From garden paths to architecture, fences, gravel patterns, and types of plants, this website details key distinctions of what makes a Japanese garden-
From garden paths to architecture, fences, gravel patterns, and types of plants, this website details key distinctions of what makes a Japanese garden-
I find refuge and inspiration of the photos of the “Wildlife and Nature Pictures” website on Facebook. As a pretty new member of Facebook, I highly recommend this site for viewing all the beauty of nature that the world has to offer. Here is a picture of a corridor of blooming pink Cherry blossom trees in Japan:
Here is a mini garden I started below a pink flowering dogwood that blooms fabulously in the spring (see picture below). In the tradition of Japanese gardens, the intent is to create patterns of paradise scenes often seen in the natural world. I spent a total of $7-8. Much of the splendor of this garden will not be fully seen until next year or the following year when the plants have fully grounded into their new homes [also, the strawberries on the right (photo above) will need to be replaced by moss or ground cover].
This mini garden features a simple rock creek flowing down from the a tall stone representing a mountain. The “mountain” stone is surrounded by large rocks or rounded mountains/ front range hills leading up to the cathedral- like mountain. Flowing from the “mountain” stones is the dry creek rock bed, with the visual effect of a true flowing mountain stream of water. Note that at each turn there are larger stones which is common in creeks. These help re-direct or guide the creek in another direction, reinforcing the natural occurrences seen in nature. The dry creek spreads wide at its base, suggesting it has reached more level ground, or perhaps a lake.
The white lantern is placed on the side of the hill surrounding by sheet moss I found in shaded areas of the yard. In the spring, I plan to add a stunning gorgeous version of moss toward the background area called the hair cap moss. There are two transplanted ferns, one in front of the lantern, and one behind the stone mountain. Though hardly noticeable today, these ferns will show a full display of leaves next spring into summer. The fern in the foreground is a common tassel fern which will experience minimal growth in size, while the sword fern I planted behind the mountain stone will grow to a size potentially twice the height and size of the mountain stone.
Other plants include a few strawberry plants in the foreground (not recommended; these were pre-existing plants placed there by the owner) and a spider flower to the left which flowers a resplendent deep purple in the late spring to early summer, and is now passed its prime and going dormant for the fall season. Also to the left showing simple iris-like leaves is the common orange crocosmia, which grows naturally throughout the Pacific Northwest. Finally, for effect, I planted the Acorus cascading yellow grass. The acorus next year will be a bright yellow cascade that will contrast nicely with this shaded area. There are two in the foreground. These are off shoots, so will not show their true cascading splendor until next summer.
Spring into Summer has sprung and it’s time to visit your favorite outdoor places! The Kubota family created a stunning beautiful Japanese garden with mountainous waterfall landscapes, serene koi ponds, and a Zen garden in South Seattle. It is a gardens where many of my musical pieces were first inspired (Kubota Birds Water Dance and Raindrops Fall from Trees, for example). To me, the legacy leaves us much more. Fujitaro and family, including Tak and Tom, were interned at the Minidoka camp in Idaho during World War II, and came home to Seattle to say “I forgive” by presenting the City of Seattle with one of the premiere Japanese gardens in the Northwest. It is the former home of the Kubota family and their landscape business. Kubota Gardens may be the largest Japanese garden in North America and offers 22 acres of rolling hills, natural springs, and hiking/ walking trails, and of course, beautiful landscaped gardens. More information is available at http://www.kubotagarden.org/.
Here is a mini garden with a good mix of color combinations, land and sea image to create a balanced look and feel.
The highlight of this garden of course is the flowing carp swimming in the foreground.
The word ‘koi’ literally means carp, but also describes wild varieties of the common carp fish. Carp are a very hardy species and can withstand long travel. Around 1000 years ago, the carp made it’s way into Japan via China. Keeping koi was most popular with Japanese farmers who kept them as a source of food.
Sometime in the 1800s koi were kept in a closed breeding area to create colorful variations by the mutations over time. Out of personal interest, these new colored varieties were bred further and maintained as a hobby rather than as the traditional food source. These new ‘colored’ koi were called Nishikigoi.
The creation of these beautiful color variations in the early 1900s, brought about an explosion of koi caring as a hobby in Japan, and then worldwide. The Japanese turned the artistic form into a science. Japan is recognized today as the best koi breeders, today boasting as many as 13 color varieties!
You may source the koi symbol from Chinese legend about a carp that successfully swam to the top of a large waterfall on Yellow River became a dragon. Thus, koi symbolizes power and bravery, and overcoming adversity. The koi and Samurai have been a symbols of bravery for similar reasons. Like the Samurai facing death by the sword, the koi likewise, lies still beneath the knife.
Probably the most well known concept around spacing in gardens is Mel Bartholomew’s “Square Foot Gardening”. This first and foremost applies to vegetable gardens, but can be applicable to spacing in ornamental gardens as well. Here is an exploration of spacing for garden designs.
All plants ornamental or otherwise, need space to grow, and a minimum of twelve inches apart is generally a good growing space principal. Open spaces are critical, especially in dry Zen gardens where open spaces represent the open sea. In Japanese gardens, open spaces are often the center piece of Japanese gardens, while plants and stones provide the backdrop or outline.
Come join a celebration at the end of the Chinese New Year on March 6th, 6-8pm, Friday, Dragonfly Holistic Healing across from the Fremont bridge is having a “Chinese New Year” celebration open house, featuring koto jazz piano by Chris Kenji at Dragonfly Holistic Healing, 760 N. 34th Street, Seattle, WA 98103; Fremont neighborhood. Website: DragonflyHolisticHealing.com. Come join us for a Free Admission party. Gang Xi Fat Cai!
Japanese gardens seek to bring out the balance of the natural world. A key intent of Japanese gardens today is to replicate the natural world in smaller spaces; re-creating miniaturized versions of serene natural landscapes. In that re-creation, there are a few principles that bring across that image of balance, such as boundaries and regions that reflect the natural world.
Boundaries include regions divided by grass areas, or dry gravel areas. These can be divided by pathways, borders, or water. These borders can be rounded or straight edged, but remain consistently one or the other within the same region. These also include water borders, such as waterfalls, dry creek beds, flowing streams, ponds, and lakes.
A common number to create balance in the garden is the use of threes- three stones or three clumps of grasses. As a general rule, taller trees and plants are placed in the background, while shorter plants such as ornamental grasses and flowering plants are placed in the foreground.
So long as the plants create a natural flowing space, the garden can be minimalist with very little foliage, or it can be lush with carefully placed grasses and flowering plants and shrubs. Both can be accented with lanterns in the foreground, or off to the side.
A taller Japanese maple tree is always a good background for either approach, as are tall pogodas.
This energetic Koto jazz piece I wrote this summer (2014) is reflective of the spring season mating patterns of the hummingbird. To attract its mate, the male hummingbird scales up and down the keys of the sky as a kind of mating dance to attract the attention of female hummingbirds. I observed this odd mating dance at Discovery Park in Seattle during a hike in the summer of 2014.
This melody also reflects the playful dance tunes of hummingbirds flying from flower to flower, which is the translated name of the song Hatchidori Wa Hana Kara Hana E Tobu. Purchase preview is available on Amazon music at Hatchidori Amazon.
Hanakotoba literally translated means “word flower”, and is the Japanese “language of flowers”. In this practice, plants are given codes and passwords that evoke the emotion inspired by the physiological characteristics and colors of the flowers, according to Wikipedia.
There is a clear relationship between the color of flowers, the most distinctive and resplendent expression of color in the natural world, and its meaning to each individual’s and/or cultural experiences of the color. This can be deeply personal. Artists have long associated moods, feelings and emotions with certain colors. Blue for example, is associated with feeling calm and cozy, while in western culture it represents masculine competence and quality. Blues and purples can also evoke feelings of apathy. Yellow is associated with anxiety. For others, the color yellow can mean warmth, as is the case with orange and red. The color white symbolizes purity and innocence in the west, while it can represent mourning in some eastern traditions.
Though the scientific research behind it is limited, colors may impact a person’s stress level, blood pressure, metabolism, and eye stress, according to Kendra Cherry in About.com’s “Color Psychology”.
The Chinese advanced the practice of chromotherapy for healing (source: Kendra Cherry, About.com’s Color Psychology), and here are sample associations between colors and their healing properties:
Scientific Name– Japanese Name– Romaji– English Meaning–
アマリリス Amaririsu Amaryllis Shy Amarylis Flower
アネモネ Anemone Anemone Sincere Anenome Flower
紫苑 Shion Aster tataricus Remembrance
躑躅 Tsutsuji Azalea Patient/Modest Pink Azalea
ブルーベル Burūberu Bluebell Grateful
椿 Tsubaki Camellia (Red) In Love, Perishing with grace Camellia Japonica
Camellia Japonica Nobilissima
椿 Tsubaki Camellia (White) Waiting
カーネーション Kānēshon Carnation Fascination, Distinction, and Love
桜 Sakura Cherry Blossom Kind/Gentle Cherry Blossom
黄菊 Kigiku Chrysanthemum (Yellow) Imperial
白菊 Shiragiku Chrysanthemum (White) Truth Chrysanthemum
Four Leaf Clover
(四つ葉の) クローバー (Yotsuba no) kurōbā Four-leaf clover Lucky
水仙 Suisen Daffodil Respect
天竺牡丹 Tenjikubotan Dahlia Good taste Dahlia
雛菊 Hinagiku Daisy Faith
勿忘草 Wasurenagusa Forget-me-not True love Forget-Me-Not
フリージア Furījia Freesia Childish/Immature
梔子 Kuchinashi Gardenia Secret love
鷺草 Sagiso Habenaria radiata My thoughts will follow you into your dreams
ハイビースカス Haibīsukasu Hibiscus Gentle
忍冬 Suikazura Honeysuckle Generous Honeysuckle
紫陽花 Ajisai Hydrangea Pride
アイリス, 菖蒲 Ayame Iris Good News/Glad tidings/loyalty Japanese Purple Iris
ラベンダー Rabendā Lavender Faithful
白百合 Shirayuri Lily (White) Purity/Chastity
鬼百合 Oniyuri Tiger Lily Wealth Tiger Lily
朝顔 Asagao Morning Glory Willful promises Morning Glory
水仙 Suisen Narcissus Self-Esteem
パンジー Panjī Pansy Thoughtful/Caring Orange Peony
雛芥子 Hinageshi Poppy (Red) Fun-Loving
紅薔薇 Benibara Rose (Red) Love/In love
薔薇 Bara Rose (White) Innocence/Silence/Devotion White Rose
I like the straight translation of the word ikebana. This includes the merging of the word ikeru, meaning to “keep alive”, with hana, meaning “flower”. The art of flower arranging certainly keeps alive and often brings to life the full range of beauty in color and structure combinations.
Some sources emphasize the spiritual aspects of ikebana, providing silent reflection on the beauty of color combinations, and emphasis on shape and lines of the non-floral part of the plant such as branches, leaves and stems. The non-floral pieces often bring shape and form to the flower arrangement, and serve as the back drop of the intended image, while the flower is featured in the foreground.
Silence is important for our ability to be inspired to connect more deeply with the natural forms before us when doing ikebana. We honor the uniqueness of each plant or flower and the flowing lines of stems and branches for back drops. Ikebana can help us appreciate and tolerate our differences, not only in nature, but in general.
Its origins again date back to China – to a 6th Century Japanese Buddhist missionary who visited China three times and brought the art form to Japan. His name was “Ono no Imoko” and became the grounds keeper, then abbot for Rokkaku-do, a Buddhist temple in Kyoto. He lived in a small house known as the ike-no-bo or the “hut by the pond”, which is the original school of Ikebana.
Ikebana has become part of various Buddhist ceremonies such as offerings to the spirits of those who have passed away, but also paying honor to the Buddha. While spiritual in its origins, the Japanese today use it to show cultural refinement and for marriage potential.
Like bonsai, the art of Japanese flower arrangement, or Ikebana, derives from Zen aesthetics and design. Carefully placed flowers are arranged elegantly with a combination of grasses and flowers. Some of these flowers are described below.
Irises are a classic – like cherry blossom and chrysanthemum, you’ll often see them in Japanese crests. Irises are used in water gardens, around the edge of a pond – or in dry gardens (rock, moss or gravel symbolizing a pond). Irises planted around the edges expand on the image of a pond or dry gardens as the sea or ocean. Unlike the western bearded irises, Japanese irises are commonly smaller, thinner, more delicate, and not bearded.
Chrysanthemums, the national flower of Japan are symbolic of long life and health. The flower also symbolizes the autumn season. Native to China and Japan, chrysanthemums are hardy flowers, able to subsist in zones 5-9. Flowers include red, orange, yellow, white and lavender.
Japan holds the lotus to be sacred, which comes from Hinduism and Buddhism. The lotus flower is likewise represented as sacred in Buddhism, symbolizing the progress of the mind toward Enlightenment. It grows from muddy depths through the waters of experience and “blooms in the sunshine of enlightenment,” according to Religion Facts. Lotus can be white, pink, red or blue. Some lotus can be perennials; survive cold winter months.
Azaleas & “Rhodies”
Part of the same evergreen family, azaleas and rhododendrons have similar leaves and blooms. However, azaleas, like the ones pictured above lining the garden stone steps, are much smaller in size. These are popular shrubs used in Japanese gardens. White flowering azaleas and rhododendron are used the most. Both of these flowering shrubs can be white, pink, red, orange and purple in color.
“Hana ni arashi” (literally translated means “a storm over blossoms”), is a shortened version of, “Tsuki ni muragumo, hana ni arashi”. ” These popular Japanese proverbs mean “Life often brings misfortune at a time of great happiness” or “Nothing is certain in this world”. It is reminiscent of the popular phrase “shikataganai”, meaning “it can’t be helped”. This is the fatalistic nature of the Japanese people; fatalistic, maybe not from a western perspective of the meaning, but a general acceptance of the inevitability of things to come.
The two English translations of the Japanese maple, or “momiji”, are “baby’s hands” and “becomes crimson leaves”. The first meaning has some Japanese cultural significance. It is believed that passing a newborn baby through the branches of a Japanese maple encourages a long, healthy and prosperous life for the child. The second meaning is best described by a popular Japanese expression, “Yama ga moeru” which means “burning mountain in autumn”. You may have the opportunity to see an entire mountainside of wild Japanese maples turn a fiery red in the autumn season.
Here are koto music about trees, leaves, and related themes:
The most popular of Japanese maples are the red and green variations, but there are countless (over 1,000) variations of colors, sizes and shapes of both the leaves and trees. The Japanese red maple has been cultivated for over 300 years. The Iroha- momiji, or green leaf Japanese maple is native to the Korean Peninsula, China, and Japan. The wild Japanese maple has green leaves in the spring and summer that turn yellow, orange, bright red, pink, or purple in the fall. Younger trees take on the shape of a large challis or bowl, while more mature trees are layered and have a dome-shaped image. Somewhat unique to the Japanese maple is that a parent Japanese maple tree may produce seedlings that have completely different shapes, colors, sizes and structures than its parent (a message here for our own parenthood?).
The flowers come in spherical clusters and have five purple or red sepals and five white petals. They give the bare branches an attractive red glow in early spring.
It is customary for Japanese people to take an annual autumn trek to the mountains of Japan, known as momiji-gari (“Maple tree hunting/ viewing”). This is similar to Canadians and Americans who take annual treks to the mountains for viewing the yellowing of aspen in the western Rocky Mountains; or the east- and midwesterners viewing the coloring of maple trees. However, momiji-gari has a spiritual significance. For most Japanese, this annual trek is also a Shinto spiritual trip to commune with the spirits who dwell in the trees, the mountains, and elsewhere in the Natural world.
This blog entry departs from talking about music for a moment of reflection I wrote about back in the 90s at a boutique publication, “The Asia Pacific Economic Review“. For a nation so attuned to new frontiers since its revolutionary founding, few people here really see the next revolution transforming our country in our everyday lives. In many ways, it is more an evolution since so many influences have been taking place over a number of decades.
It is sometimes subtle, sometimes “in your face” blatantly obvious. It’s in our food, media images, our tv virtual reality shows, our music, our children’s comic strips, toys & tv shows, our very way of life.
When was the last time you and your family went to dinner for sushi, kalbi, dim sum, or teriyaki? Or stunned to see your very American as apple pie next door neighbor design a beautifully polished Japanese garden in their back yard? Or to find out your former U.S. Marines buddy is deeply immersed in daily Buddhist meditation?
When was the last time you found your children couched like potatoes in front of a popular Japanese anime tv show or Japanese video game? Or your child begging for the latest Transformer, Pokemon or Hello Kitty toy? When tv surfing for the next tv show, did you land on a virtual reality show; more specifically did you stop to watch Iron Chef or the next American Idol? All of these things have one thing in common. They all originate from Japan, China, and other parts of East Asia. The original virtual reality shows were on televisions in Japan long before they washed onto the eastern shores of the Pacific Ocean.
We might have been threatened by it in the 80s when the Japanese corporate “invasion” of buying up landmark American properties was in full swing. Or the popular conversations about new business management approaches, such as those of UCLA scholar William Ouchi’s “Theory Z”. It was a threat then to America’s political, business, intellectual, and media establishment, but less so to the masses on the street. To put it bluntly, it threatened the American intellect, but not the heart of America.
In the 70s and 80’s, we saw the long term and permanent impact of martial arts and eastern health care, yoga, eastern meditation, naturo-pathic medicine, physical therapy, eastern spirituality (e.g., Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Asian Islam, Confusionism) take its place alongside western culture. Even before this time, Japanese anime began to influence the American psyche as early as the 50s. Then, we saw the longstanding Asian influences in modern architecture and landscaping take hold, beyond Frank Lloyd Wright in the 20s, then I.M. Pei, and an ongoing toying with the influence of Zen-like, minimalist thinking to modern architecture, landscaping, art, and culture.
The Next American Revolution is more psychological and spiritual than physically tangible. Remarkable is how much our western cultural origins cloud our vision to be almost completely oblivious to this next American revolution. If it is brought up in general to the mainstream media and leaders, even those known to be the more progressive leaders, completely trivialize or only quietly acknowledge its impact.
A good majority of our media and American consciousness simply ignore it, but it’s turning American culture upside down, or should I say it has already turned American culture upside down. For that matter it has transformed all of western society. It is equally pervasive in European countries, even parts of South America. Talk to the American media, including Hollywood, and they might give you a blank stare. But talk to them about all the things that make up our modern society today and you will find a high awareness of all things Asian as long as the west can claim it as their own. It leaves a deep streak and indelible mark at the core of our society. Things of Asian origin and the Asian influence has become so much a part of American life that it’s Asian origin is almost indistinguishable from it’s American-‘ness’. It pervades our entire society and our entire way of life. It goes well beyond our children’s obsession with Pokemon, Mario, and Hello Kitty. It leaves a permanent imprint far broader than our teenagers’ obsession with anime tv shows or video games. The song “I think I’m turning Japanese; I really think so” is no longer a joking mockery; it is an omnipresent, all pervasive occurrence from the main streets of our rural towns to the high rises of our largest metropolitan cities.
So what is behind this oversight and what lies within these insights?
This week I plan to visit North America’s first sanctioned Japanese Shinto Shrine, the Tsubaki Grand Shrine of America in Granite Falls, Washington (a suburb of Seattle). I hope to be lead back to the Shinto spiritual nature- immersion into the beauty within the leaf of a red maple tree, blooming cherry blossoms, the flow of crystal clear glacier water, a stone lantern reflected upon still waters embellished with garden flowers, and possibly the serene sound of koto music in the background summoning the mind, heart and spirit to let it all go. 🙂