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. Japanese Gardens  
Karesansui   =   
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 how.

        Daruma doll

This is the hako-zukuri part of our
main O-karikomi, throughout the seasons.
Last upd: 5 June '20. Blog: 21 April '17
See: History of changes.
Our child Buddha,
or better Jizo bodhisattva

Japanese gardens are a living work of art 13 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 elements.
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 approach. Then you can talk about your Japanese "Tea garden" or "Zen garden" or perhaps a combination of elements from different garden (arche)types 14 . 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 karesansui (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.
In Sakuteiki 5 of the Heian period (794-1185), the term indicated a stone arrangement in a part of the garden without water".

For a more elaborate description of the term karesansui see: Introduction page.
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 vermin.

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 our (garden)secrets. 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 concept.
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.
The Activities chapter shows recent activities in the garden, mostly updated once every month.

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 ¹ ). 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.

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