formed by parallel lines but constructed to be more narrow at the far end.

To reinforce the optical depth effect of parallel lines converging toward the horizon, the entry of the pathway is made about 25% wider than the far end. Unfortunately this works only from one view position, when looking back from the front door this effect actually eliminates part of the true natural depth.

Also see: Paths, Roji.

To reinforce the impression that the the ginshanada circles and encloses the house one has to step over yet an other extension of it.

These polished granite stepstones "float" in the (gravel) "sea" that the ginshanada symbolizes.
0360. 0362

The front garden tsukubai facility. For details see the related chapter.

Straight forward, on the left side of the photo, the tobi-ishi path or Roji that runs along the "Turtle island" and bends to the left into the main garden.

Bedded in the groundcovers to the right of the path you see the Tsubo-en name plate.

0061 The Kame-jima, "Turtle island", seen from the tobi-ishi front pathway.

The composition suggests the shape of a turtle, the stone that represents its head (kitouseki) is the one at the far end (see below) slightly to the right of the tree.
The pine tree here symbolizes a crane that spreads its wings (see below) and also indicates the connection with immortality.
Tortoise and crane (tsuru) both stand for longevity and happiness.

The turtle or tortoise, and crane are associated with longevity and good health. This tradition stems from the Chinese legend of the mystical islands, "the five Islands of immortality" described above. The immortals flew from isle to isle on the back of cranes which were reputed to live for one thousand years. The isles where borne on the back of giant tortoises which lived for thousand years.
In close up or from a low view angle the flowers give the impression of clouds hanging in the sky over the island mountains.

The pine in the foreground is our Pinus mugo (see: Evergreen trees). The flowering Thymus Praecox pseudo langinosus can also be seen on the photo below.

0976 The flowering Thymus Praecox pseudo langinosus more close.
With the exception of the water in the chozubachi this is the only real water in Tsubo-en.

The water in the "upper lake" gets continuously replenished and refreshed by a small fountain that gets the water from the "lower lake" that serves as a reservoir. The construction is based on the overflow principle.
Here the Kame-jima, "Turtle island", where the head is just visible, slightly to the left of the tree.

This is the point where the path bends to the left.

This photo was taken just after a heavy rain shower. The water now makes it a real island.

For a close up and the function of the wrapped stone see: Miscellaneous garden ornaments and small objects.
The "upper lake" fountain in winter, covered with ice.
We leave the pump running so the birds will always have streaming water to drink from.
Upperlake winter
0258 Although we love to see a diversity of birds that come to drink and bath in this small pond on the "turtle island", a duck inhere does look a bit silly, to say the least.

The island lies very close to a large window in our living room from which we can enjoy a diversity of birds on a daily basis.
Here a preview of the main garden compartment. This is how it looks from the road side.
At the bottom you can just see the front garden wall.
1717 This photo shows the front garden right corner (street view) when looking back before entering the main garden. The tree in the front is the Abies (Evergreen trees) on the island and the one in the back is our Larix (Deciduous trees).

Islands examples

This section shows a selection of fine authentic examples that all originate from Japan. These examples show how design principles and rules are applied and interpreted and how and what materials are used in genuine Japanese gardens. These examples should be of help and inspiration during realization of your own Japanese garden.

Part of these photos is from our own trips others have been collected from different sources, including but not limited to the Internet. New examples will be frequently added.

It is not an exact-science to draw the line between garden-elements to distinguish between elements such as tsukiyama, ginshanada, (O-) karikomi, hako-zukuri, stone-settings, islands, borrowed-scenery and so on. Under each subject, or better subject-area, we try to show examples with focus on the main subject. Often an example will be in a context with other elements.

  Manshuin, in the eastern district of Kyoto, known as Higashiyama.   Kasuien Garden Villa In Westin Miyako Hotel, Kyoto.   One of the islands in the world famous Ryoan-ji Zen garden, Kyoto.   One of the islands in the world famous Ryoan-ji Zen garden, Kyoto.   One of the islands in the world famous Ryoan-ji Zen garden, Kyoto.   Three of the five islands in the world famous Ryoan-ji Zen garden, Kyoto.   The Western garden in Tofuku-ji, Kyoto. Here the hako-zukuri pruned shrubs represent islands in the ocean.   An Island in the ginshanada at the temple Manshu-in in Kyoto   The subtemple Taizo-in in Myoshin-ji in Kyoto   The Hojo garden in the temple Tofuku-ji in Kyoto   Islands in a tsubo-niwa in Sokoku-ji in Kyoto   Symbolic islands in To-ji in Kyoto (Mirei Shigemori)

Top of page