What is a Japanese Stroll Garden? (The Essential Guide)
When you mention ‘Japanese garden’ everyone has his or her own image of what that is. In fact, there a variety of different styles of Japanese gardens, making it difficult to pinpoint one specific definition and image.
So being more specific, what is the Japanese stroll garden? A Japanese stroll garden is a large garden of connecting pathways, often surrounding a pond and waterfall, which allow you to discover a new garden scene at each turn.
Stretching back to the 1600’s, this style of Japanese garden may be the most approachable and familiar style of Japanese gardens. It often included Japanese garden elements such as Tsukiyama man-made hills and stepping stone and Nobedan paved pathways weaving throughout the area. Before talking about Japanese stroll gardens in detail let’s first have a look at the four main styles of Japanese gardens. Nijo Castle Japanese Stroll Garden
Types of Japanese Gardens
When you are talking about Japanese gardens you can often categorize them into one of these four different types. Sometimes these garden styles do overlap and also may actually be a sub-category these styles, but in general we can use these main four as a point of reference.
Rock Garden (Karesansui)
These gardens are primarily hardscape gardens and incorporate a variety of different stones and boulders. Sometimes we lump this landscape category into what we call Zen Gardens, but this is actually only a sub-category because not all rock gardens are related to the religion of Zen or have anything to do with temples.
Many times these rock gardens represent oceans with smaller gravel or sand and island and mountains are formed with larger boulders. Full waterfall scenes can be created using only stone with more upright stone settings. Dry waterfalls require you to use your imagination more and sometimes contemplate the placement and your relationship to the landscape scene.
The Courtyard Garden (Tsubo-Niwa)
The courtyard garden is sometimes where Japan gets its image of miniaturization in the garden. These smaller gardens are built in the center of the house where three or four walls surround the garden. It is a garden style that can really allow you to bring nature inside the home on a daily basis and have your garden really be a part of your everyday life.
Tea Garden (Chaniwa, with Roji pathways)
The tea garden style is often more subdued and kept closer to nature, only relying on local and natural items in the garden. It is often a pathway or series of pathways that have an outer and inner garden leading to a tea house where people gather for tea ceremony. This type of garden is rarely very bold and is designed with Wabi-sabi principles of appreciating the imperfect and rustic.
Types of Japanese Stroll Gardens
There are a few different types of Japanese stroll gardens which have largely come from being a type of that was built by the aristocrats for entertainment. I like to think of it as the elite class’ playground and way of showing off for their guests. That is not to diminish the thought and creativity that was put into creating it by the garden designer, but comparatively to other Japanese garden styles they are a bit more extravagant and grandeur.
They are meant as a place to create an experience that goes beyond the current moment, and allow your mind to take you to another place. With each turn of the winding path there is a new scene of beauty to appreciate. Often you do not get one viewing point from which to observe the garden, but you must experience it little by little as you journey through the garden. It is an exploration of your relationship with nature.
This is the term that is probably most often used generically to refer to stroll gardens. Technically it refers to a large garden that lacks a pond in the center and you merely stroll throughout a prescribed area. Kaiyu refers to a circuit or trail that follows a loop. Teien means Japanese garden in Japanese.
Chisen Kaiyu-Shiki Teien
Chisen means pond, technically coming from a spring. So putting this altogether refers to a Japanese stroll garden with a large pond in the center.
This type of stroll garden focuses on the artificial or man-made hills that often accompany the large pond.
Historical Evolution of the Daimyo Stroll Garden
The Estate Garden (chisen shuyu-shiki-teien) began in the Heian period (794-1185). This garden was highly Chinese influenced and large ponds that boats could float around on and also had islands with arching bridges, long winding streams and winding paths throughout.
The Tsukiyama man-made hills came in the Kamakura and Muromachi periods (1185-1333; 1338-1568).
Contemplation Gardens (chisen kansho-shiki-teien) came later in Muromachi era and incorporated viewing and contemplation spots often within a room or shelter to of Japanese architecture.
Tea Gardens (Chaniwa) and Roji paths in the Momoyama period (1568-1603) brought the wabi-sabi principles of rustic perfection along with stone lanterns and garden architecture.
Daimyo Stroll Gardens came flourished in the Tokugawa era (1603-1868). With the established larger gardens centered around a pond, the artificial hills, the network of footpaths, now came the addition of miniature landscape scenes representing famous places. These scenes depicted both real places in Japan, like the Ama-no-Hashidate string of small islands, as well as mythical Buddhist places depicted in Chinese black ink paintings. These became extravagant garden displays to impress visitors of the Daimyo.
Japanese Strolling Garden Paths
A stroll garden may have a general loop around a pond or may also be a network of paths. Usually you will come across a variety of types garden paths with everything from a wide paved path, to gravel, to large stepping-stones to a straight nobedan paved stone pathway.
Each path style serves a purpose, many times with more winding and using stepping-stones when they want you to slow down and take in the moment. Having to watch you step allows some mystery to build as you turn a corner and new view presents itself.
Japanese Stroll Garden Examples
Many of these examples in Japan are bordering on public parks. They are quite large and were at one time private residences and estates that are now at least semi-governmental or protected.
The 3 Great Gardens of Japan (Nihon Sanmei-en)
Japan has labels and awards for everything and one of them is “The 3 Great Gardens of Japan (Nihon-Sanmei-eni). All of these large gardens are daimyo stroll gardens, and some as large as 30 acres!
This is a large garden in Okayama prefecture and covers over 33 acres of land and pond. It has a large stream running through it and 3 islands that are said to represent Lake Biwa near Kyoto and Shiga. It was started in 1700 and reached its modern state in 1863.
This garden hails from Kanazawa prefecture, Buffalo’s Sister City. It means the “The Six Attributes Garden” and it comes from Confucianism. This Daimyo stroll garden began in the 1620s and developed into its current garden in the 1840s. The snow in this area of Japan is very heavy so each late autumn you can see them tie-up the branches of the pruned pines (a technique called Yukitsuri) in order to be able to withstand the weight.
This garden means “A garden to be enjoyed by everyone.” Although this was built by the daimyo, it was originally intended for the public to also enjoy the garden. This garden in Mito, Ibaraki prefecture is famous for its plum tree blossoms, in which over 100 different varieties of trees are planted and its bamboo grove.
Daisen Garden: Japanese Stroll Garden
Although smaller in size a few other Japanese stroll gardens can be mentioned. Daisen Garden: Japanese Stroll Garden
Daisen Japanese Garden in Osaka
Daisen Japanese garden is located in Daisen Park in Sakai city, southern Osaka. This is a public park and very accessible and takes about 1 hour to tour through. This garden has everything from tsukiyama man-made hills and waterfalls, a large pond, zig-zag bridges and usually some type of flower or bonsai display also going. Yukitsuri tied pines in Yokokan Garden, Fukui
Yokokan Garden in Fukui
Yukitsuri tied-pines in Yokokan Garden, Fukui
Near downtown Fukui station you can find a beautiful Japanese stroll garden that also surrounds a pond with man-made hills. In fall they also do yukitsuri and tie-up the pine trees because of the weight of the snow. It really is a great Japanese garden to visit any time of year and is only a 10-minute walk from the station.
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