Appreciating Nature through Gardening

Gardens of Tokyo: Kiyosumi

While Kiyosumi  Gardens also emerged during the Edo period, its current form is the result of late 19th century renovation by Iwasaki Yataro, the founder of Mitsubishi.  The garden is noted for its collection of unusual rocks acquired from all over Japan that punctuate the views.   Rocks hold a special significance in Japan, hearkening back to traditional origin myths of the Japanese archipelago.  Some venerated Shinto sites feature a massive stone girdled with a sacred straw rope, indicating a place for communion with the gods.  Here they are valued for aesthetic qualities and as geological specimens.

“Iso-wateri” refers to the stepping stone paths that skirt the shoreline of the pond.  The small wooden markers designate the origins of the unusual rocks.

A sprig of cotoneaster forms a natural bonsai.

This garden was charming in a Disney-like way, perfectly groomed and efficiently routed.  As a result, it felt rather forced – the paths seemed a bit too open and cluttered with competing elements.  I suspect that it’s partly due to the relative youth of the space, but I also wonder if it also reflects the influence of 19th c. Western design.


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