Hayashi Fumiko house and garden wonderfully preserved in Shinjuku


Most of Tokyo is efficient, dense, and forward-looking. It’s great to travel in the city in a setting that evokes other places and times. Hayashi Fumiko was a famous woman novelist of the first half of the 20th century, and this is the home she lived in for the last ten years of her life.

Although the house is less than 75 years old, it evokes a very different Tokyo with its spacious garden. It’s a wonderful time capsule that has been well maintained. Admission is only 150 yen, and in summer the ticket seller offers mosquito spray and hand fans.

Hakone gardens, Meiji house, and shrine

Now that I have posted about Hakone moss outside the organized visit, I will also share some images from the Nodai school trip. Above you can see how many students, faculty, and research fellows participated on the trip by counting the shoes.

We stayed at Hotel Yoshiike, a ryokan with an amazing Kyoto style stroll garden that is large and other worldly. The buildings are very 1960s style boxes, but the gardens make you lose track of both time and place. There is something truly masterful about the streams and pond, the wandering paths, the careful plantings and attentive maintenance.

In addition to appreciating the garden, there were enormous meals, much drinking, and onsen bathing.

The other stunning garden we saw was designed for Yamada Denki’s corporate villa by one of Japan’s most celebrated contemporary landscape designer, Sakakibara Hachiro, who also created the modern Japanese garden at Tokyo MidTown. The contrast between the two gardens is stunning: while Yoshiike is flat and terraced, Sakakibara’s is vertical and borrows from the surrounding landscape of steep, forested hills. There is a lot of drama and movement in the garden in terms of waterfalls and paths.

The Tenseien shrine turns a (mostly?) natural waterfall into a shrine. I had never seen the Shinto rope and paper decorations attached to a waterfall.

We also visited this charming Meiji-era house, a small “out-building” attached to a larger villa. The image at the top with the shoes came from this entrance.

More photos after the jump.

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Palm trees in Kurashiki traditional courtyard house

Palm trees in Kurashiki traditional courtyard house

During the trip to Inujima, we spent a night in Kurashiki, an old warehouse town near Okayama that survived both the war and modernization. In the Ohashi house, built by a wealthy merchant in 1796, there is a wonderful example of a mansion built around courtyards that offer ventilation and gardens.

Palm trees in Kurashiki traditional courtyard house

Perhaps similar to Kyoto’s kyomachiya (capital town homes), the use of courtyards and the ability to open the house to nature provide a historic reference that could inspire contemporary residential architecture.

Palm trees in Kurashiki traditional courtyard house


Diane Durston talks about Old Kyoto and Portland

Diane Durston

Diane Durston will be speaking on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at the International House of Japan. Her talk is entitled “Bringing Old Kyoto Home: Author Re-invents Japan in a Pacific Northwest Garden.” She will talk about preservation of Kyoto historic buildings (Kyo-machiya and machinami), and how she has brought Japanese craft and culture to a wide variety of United States forums and audiences.

Diane is currently the Curator of Art, Culture and Educator at the Portland Japanese Garden, the finest Japanese garden in North America. She is the author Diane of many books and articles, including Old Kyoto, in print since 1986 and the current second edition with a forward by Donald Richie. Previously she worked with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, the Whitney Museum, Yale, and the University of Pennsylvania.

You can reserve online a seat for the talk at:

A tour of Koishikawa Korakuen with Suzuki Sensei

Professor Suzuki Makoto at Koishikawa Korakuen

I had the great pleasure to view Koishikawa Korakuen with Professor Suzuki Makoto of the Tokyo University of Agriculture. Along with Hama Rikyu in Tokyo, and Rokuonji Temple (Golden Pavilion), Jishoji Temple (Silver Pavilion), and Daigoji in Kyoto, this garden is one of five gardens in Japan that have been designated as both special historical site and special scenic spot under the Cultural Assets Preservation Act in 1952.

Koishikawa Korakuen Lone Pine

Professor Suzuki was leading a class of foreign students in Environment and Landscape in Japan, and I was very impressed by his deep knowledge and careful attention for his students. Exhorting his students to “use their imagination” and “listen to the birds,” Suzuki sensei organized the walking tour from Inner Garden to Outer Garden, and pointed out where the daimiyo’s house and three quarters of the original estate had been replaced by the massive sports and entertainment complex called Tokyo Dome.

Suzuki Sensei’s tour highlighted three key aspects of the Japanese Garden: 

1. A plethora of historic and literary allusions. Begun in 1629, Koishikawa Korakuen was completed by the second lord Mitsukuni of the Mito Tokugawa family with the guidance of Shu Shunsui, a Confucian scholar and refugee from China. The name Koraku, “meaning “delight afterwards,” comes from a Chinese text in Hanchuen’s “Gakuyoro-ki.” Specific sections in the garden evoke the Chinese Rozan mountain and Lake Saiko, and the Oikawa River in Kyoto.

2. Miniaturizations and variety.  The garden’s twisting paths and changes in elevation allow the visitor to experience miniaturizations of built and natural environments including a castle moat, Confucian full moon bridge, Kyoto’s Togetsukyo bridge and Kiyomizu Temple, a shrine, and an Edo-era drinking house. In roughly 70,000 square meters, one also experiences forest, mountain, river, lake, rice field, and plum orchard. Large stones in the path, which Suzuki Sensei called “articulation stones,” signal the shift from one landscape to another.

3. All of Japan in one compact space. Suzuki sensei displayed his own illustration of how Koishikawa Korakuen embodies the archetype of Japan’s island landscape, which goes from ocean to pine forest to hills and mountains. 

I feel very fortunate that Suzuki Sensei has agreed to be the host for my Council on Foreign Relations Hitachi fellowship.

Professor Suzuki Makoto at Koishikawa Korakuen