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IMMEASURABLE SPACES: THE ART AND ACUMEN OF JAPANESE GARDENS Japan is an archipelago formed of four large islands and more than a thousand lesser neighboring that extent into a stretched northeast and southwest curve. It is also remarkable for its volcanic activity, warm ocean and atmospheric currents that flow north from the South China Sea, which tempers the climate and produces annual precipitation, therefore the geophysical situation played an important role in the development of the gardens in Japan. The habit of not applying overlying, geometric design solutions to the land but instead working with the individualities of a site to create a garden is indicative of the mentality of an island nation. This development is divided into six major periods: Kamakura Period (1185-1333), Muromachi Period (1333-1568), Momoyama Period (1568-1600), Edo Period (1600-1868), Meiji, Taisho and Showa (18681912-1926-1989) and Postwar Gardens. This essay will focus on the Edo Period (1600-1868) which faces coincident development of two social classes: provincial lords (daimyo) building large stroll gardens and townsfolk (chonin) building tiny courtyard gardens in the urban residences. (Routledge; III Edition, 2001: 653)

Figure 1. Vintage Japanese Map (source: Pinterest) Early Japanese art played an important role in developing the country in mentality, creatively and skillfulness during the Momoyama and Edo Period (1576-1868). The inkwash murals are one of the characteristic forms of Japanese art that long perfected the technique of representing atmospheric mist in fine gradations, therefore the use of long, curving lines over a large area (Routledge; III Edition, 2001). For example, Pines in the Mist (1539-1610) by Hasegawa Tohaku is a pair of six panel screens presenting four groups of beach pines, Hamamatsu, placed across the panels but leaving approximately 85% blank (Routledge; III Edition, 2001). It gives the sense that the mist encirclements the quietness of an autumn dawn. I also consider that this painting ‘contains the quintessence of the aesthetics of Zen and the tea ceremony’ (Calza, 2007) because it is in direct relationship with the natural surroundings. The Japanese always focused on the harmony of things and the relationship between human beings and the soul of nature, marking a foundation of Japan’s cultural and artistic traditions resulting in an original form of expression and models of behavior. (Calza, 2007: 136)

Figure 2. Pines in the Mist (source: BlogSpot, 2010)

‘The Way of Tea’ is one of the most important ceremonies in Japan. It was invented by tea-master Shuko as an art form to be enjoyed in a small room

especially designed. The small cedar structure is simple and rustic with rough-textured earthen walls, unpolished exposed beams, a cedar-board ceiling of two levels and papered windows of different shapes set at different heights above the seated guests’ heads. The host might choose to focus attention on a specially treasured art work or allusive floral arrangement, ikebana (Stanley-Baker, 1984: 148). It is believed that the tea plant was created when Bodhidharma (founder of Zen Buddhism) cut off his eyelids as a result of his human weakness of awaking and being unable to maintain the profound state of meditation, with the aim of preventing closing his state of meditative wakefulness. When the eyelids hit the ground, the tea plant was created (Calza, 2007: 14). The tea houses are ‘aesthetically sophisticated centers for religious practices’ (Routledge; III Edition, 2001) using the surroundings to help the visitor totally embrace with the spiritual world and his experience is dictated mainly by the environment. I consider this the most important concept of the Japanese garden in order to uplift the essence of the visitor, using well thought design theories that beautifully drive the spirit on its paths in order to achieve the ultimate elevation.

Figure 3. Two Young Men and Several Women Dining at a Tea-house on the Bank of the Sumida River Kubo Shunman (Japanese, 1757–1820) Period: Edo period (1615–1868) Date: ca. 1788 (source: Pinterest)

Figure 4. Flower Arrangement of Suisen (Narcissus) in a Flat Green Dish Utagawa Toyohiro, Period: Edo (1615–1868), (source: Pinterest)

Figure 5. Kazahinomi-no-miya-mi bridge, Jingu temple, Ise (first iteration built c. 690), photograph by Ishimoto Yasuhiro (source: Japan Style) Katsura Imperial Villa is located approximately three miles west of Kyoto station, Japan. It was built during the early decades of the Edo Period, between the years of 1615 and 1645, at the request of Prince Toshihito (1579-1629) (GardenVisit: 2008). ‘The heart of the garden is the pond, and paths trace its way around the edge taking the guests to simple yet refined teahouses or pavilions, and across bridges until, in gentle culmination, the villa itself comes into sight’ (Calza, 2007). The visitor will get merged into the landscape and will easily become part of it because planting is used as a form of controlling both the movement and the viewing. For example, ‘the Sumiyoshi pine standing at the tip of its promontory screens the Shokintei Pavilion on the other side of the pond from clear view’ (Routledge; III Edition, 2001) . There is no single vantage point from which the entire garden can be aesthetically appreciated and the visitor’s experience is increasingly building up over the tactic of miegakure (hide-and-reveal) where the lines of paths dictate the visitor’s journey (Calza, 2007). It is designed for strolling, with the view changing at every turn (Kabori Enshu). Moreover, the visitor’s attention is not captured only by the stunning views but also by the well-spaced stepping stones (Calza: 2007) that require sharp attention of the walkers to watch their steps in order to prevent them from falling or tripping over. Compared to a typical tea house and its surroundings, Katsura Imperial Villa’s garden is seen in my opinion as an untouchable and continuously expanding part of the nature, as it is impossible to capture it in a single frame. As in a tea house the visitor is most likely to encounter himself into a precise controlled behavior in order to transfer himself into a specific state of mind, I consider the journey to this particular space in the garden the most important, impressive and challengeable aspect of the voyage because it works in perfect harmony with the body movement, the

wonders of the mind and the elevation of the soul that could be achieved only in a Japanese garden.

Figure 6. Large Veranda and Moon-viewing Platform, Katsura Imperial Villa, Kyoto, 17th century, photograph by Matsumura Yoshiharu (source: Japan Style)

Figure 7. The eastern entrance to the Large Veranda, Katsura Imperial Villa, Kyoto, 17th century, photograph by Matsumura Yoshiharu (source: Japan Style) Konchi-In is a sub temple of the Nanzen-ji monastery, an important center of the Rinzai sect of Zen Buddhism located in the eastern part of Kyoto, Japan. ‘It is renowned for its Tsuru-Kame, the crane and tortoise garden created in 1631, a kare-sansui (dry landscape garden) with a Buddhist theme centering on the sacred Mount Horai. A contemplative Zen garden, a lavish composition of silver sand with a rich variety of rocks and large-scale topiary crowned with distant views of the Higashiyama Mountains’ (Routledge; III Edition, 2001: 729). Ishin Suden, abbot of Nanzen-ji, was the most important individual that was involved in moving the ruined Konchi-In from its original location in the Kitayama area onto its present site at the turn of the 17th century (Routledge; III Edition, 2001: 730). The temple was built in order to express the Buddhist dogmas while marking the strength of the Rinzai sect and also to clearly indicate the demanded loyalty to the authority of the shogunate (Routledge; III Edition, 2001: 730). Compared to the

Katsura Imperial Villa, this monastic completive garden has a single vantage point and is beautifully viewed from the veranda of the hojo, abbot’s quarters, presenting itself to the viewer as a panoramic sweep of forms on a monumental scale, with a baroque richness of colors and a precious quality of detail (Routledge; III Edition, 2001: 730). The chased theme is the idea of immortality focusing attention on the turtle as an old creature and the crane as a young one, both being involved in a representational dissertation on longevity while the rocks and plants, especially the cypress hold by the turtle, are seen to bridge life and death (Routledge; III Edition, 2001: 731). ‘Japan has created arts that have no practical goal, but which represent a form of training designed to bring the conscious mind closer to ultimate reality’ (Calza, 2007: 15). By putting together the idea of immortality discussed by the totems and the aesthetics of the rituals performed into the undefined tea houses, I consider the body as a direct manifestation of the consciousness of the mind which is able to absorb and transmit the inner states far more clearly than using words to express it.

Figure 8. (Left) Konchi-in Temple pathway by MShades, via Flickr (source: Pinterest)

In conclusion, these immeasurable spaces represent an outstanding form of art and wisdom in Japanese culture, being the quintessence of the aesthetics of Zen Buddhism. The tea houses are in direct relationship with the Japanese art of the Edo period, promoting subtle taste and the refinement of the ink wash murals and the natural beauty of ikebana, which developed an original form of expression through the models of behavior, tea-masters, under the roofs of the delicate structure of the tea house. Both the Katsura Imperial Villa and the Konchi-In temple are demanding the visitor’s attention, while merging him with the landscape at the same time. The garden itself becomes a form of training in order to bring the conscious mind close to ultimate reality.

References Bibliography


Stanley-Baker, J. (1984). Japanese Art. New York: Thames and Hudson

Zhao, C.-S., Matsumoto, N., Liu, T.-F., Yuan, Y.-Q. and Kawata, K. (2003). A Study on the Image of Landscape of Japanese and Chinese Gardens. SwetsWise

Wydra, N. (1997). Feng Shui in the Garden: Simple Solutions for Creating a Comforting, Life – Affirming Space Outdoors. Chicago: Mc-Graw-Hill Contemporary Wen, J. (1999). The Art of the Chinese Gardens. Beijing: China Travel and Tourism Press, China ? (2001). Encyclopedia of Gardens. Routledge: III Edition Calza, G.C. (2007). Japan Style. London New York: Phaidon Press Kostof, S. (2010). A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals. International Edition Press, C.A.&.B. (2013). Imperial Gardens. Reading (England: Paths International) Fazio, M., Moffet, M. and Wodehouse, L. (2013). A World History of Architecture. III Edition

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