Main garden karikomi and hako-zukuri objects

We have Niwaki (Japanese garden trees) [12] subdivided in Evergreen trees, Deciduous trees and Shrubs where the main garden Karikomi and hako-zukuri shrubs (this page) have a dedicated chapter.

Although almost all instances of karikomi are composed of multiple shrubs we refer to them as (visible) objects. Reason for this is the fact that, although they are integrated into the landscape, they all present themselves as a single solitary object with unique characteristics.
The use of plants as topiary art like karikomi, to replace stone was very much introduced by Kobori Enshu 4.b (1579-1647), responsible for many gardens with O-karikomi. The "O" prefix means "large" and it refers to the use of groups of plants clipped in a variety of shapes, often organic, to suggest landscape elements on an abstract level. Kokarikomi refers to the use of one plant, clipped and shaped as desired. "Ko" means "small". In Tsubo-en we have many of these.

The two major themes that are part of the building architecture, inside and out, are straight lines combined with curved lines, mostly circular. This has been propagated into the design and applied throughout the garden. Not only can this be seen in the ground-patterns formed by the Ginshanada and tsukiyama "coastline", and in the stepping-stones, that all have a straight side, but even in the topiary shrubs, expressed by the karikomi and hako-zukuri style.

The main garden O-karikomi

At the right side, the back and in front of the house we have the Ginshanada (silver sand open sea) with in the back right corner (North), as shown below, the main garden main karikomi refered to as O-karikomi, (topiary technique of clipping shrubs and trees into large curved shapes or sculptures) combined with Hako-zukuri (shrubs clipped into boxes and straight lines). As indicated above the "o" prefix in O-karikomi means "large" and it refers to the use of groups of plants. As this structure is composed of some sixty plants it does qualify and hence we name it the O-karikomi.
It will take a number of years to reach the sculpture like shape we have in mind. The sculpture represents a treasure ship carrying the Shichifukujin, "seven lucky Gods of Japan" ("Shichi" means seven, "fuku" means luck, and "jin" means god) or actually the "seven gods of good luck" of Chinese mythology. Sometimes these are referred to as the Shichigosan or Shichi Go San, which seams to have a different meaning but still relates to the number seven.

One purpose of the O-karikomi is the integration into the surrounding. The whole structure will eventually be kept relatively low to take maximum advantage of our location and views. By means of shakkei, a method to incorporate "borrowed scenery" into the garden view, we extend the garden boundary to the greenbelt on the golf course , that is in summer. Most of the trees are deciduous resulting in an extended view, of hundreds of meters, during the winter period.

okarikomi panorama

This most prominent "shrub-sculpture" composed of an organic O-Karikomi and Hako-zukuri combination (see the Virtual tour for more photo´s) is a complex object that not only deserves but also requires a detailed design of its own. The waves (to be) in the back are known as "namikarikomi".
The first attempt came out too close to the house because it was too circular. We had to elongate it, make it kidney-shaped to fit the designated area and still get the envisioned visual and aesthetic effect. The shrubs for such a creation would normally be evergreen Azalea`s, Rhododendron indicum (Satsuki) and obtusum Tsutsuji and Camellia (Tsubaki).
Looking at our environment and climate however, this was no option for us. Our location is too windy, our soil contains too much fat sea-clay and above all our expected life-time is just too short to ever see this mature.
For these reasons we selected the evergreen shrub Buxus sempervirens as a replacement, and we accept the fact that we will not enjoy the abundance of flowers in April/May.

Below more or less the same panorama-view by night, eliminated by the floodlight.

O-karikomi by night

Here a winter view from inside the living room.

O-karikomi winter 2423

An autumn view with the Roji-path on the left and borrowed scenery in the back.

The main O-karikomi and Hako-zukuri (shrubs clipped into boxes and straight lines). It will take a number of years to reach the sculpture like shape we have in mind.
The sculpture represents a treasure ship carrying the Shichifukujin, "seven lucky Gods of Japan" (Shichi means seven, fuku means luck, and jin means god) or actually the "seven gods of good luck" of Chinese mythology. Sometimes these are referred to as the Shichigosan or Shichi Go San, which seems to have a different meaning but still relates to the number seven. 1465
Here yet an other close-up of the hako-zukuri in 2006.

Also see: Buxus Sempervirens clipping.
An autumn view of the hako zukuri full of spider webs. 0678
A virgin winter view taken from a Mount Sumeru viewpoint. 2421
Here a close-up of a snowy hako-zukuri in 2008. 2426

To ensure that we would end up with the O-karikomi shape that we wanted, the placement of the plants needed careful planning. The following drawing was made to support this work.

Planting-plan 1632

For this karikomi we used three sizes/shapes of Buxus. The largest size for back and center 1 through 14, globular of about 60 cm (2 feet), in between these eleven straight shaped of 30 cm (1 feet) and thirty-two smaller globulars of 25 cm ( 9 inch) in diameter.
Now after ten years, the karikomi based tsukiyama landscape is getting shape. In places where we originally used Rhododendrons, these had to make place for Prunus lusitanica, that grows great, where as the Rhodo´s just stayed alive but not showed any visible growth other than beautiful blooming.

Note: The above picture was changed slightly in that buxus-globe 12 was moved to the bottom-right to make place for a long 7th "lucky God" to its left, as an optical continuation of the long "wave" to its right (diagonally to the bottom-right on the drawing).
For an impression of the final effect of the House and garden integration see that page.

In [12] you find a recent book reference to "Niwaki", (niwa ki) clipped and pruned garden trees, of a book that I should have had right from the beginning. Unfortunately at was not available at the time. Nonetheless, although late it is never too late for this kind of expert information.

Other main garden karikomi and hako-zukuri

Actually every shrub in the garden gets karikomi or hako-zukuri clipped and pruned. Rather then tackle them one by one we will group them according to similar visual characteristics.
Of the kokarikomi some have organic shapes but most of them are clipped in the even more abstract hako-zukuri style.

The second larges karikomi is large enough to qualify as O-karikomi.
This karikomi mountain-range as part of the tsukiyama landscape, is getting shape.

The original Rhododendrons had to make place for this Prunus lusitanica, that grows great.

View from "Turtle island".

There are a number of low buxus composites. These are clipped to become a single "disc" representing a low mountain and thus forming the transition from the the Ginshanada and tsukiyama "empty space", to the bordering mountain-scape in the background.

This "drop of water" shaped Euonymus Japonicus Compactus" is a large-leaved shrub in the foreground

The small-leaved Buxus sempervirens in the back reinforce the gardens depth impression.

These are hako-zukuri (box pruning) shaped and hence more abstract then the organic Kokarikomi.
Kokarikomi refers to the use of one plant, clipped and shaped as desired. "Ko" means "small".

The highest shrubs, left of the top-center and one just behind the deep-red Acer Palmatum"Blood good" that stands just behind the chouzubachi as part of the second tsukubai facility, are Juniperus media "blue" conifer that further enhance the depth impression due to absence of leaves or at least leaves being indistinguishable.

Karikomi and hako-zukuri topiary 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.
Note: The examples will only display correctly after the page has fully loaded !
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.
  Raikyu-ji, Takahashi, Okayama Prefecture.
A (the) genuine O-karikomi. 
 The temple's azalea bushes are said to represent undulating waves as they flow 
 toward the garden's two "islands".   Raikyuji is a Zen temple that was established by Ashikaga Takauji in 1339. 
Its garden is especially famous and was designed by Kobori Enshu, 
a great tea master. It is a representative Japanese Zen garden that was built in the early Edo period.   Raikyu-ji, a garden vista from inside the tatami-room.   Raikyu-ji, yet an other view..... so beautiful.   Raikyu-ji.
From the temple, Mt Atago can be viewed in the distance as a "borrowed view" beyond the garden. 
In the center of the raked gravel, there are two artificial rock islands called Tsuru Island and Kame Island. 
Both of them are surrounded by large shaped azalea topiary, "okarikomi", arranged along small artificial hills. 
This form was also used to illustrate the "Seigaiha" (one form of Gagaku).   Daiji-ji was formally known as Onodera-san Tenpou-rin-in Daijiji and was built 
by the priest Gyouki Bosatsu (668-749) in 737 in what is now Iwafune-machi, 
Tochigi Prefecture.   Shoden-ji, has a garden featuring shakkei-technique or "borrowed scenery". 
The garden uses Mount Hiei as a backdrop to a contemplation garden.   Tsukiyama in the foreground and hako-zukuri shape pruned shrubs as island in the ocean, in the back.
 The western garden of Hojo at Tofuku-ji, that is called Seiden-Ichimatsu.   Shisendo (House of the Great Poets), Kyoto   Shisendo (House of the Great Poets), Kyoto.   Shisendo,Kyoto, vista from inside a tatami-room.   Ritsurin Park, Takamatsu.
 The shrubs close to Geishun Bridge, on the northeast side of South Pond, are pruned in the hako-zukuri or box, style.   The temple Chion-in in Kyoto   The temple Konpuku-ji in Kyoto   The subtemple Taizo-in in Myoshin-ji in Kyoto   The temple Shisen-do in Kyoto   Chiran in Kyushu. An absolute fabulous karesansui garden.   Chiran in Kyushu   Chiran in Kyushu

Hills or tsukuyama landscape can be represented by land and groundcovers but also by bushes and topiary, karikomi and the like. Hence karikomi should be viewed in combination with Tsukiyama examples.

Most relevant related construction chapters

These are the most relevant related construction and build chapters.

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