Clive Holland.

Old and new Japan online

. (page 16 of 23)
Online LibraryClive HollandOld and new Japan → online text (page 16 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


coast. The illusion which is so skilfully created is generally
beautiful, and always interesting.

The Japanese garden in nine cases out of ten is a
landscape one, but in no case does the matter of the space
at the disposal of the gardener decide the question of its
character. There are Japanese gardens covering many
acres of ground (although they are rather the exception
than the rule) ; there are others covering a space of about



196 OLD & NEW JAPAN

as many yards : in each case to the Japanese mind land-
scape gardening is possible. With us this style of gar-
dening calls up a vision of a widely stretching space ; to
the Japanese it merely infers a landscape accurately to
scale, with every possibility of effect taken advantage of in
producing the perfect illusion aimed at and accomplished.

The most curious garden of all — the most minutely
perfect — is the toko-niwa or koniwa, beloved of those whose
houses are so situated in large towns that there is no space
for a garden plot at all. Often this is arranged in a bowl
or vessel no larger than a pie-dish of moderate size, and
is sometimes placed in the tokonoma or raised recess in
the homes of the poor. In the toko-niwa, which is
generally held in a curious-shaped bowl or a shallow
carved box, are formed ponds as large as a postage-stamp,
rivulets as wide as a lucifer match, minute hills with
equally microscopic houses upon them, whilst quaint and
tiny plants do duty for M forest giants," and stones for
rocks. There will often, too, be a tiny shrine or torii as
well to mark some beauty spot in this wonderful, minute
representation of a Japanese landscape of which no salient
feature has been omitted.

One can only marvel at the ingenuity and the skill
with which a park has been constructed in an area not
exceeding that of a normal-sized pocket-handkerchief;
and at the wonderful illusion that the Japanese artist has
contrived to create.

One essential thing that must be remembered in regard to
Japanese gardens is that, to enable one to fully comprehend
or even appreciate them, it is necessary to understand the
beauty and picturesqueness of the stones which enter so
largely into their scheme. Not the artificially " worked "
stones or M clinkers " of the English garden, but the
marvellously shaped ones on which only Nature and the
weather have laid their transforming touches.



JAPANESE GARDENS OLD & NEW 197

It is not until one has learned to feel the pictorial
possibilities of stones, even to admit that they have a
character of their own, and possess values and tones of
colour which entitle them to consideration and to placing
with a due regard to these characteristics, that one can hope
to thoroughly enjoy or understand the beauty of a Japanese
garden. The Western mind takes long to learn this lesson,
unless in individual cases the underlying artistic sense
lurks, more or less unsuspected, until it is called into
vigorous life upon the contemplation of these things. The
spirit of the Japanese race permits them to comprehend
Nature infinitely more subtly than do most Europeans.
To learn the inner meaning of stones as it is known by
the Japanese themselves is a task of some magnitude,
we admit ; but it is one well worth accomplishing, for
they meet one on every hand in the Mikado's empire. In
the street one is confronted by the problems which they
present. Stones appear by the roadside, at the entrances
to temples, in the approaches to sacred groves, in the
parks and pleasure-grounds, and in the last resting-places
of the " honourable dead." In all these spots one sees
large slabs of natural stone, in many instances obviously
water-worn from long lying in some river-bed, on which
are cut ideographs. These unhewn rocks are votive
tablets, monuments, or tombstones, as the case may be,
and are, from the care with which they have been selected,
and the regard which has been paid to their natural
beauties, often far more costly than the average conven-
tional hewn-stone memorials of our own land.

The use of natural stones is everywhere followed by
the Japanese when possible. In many a village, home-
stead, and in the neighbourhood of many a shrine one will
find chodzu-bachi (water-basins), or fountains formed of huge
blocks of granite or other hard stone in which falling water
during the centuries has cut a basin-like cavity. After a



i 9 8 OLD & NEW JAPAN

time one learns to see how much more beautiful and artistic
are these natural wells, or fountains, than anything the trim
mind of man alone could have devised. Soon one learns
insensibly to look for beautiful or curious stones as a
feature of a landscape or an addition to a lovely spot as
one would look for a clump of trees or a fine bed of
flowers.

Like most volcanic lands, Japan is a country of mar-
vellous stone shapes, which are often suggestive of human
beings, temples, animals, and other natural phenomena.
It is doubtless from this fact that these appear from time
immemorial to have appealed to the imagination and in-
genuity of the race.

To the mind of a Western gardener stones usually appear
in the light of something to be eliminated rather than as
things to be used for their possible or inherent beauty.
To the Japanese gardener's mind they are the framework
upon which he constructs the scheme of the garden. Some
of these, on account of their curious or beautiful shape,
may be worth many pounds. Fifty pounds is no out-of-the-
way price for a large stone which either has extraordinary
beauty of colouring or outline, or for some other reason
would fill an important niche in the garden plan. Every
stone in one of the beautiful old gardens which are to be
met with in every town has been chosen by its designer
and maker on account of its individual expressiveness of
form, or suitability for the main object in view. And each
large stone in the same garden has its own separate name
by which it is known, and which indicates its decorative
use or position.

Unlike the attempts of Western garden designers, the
Japanese never set out to construct or convey the impres-
sion of a purely ideal landscape or scene. The end in view
is to faithfully copy (very often to accurate scale) a real
landscape with all its natural and artificial beauties, and to




A SECLUDED GARDEN BY A RIVER BANK.



JAPANESE GARDENS OLD & NEW 199

convey by this of necessity usually miniature reproduction
the effect and sentiment which the real thing was calculated
to impress upon one's mind. The result of their labours is
therefore in a sense, and for this reason, rather a picture
than a mere garden, as we understand the term, and also
not infrequently to the comprehending mind a " poem
in rocks and stones." At least this latter is true of the
magnificent creations of those wonderful gardeners of
ancient times, the Buddhist monks, who not only introduced
into Japan the art of gardening, but were able to create by
their genius in the gardens of old the impressions of joy,
grimness, grandeur, beauty, of strength or of peaceful charm,
just as they willed. They had the theory, at all events,
that it was possible to teach moral lessons by means of their
designs for gardens, and to even portray such abstract ideas as
Chastity, Piety, Hope, Content, Unity, by the same means.

Thus it was that the ancient gardens of Japan were
designed to express the character or leading thoughts of
their owners, whether priests, poets, warriors, philosophers,
or artists, and in them was often the dual idea of present-
ing both one of Nature's moods and a conception of some
phase or mood of man. Alas! nowadays, although the
gardens of modern Japan are many of them quaint and
beautiful in a way that few other gardens are, the highest
art of garden designing is becoming rare and yet more
rare under the modernising and more material influences of
the West and an alien civilisation.

One of the most beautiful of the gardens, the designers
and makers of which have long ago passed into that
shadowland from which their beloved ghosts are yet per-
mitted once a year at Bommatsuri to return, is rich with
water-basins in which goldfish swim lazily and mouth
hungrily for flies ; stone lamps, green and grey with age
and moss and weather. In it, too, are numbers of minia-
ture hills, up which no beings more substantial than tiny



200 OLD & NEW JAPAN

woodland pixies could climb, crowned with ancient trees
whose size give no idea :of their age ; long green slopes,
interspersed with flowering shrubs and rounded boss-like
knolls, which are surrounded by sweeps and spaces of sand
of the palest yellow tint, silky smooth, and wandering like
the convolutions of a tortuous stream. These sand spaces
are not paths, nor must they be trodden underfoot. A
footprint, a mere speck of foreign matter, would spoil them
in the eyes of the gardener who tends them so lovingly,
and wipes out every crease as a woman would the wrinkles
on her brow. Here and there upon their yellow surface
appear flat slabs of stone, placed at varying distances apart,
and looking like the stepping-stones across a rivulet. By
this simple means, which is obvious to a degree, the effect
is produced of the banks of a silently flowing stream in
some slumberland.

Such a garden is generally (it should always be)
retired from the glimpse of street or hum of outer life,
behind high fences, and surrounded on the garden sides by
trees and shrubs grown sufficiently, and artfully grouped,
so as to shut out even the sight of any contiguous dwell-
ings. In such a garden as we have in mind there is an
ambient sunshine, a delicate shadow-play of leaves and
foliage upon the green-sward and the sanded spaces, and a
faint, distilled scent of flowers borne on the wings of the
warm summer air. The cicada sings at noon, the frogs
gurgle at night. All day long the dragon-flies play over
the surface of the tiny ponds and rocky water-basins ; and
when the sky has gone from pale blue to lemon colour,
and then again to blue, only darker, and is spangled
here and there with silvery points of light, there will be
fire-flies glinting fitfully. And then comes night, making
the rocks and bushes and trees take on fantastic shapes,
and the yellow patches of sand look like wounds in the
surface of a blue-grey earth.



JAPANESE GARDENS OLD & NEW 201

There is much folk-lore, superstition, and romance
locked up in the trees which figure in the gardens of Japan.
One of the most curious beliefs in connection with a plant
is that relating to the nanten, which is found in most
gardens. It is that if one has an unfortunate or evil dream
(say dreams of gaining money, or a fresh-water fish, or, if
a man, that one's nose is bleeding — all of which are unfortu-
nate subjects), and one whispers the dream over the nanten
very early in the morning, it will not come true.

To the Yuzuri-ha (Daphniphillum tnacropodum), too, is
attached the belief that it is a tree which brings good luck.
The old leaves of this tree never fall before new ones come
to take their place. They form behind the old leaves in
a curious fashion, and this circumstance has caused the
Ytizuri-ha to be considered symbolical of hope that the
head of the house will not pass away until the time has
come when his son is well able to take his place.

The pine, which plays so important a part in Japanese
landscape gardening, is symbolical of unwavering purpose
and of vigorous old age ; whilst its needle-like foliage is
supposed to have the power of driving away evil spirits.
Indeed, all the trees and shrubs in a Japanese garden have
their particular names and legends ; and, in addition,
special landscape names according to the purpose they
serve in the community of the garden.

We have spoken of the rocks as forming the skeleton
of the garden's design ; so pines may be said to form the
framework of the foliage scheme. Few English gardeners
would admit the possibility of satisfactorily trimming' and
training the pine-tree into a thing of beauty. But the
Japanese gardener succeeds in making them marvellous
examples of picturesqueness by long and untiring labour
and careful trimming ; his object all along being to de-
velop to the highest possible state of perfection their
natural characteristics of ruggedness of outline, and mass-



202 OLD & NEW JAPAN

ing of their dark green foliage. Some trees are, of course,
trained and trimmed into fantastic shapes ; but the great
majority of pines in Japanese gardens are merely cultivated
and clipped in the way we have indicated, and with the
object we have referred to.

In wondrous contrast to the pines are the sakuranoki, or
Japanese cherry-trees, whose flowers, in delicacy of colour
and form, are more exquisite than anything European
gardens can show. There are many varieties ; some are
pink flowered, some others have the exquisite tints of
nacre, and yet others are of snow-white purity. The most
lovely of them all, perhaps, are those which bear countless
blossoms of a pink so delicate, it is merely white, blushing.
In spring-time it is as though the most ethereal masses of
fleecy cloud, touched with an ambient sunset glow, had
floated earthward to hang amid the branches of the trees.
Each grey-green sprig has its wealth of beautiful flowers ;
each ancient limb of the tree seems to bend beneath a
burden of glorious colour, whose beauties cannot be ade-
quately described. There are no green leaves to break up
the mass and compete with it in interest ; they arrive later.
There is nothing visible but blossoms, and the branches
delicately swathed, as it were, in a pink-white vapour ; and
underneath the boughs lies the cherry-blossom carpet like
pale pink snow. In the slightest stir of air the nacre-tinted
petals fall, a delicately perfumed shower, till the earth is
inches deep in the loveliest of coverings.

But not all cherry-trees in Japan blossom before their
foliage appears. The wild mountain-cherry comes into leaf
first. But whether cultivated (as are the trees of the gardens
and parks) or wild, like those of the mountain-side and woods,
the cherry-tree to the Japanese is an emblem. Beautiful
though they are, it is not alone for their exquisite charm
that they are loved and cultivated, and were planted in the
old gardens of the katchiu-yashiki. The flawless and spot-



r f I c < r c
c c e <

r f € ( c € ( c




IN THE PONDS . . . GLOW WITH MANY SHADES OF PINK TO BLUE-
PURPLE, BLUE TO GREY, AND MAUVE TO PUREST WHITE,
THE MESSENGERS BETWEEN THE GODS AND MEN."



JAPANESE GARDENS OLD & NEW 203

less flowers they bear are regarded as being symbolical of
that delicate refinement of sentiment and blamelessness of
life which have always distinguished courtliness and true
knighthood. There is an old Japanese saying, " Just as
the cherry-blossom is the purest and most lovely of flowers,
so should the warrior be the best and noblest amongst men."

Scarcely less beautiful, and coming a full month earlier,
is the plum blossom ; red, pink and white, and pure silver-
white flowers. Loved almost as much as those of the
cherry-trees, because they are harbingers of spring. As is
the case of the cherry-blossom, the flowering of the umenoki
(plum-trees) is made the occasion for a public festival and
holiday. And in January (or a little later, according to the
mildness or severity of the season) Tokyo crowds throng
the Td-kai-d5, bound in happy groups for Mme-yashiki (the
plum gardens) at Kamata to view the plum blossoming,
and visit the Mme-yashiki at Kameido to see the famous
" sleeping dragon plums."

But the charm of a Japanese garden is not merely in its
cherry and plum blossoms, though these are so much more
written of than the less well-known flowers, which do so
much month by month to keep the interest of the garden
and gardener ever fresh. Along many an engawa hang
fruit-like bunches of wistaria bloom, the pale lilac of which
contrasts with the brown and weathered woodwork of the
eaves and beams. The peony, iris, "morning glory," also
play their part in the exquisite adornment of the gardens,
both public and private.

In peony time districts such as Izumo and the tiny
island of Daikonshima, where it especially flourishes, are
ablaze with flame-coloured blossoms. To enjoy the beauti-
ful spectacle the people take a holiday and the schools
release their scholars that they may go and view the peony,
as they do also the cherry-blossom and plum in their
season.



2o 4 OLD & NEW JAPAN

The Japanese are very fond of comparing the beauty,
virtue, or other characteristics of women to plants and
trees. A strange fact, however, in connection with this,
that they compare the virtue and sweetness of them always
to the rival of the cherry-blossom (the plum) and never to
the cherry-blossom itself. On the other hand, physical
beauty in woman is compared to the cherry and not to the
plum.

Other characteristics are compared with other flowers
and trees, for example, for youthful charm a maiden is
likened to a blossoming cherry-tree ; for sweetness of dis-
position to the plum-tree in flower ; for grace of figure or
carriage to a slender willow. As with us, the Japanese
have a phrase u willow waist" (yanagi-goshi), which indi-
cates a slight and elegant figure. The ancient poets of
Japan were never weary of comparing beautiful women to
beautiful natural objects such as trees and flowers, and in
many poems her poses and movements have been so com-
pared. Girls' names, more especially in the country districts,
are frequently those of flowers and trees prefixed by the
honorific O. O-Matsu, the Honourable Miss Pine ; O-
Ume, the Honourable Miss Plum ; O-Ine, the Honourable
Miss Ear of Young Rice ; O-Hana, the Honourable Miss
Blossom ; O-Botan, the Honourable Miss Tree Peony ;
O-Kiku, the Honourable Miss Chrysanthemum; or O-Take,
the Honourable Miss Bamboo, being amongst the most
common. But whilst speaking of flower and tree names
it should be added that the more showy ones are not given
to the girls of the upper classes, but are largely confined
to dancing-girls, tea-house attendants, and the daughters
of the poor respectable classes, but even the latter nowa-
days avoid the names which have become more or less
associated With, geisha, or joro.

By many competent authorities it is held that the names
of trees and flowers given to women were not in the first



JAPANESE GARDENS OLD & NEW 205

instance bestowed upon them because of the beauty of the
trees or flowers, but because they represented some symbol
in the popular mind such as longevity, happiness, fruitful-
ness, uprightness, or good luck. Whether this is the case
or not, nowadays at all events tree and flower names are
frequently given to girls more especially because the tree
or flower is beautiful, or because the recipient of the name
in some way represents by her disposition or figure some
characteristic of the object after which she is named.

Other flowers which are the glory of a Japanese garden
are the wonderful irises, which come to make the landscape
gay in June, and the exquisite kiku, or chrysanthemum,
upon the cultivation of which so much tender care is
lavished, seen in all its glory of many lovely tints in
November.

In most Japanese gardens of any size where there is
water in sufficient quantity, hana shobu, flag-like blossoms
of delicate mauve, deep purple, yellow, and mauve and
white are grown. The iris (God's Messenger, as the old
Greek legend has it) comes in the first heat of summer,
just as the rice fields throughout the land have become
pools of delicate green vibrating with every breeze and
having the appearance of rippling, jade-coloured water. To
the iris gardens outside the large cities, where for from two
to three sen (about a halfpenny) one may view the exquisite
spear-like blooms, journey crowds on foot or in jinrikishas.

In the famous iris gardens outside Tokyd and other
large towns on the flower's festival days one finds a typical
Japanese crowd, but, on account of the distance and the
high entrance fee, a somewhat more select one than that
which views the cherry-blossom in Uyeno Park and
Mukojima, where literally all the world and his wife for-
gather. On the raised and hard-beaten earthen causeways
which run between the iris beds one hears the constant
thud of geta, as the orderly but enthusiastic crowd passes



2o6 OLD & NEW JAPAN

along on their way to the numberless little matting-roofed
pavilions, in which the " honourable tea " and equally
"honourable cakes" will be shortly served by dainty little
musume, in delicate-hued kimono, probably sprayed with
irises to match their environment of the Hana Shobu
ponds.

On these occasions of the viewing of the iris one meets
family parties of Japanese shopkeepers, with the quaintest
and most engaging children ; babies with shaved polls, the
schoolgirls with elementary coiffures with flat fronts, and
the grown-up daughters with the most wonderful creations
of the professional hairdressers' skill, stuck thick with jade
and bronze-headed pins almost stout enough to serve as
daggers. At these times the alien mind is at once struck
with the strangeness of children, young men and maidens,
and old folk, one and all being content to sit and drink tea,
and contentedly gaze at — flowers. Their idea of enjoy-
ment is so totally opposed to that of Western holiday folk
in a like station of life. They do not want, no not even
the little ones, to be for ever on the move ; for ever doing
something as though not a moment of the day should be
wasted in real quiet enjoyment.

There is little noise save the occasional ring of the tiny
tea - bowls on the lacquer trays ; the hum of subdued
conversation, which is mostly about the flowers, the beauty
of the scene, and the joy that the delicately tinted blossoms
bring ; or the muffled thud of the little musumes geta
on the paths as they move to and fro between the tiny
pavilions and the chaya.

In the ponds, which are almost like tiny rivers, glow
with many shades of pink to blue-purple, blue to grey, and
mauve to purest white, the messengers between the gods
and men. The exquisite picture in these suburban gardens
seems to fade away into the distance where the tender
green of the rice fields lies a restful carpet under the



JAPANESE GARDENS OLD & NEW 207

intense blue of the summer sky. It is not difficult to com-
prehend in the waving spikes of delicate iris blooms the
lesson of beauty and peacefulness which they teach. A
message which it needs no seer to perceive is sinking into
the receptive hearts of even the common folk, who have
journeyed from their daily environment of narrow streets
and business cares to view the iris gardens and learn
anew one of Nature's lessons.

And so the gods' messengers, the irises, find a place in
the gardens of Japan to-day as they did of old, brighten-
ing with their presence spots that without them might be
little more than marshy wastes, if such a thing, indeed,
were to be permitted in a Japanese garden.

The lovely fragile O-Kiku (honourable chrysanthemum),
which come to brighten the garden, and shed their loveli-
ness of form and colour on all around at the same time that
the hillsides and woods are ablaze with maples in their
wealth of gorgeous colouring, has many shades and varie-
ties. One corner of many a private garden is devoted
entirely to the cultivation of the national flower of Japan,
where they stand sheltered from the heavy, driving rain
and hot sun by frames of light wood covered by " lights "
of tough white paper, something like shoji, and supported
by bamboo posts.

In general cultivation the plants are treated in much
the same way as with us, but just before flowering are
taken from their pots and planted out in bold masses of
colour in the beds already prepared for them. As with us,
too, some plants are reduced to a single strong stem, upon
which only one bloom is allowed with the object of obtain-
ing a giant flower. These plants are stiffly decorative, and
are usually arranged in lines, with the stems tied closely to
a horizontal bamboo support lest the heavy head should
snap off. Probably, even in Japan, none of these giant
blossoms, whose "toilet," when of the in-curved variety, is



2o8 OLD & NEW JAPAN

almost as elaborate as that of a royal infant, excel in size,
shape, or colouring the best that English gardeners can
produce for show purposes. But it is in the training and
production of the extraordinary plants, frequently bearing
on a single plant as many as four hundred blooms all in
perfect condition on one day, that Japanese gardeners


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryClive HollandOld and new Japan → online text (page 16 of 23)