Miscellaneous garden ornaments and small objects

Perfection is achieved, not when no more can be added, but when nothing can be left out.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery (author of "The Little Prince").

In Tsubo-en we have used only few ornaments (tenkei-butsu) and small ornamental objects. The most prominent exceptions are perhaps the tsukubai (see: Tsukubai). In this chapter we address the few remaining ornaments and small objects that can be regarded as such.


During the tea ceremonies of the Momoyama period, temple dedication lanterns were used to provide a dim light. The subtle luminescence of the lantern underscored the beauty of the tea ceremony aesthetic.
Although some recent texts on Japanese gardens state that stone or bronze lanterns were first used to light the paths of tea gardens, these elements appeared in Japanese gardens, temple compounds, Shinto shrines, and other venues long before the development of the tea ceremony.

In Tsubo en we have two lanterns. Both rather inconspicuous.
Most important in placing a lantern is the fact that the lantern needs to fit into the garden. It must ad to the beauty rather the being a "must have".
A karesansui garden may be the most difficult garden Archetype to fit a lantern in. However most gardens are composed of elements that originate from more than one Archetype, in which case there may be options to fit it in.

Selection of a lantern type, including colour, and its placement is not an easy, and often under estimated, task. Obviously lanterns are (must be) made from natural materials. But even then not all "natural" materials are of high quality that is natural enough and do fit a specific garden and place.
There are dozens of types of "douro" (or doro) that all have different qualities and application. Just to give an impression, already the list of lanterns for a roji, tea or tsukubai area, contains types like: Choken, Chosen, Domyo, Ensyu, Kakuashimoto, Koetsu, Koshin, Manju, Mizobotaru (3 or 4 variations), Oribe (at least 2 types), Rikyu (several types), Shokin etc.
Then there is a whole list of lanterns for placement near water, (e.g. Yukimi ) for use in residential gardens, to light pathways etc. And then there are more thematic lanterns like for instance the Kirishitan dourou and Maria tourou, lanterns (like Honka dourou), usually found at shrines or temples, and so on.

Lantern construct
From Kimachi Ishi no Saiseki to Kakou published by the Shinjicho Education Committee, 1990.
The stone lantern can serve as a focal point, be placed with a mind to utility, or simply recede into the distance as an expression of man's presence reaching out into the natural world. However they may be used, Japanese stone lanterns are an art form unto themselves. There is a broad range of designs and styles, with very little in common among them. The only truly universal element in a stone lantern design is the hibukuro or firebox.

The simplest lanterns consist of the firebox and roof only, while the more complex may have six or more elements stacked one atop the other.

The shape of the stone lantern is not standardized. However, the original dedication lanterns had six major parts:
  • Kurin (ornamental top or finial)
  • Kasa (cap or roof)
  • Hibukuro (light chamber or fire box)
  • Chudai or ukubachi (middle stand, platform for the firebox)
  • Sao (post or pedestal)
  • Jirin or dai (base). This can have one to six feet

In general terms two or three lantern-applications could fit into Tsubo-en.
  1. Lighting a Paths, Roji, walkboard (duckboards) or Veranda.
    Most of the Roji-path runs across the Ginshanada glose to the house. As we have lights in the overhanging eaves as well as some floot-light (see: Lighting and garden electricity-system).
  2. Lighting a Ginshanada, gravel area and/or a Tsukiyama surface.
    In a traditional scene that represents islands or coastline setting a lantern could easily cause one to lose the sense of scale. If the gravel surface is taking the place of a water feature such as a stream or sea then one could for instance use a yukimi lantern.
    Scale remains important though. Have a look at this example from the Adachi museum of art Moss garden.
  3. Lighting a Tsukubai and chozubachi.
    Although we do not currently have a lantern as part of the Tsukubai this would offer the best option to incorporate one. It would fit the setting and it would not interfere with the scale related to the landscape-scenes.
    As may be understood from the above, this will be a nice challenge where the fact that both owners need to agree will be an extra hurtle.
This is a cast iron lantern along the path that leads to the "hidden" terrace.

In fact it is a tsuri-dourou (or doro), normally hung from the corner of the eaves of a building.

This type of lanterns have a long history dating back to ancient China.
This stone lantern (ishi-doro or tourou) is not really or pride and hence is placed discretely along the water front.

It was acquired in 1988 and home made by a Dutch artist. At the time one would not find any Japanese garden lantern in any store.

It took a very long time before it was covered with moss.

If it must be typified then it would come closest to a yukimi-doro.

Good information on lanterns can be found at Ishidoro and Lanterns and Basins.

Lanterns 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.
Note: The examples will only display correctly after the page has fully loaded !
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.
  Ishidoro, type snow-lantern, in Shoyo-en, Tokyo.   Ishidoro, or stone lantern, and a stone pavement that reaches the Genkan (Kara-mon), Zuiho-in temple, Kyoto   A giant lantern in Kyu-shiba, Rikyu garden (public park), Tokyo.   Ishidoro in the moss covered garden in front of Ojogokuraku-in, Kyoto.   Jizo statue and a stone lantern in the east of the Hojo, Tofuku-ji, Kyoto.   A "modern" lantern (right) at the entrance in a small private garden in Kyoto.   An other Ishidoro in Zuiho-in temple in Kyoto.   Snow-lantern in Rikugien in Tokyo.   Lantern in the old Samurai Residences and Gardens in Chiran.   The temple Genko-an in Kyoto   The subtemple Keishu-in in Myoshin-ji in Kyoto   The subtemple Hojo-in in Nanzen-ji in Kyoto

Tsubo-en nameplate

The nameplate at the entrance to the ginshanada in the front garden is one of these ornaments.
For an explanation of the name Tsubo-en and how we got to it please see Introduction.

This is a home made object based on the 1991 calligraphy of a former Japanese college of mine:
Hideo Kohmura.

This chisel in stone was made by the author.
The type of stone used is a relatively soft slate stone that was acquired from a local stone yard.

After laying in the garden for ten years the characters more and more disappeared. Rather than grinding them to become lighter again, we decided to fill them with black paint. The animation shows the result.
Note: (thanks to Aki Fukaya)
Only recently, with more and more translation and Kanji available on the Internet, we found out that the bottom character for "En" is not fully complete. At the time there was an alternative character that now proves to be the correct one. As changing it asks a lot of effort, and the current one is established and very much used as a logo, we decided to stick with it.
These are the correct Kanji characters:
" 坪 " tsubo (area measure), which is correct
and " 園 " en (garden), that is missing a tiny stripe bottom-right.
This shows the main entrance pathway as seen from the front door.
The Tsubo-en nameplate, center-left, lays conveniently in the Leptinella potentillina (prev. Cotula).

The bottom-left of this photo shows the path that leads to the right side of the house along Turtle island.

Jizo bodhisattva statue

Our child Buddha, or better Jizo bodhisattva.

Our Jizo bodhisattva statue in front of a bamboo bush. This was made by the author and inspired by a bosatsu statue that we saw at the entrance of a house close to the "Philosopher's path" (Tetsugaku no michi) in Kyoto.

The Philosopher's path or Philosopher's walk, is a 2 kilometer (1.3 mile) public path in Kyoto. It is named after the Japanese philosopher Kitaro Nishida who used to walk the path to meditate.
The backdrop of the Jizo bosatsu statue is formed by a large-leaved bamboo, Sasaella masamuneana.

In the front the ever green Chamaemelum nobile "Treneaguei" (Anthemis nobilis) (Dutch: Loopkamille) used only here in garden section E, can get as high as 15 cm (6").

If you want to know all there is to know about Jizo Bosatsu, click here.

Sitting monk statue

This sitting monk statue or sekibutsu in the main garden is a frivolity that we have permitted ourselves.

It was a gift from my wife to me around 1990. We still like it and hence it had to get a decent place.

This monk is sitting in a ever green bedding of Leptinella potentillina (prev. Cotula).

Wrapped stone

In Tsubo-en you can come across a number of wrapped stone, Tome-ishi or Sekimori-ishi.

The stones are tied in a cross pattern, originally with bracken twine. These are marker stones, placed at branches in a roji's stepping stone pathways to indicate where not to go. "Sekimori" means barrier keeper.
When you find something like this on your path do not just step over it, like most Europeans or actually Westerners do.

This is a subtle sign not to trespass.
The stone is treated with respect, as each natural object houses its own Kami, hence the handsome wrapping.

Shishi Odoshi or "deer-scarer"

Although we do not (yet) have a Shisho Odoshi, or Souzu, Japanese for "deer scarer" or "deer-frightening noisemaker", in Tsubo-en, we do like to mention it as we have given it thought to place one.

A video clip of an example of a Shisho Odoshi is available in the list on:
A collection of video clips related to Japanese gardens and gardening

Construction suggestions can be found no the website where this animation came from: About the Shishi Odoshi.

Objects and Ornaments 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.

Chozubachi and ornament at Raikyu-ji, Kyoto.   Statu's inbetween bamboo at Hukusa Sonso, Kyoto.   Hakusasonso teien (also called Kansetsu Hashimoto Museum), Kyoto.   Guideposts indicating the way to Ryoan-ji.   Jizo-bosatsu statue in moss at Sanzenin, Ohara.   Two Jizo-bosatsu statue's in moss at Sanzenin, Ohara.   Butsuzo statue in Sanzenin, Ohara.   The garden Hakusa-Sonso in Kyoto   The garden Hakusa-Sonso in Kyoto. The garden Hakusa-Sonso (also called Kansetsu Hishimoto Museum) was made in 1915 as a villa for the painter Hashimoto Kansetsu (1883-1945).   Nameplate of the temple Imakumano Kannon-ji in Kyoto   Pagoda in the temple Shisen-do in Kyoto   The Uraku-en in Inuyama near Nagoya   Shishi Odoshi in Tokugawa koen in Nagoya   Temple Saiko-ji in Takata in Kyushu   Sata Naotada samurai garden - Chiran in Kyushu

Most relevant related construction chapters

These are the most relevant related construction and build chapters.

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