Amidst the hustle and bustle of the crowded cities of Japan, many people still manage to find time to connect with nature through a sanctuary called tsubo-niwa. In a country where every inch of land area matters, a small parcel lot is dedicated to incorporate tsubo-niwa among the design of modern homes and buildings such as in Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo, and other areas.
Tsubo-niwa in layman’s terms is a petit garden. This word stems from the Japanese word “niwa” meaning “garden” and “tsubo” which is an ancient metric unit that is equivalent to approximately 3.3 square meters. A traditional tsubo-niwa may include moss covering blankets on floors, a rock, and trees such as Japanese maple (locally known as momiji). The garden is also accentuated with pieces of stone lanterns, and a small basin set in tea gardens (chouzubachi) or a small basin filled with water originally set during the old days for people to purify themselves through washing their hands (tsukubai).
Tsubo-niwa’s origins can be traced back to the 8th and 9th century Kyoto, where garden designs were incorporated on the patio. According to experts on Japanese gardens, these petit gardens were regarded as a lovely spot in a Kyoto townhouse. The trees connect people who are geographically isolated with nature while the garden in itself improves the areas of the house which are poorly lit and ventilated.
In fact, several tsubo-niwa are created in a single house to add lighting and are developed in areas following the direction where the wind blows (i.e. from a cold to a hot place) which helps to improve the ventilation in houses. Tsubo-niwa near a window in the entrance hall also provides a continuous link between the interior and exterior of the house which gives the illusion of a larger space.
A typical tsubo-niwa costs around 300,000 to 500,000 yen. The price depends on the quality of the items inside the small garden rather than the size of the space. For people who are on a tight budget, there are also gardening companies which sell tsubo-niwa sets. A toy-like tsubo-niwa set includes stone lanterns, gravel, bamboo fences and artificial plants for about 60,000 yen. There are even online shops which sell tsubo-niwa sets too like FROM JAPAN.
So what do you think about Japan’s tsubo-niwa sets? Sounds like a great idea to bring nature home, especially if you’re stuck in a concrete jungle like Tokyo! So, are you ready to build your own tsubo-niwa?