Japan’s large, beautiful stroll gardens are well-known all over the world. They usually originated in the Edo period and are associated with villas owned by aristocrats. Some of these gardens have been designed using an abstract concept known as ‘karikomi’, a way of grouping plants in order to create one shape.
The Horai Garden found at the Daichiji Temple in Shiga Prefecture (near Kyoto and Osaka) is a good example of such a garden. This garden mostly relies on nature which fittingly changed over the modern times. Let’s take a look at the concept of this garden.
The Horai Garden has been designed by Kobori Enshu, a prominent tea master of the Edo Period. He used to be a very famous designer of famous tea gardens and temples around Japan. Currently, the garden is maintained by a priest named Shimizu Toshiharu. The original concept of the garden is acoustic, allowing the soft sound of the wind blowing from the pine trees towards the cave. The sound of water streaming softly can also be heard in the background, echoing in its underground echo chamber of water (suinkinkutsu). It is a great reminder of the 17th century times, with sea and island images depicted in the garden for an extra tranquil effect.
The garden was mainly constructed at the beginning of the 17th century, just after the Tokugawa government restored peace and stability in the area. The garden is abundant in neatly trimmed azalea shrubs where its hedges have been clipped into cubes, forming a serpentine. It was originally designed to depict a treasure ship sailing the waves of the sea, looking for a sacred island. The sheared shrub cubes in the center represent the treasure ship. The treasures in the ship are formed by azalea cubes.
A special place has been provided for meditation to use for visitors while they are taking in the views. It is located in the foreground just below the viewing pavilion’s steps where you can see round, flattened stones. These are flanked by two small azaleas.
Since the style of the garden was so profound, it has been followed by other garden designers who were deeply in love with Enshu’s style. Some of them even adopted his name in order to lend legitimacy in their work. If you are in the area, don’t miss the opportunity to visit this original Japanese garden full of hidden and not so hidden meaning and beauty!