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Visiting Katsura Imperial Villa No.1


I visited Katsura Imperial Villa for the first time in 40 years. It was impressive visit led by Mr. Isoya Shinnji under the auspices of the “Garden Club” on Watari Museum of Contemporary Art.

In short, it was meant a “superb experience” on a beautiful day for visiting to see a garden enclosed with greenery and a calm surface of water.

However, outrageous quantity of landscape architectural information to receive had result me complete exhaustion. The two hour experience of such circumstance unperceivable 40 years ago, was irreplaceably precious time, indeed.

As we see the outside, about 10 year-old Takehogaki (distinctive bamboo ear fence), which I had admired but no chance to build at the time I was just a landscape craftsman, extended 100m at both sides of the main gate, was appeared relevantly blended into the landscape surrounding.

Katsuragaki was a next bamboo fence in sight. Live henon bamboosas bended slantingly were used for the beautiful and unique styled fence based on the split bamboo fence of Kenninji, which consists of furry bamboo leaves fixed firmly on the surface. However, the fence clearly had the front side and the back side, in which bamboos were bended forcefully and had pathetic appearance.

Although currently the access from the main gate is closed, once walking straight toward the end of the path in the garden, there is a Miyukimon Gate of which our office referred to design Senjyuann Garden in Tanigawa, Gunma. Hedges on both sides of the gate kept lower than those at backside of the gate, had skillfully balanced.

As garden pathways at Katsura Imperial Villa are often arranged straight, I constantly perceived that there should be an intention totalized by the arrangement of significant axes leading toward southeast corner of the garden. Besides, in the smaller scale, there were many other designated axes that kept attracting visitors to observe carefully about what would be found in each space. Beyond those facts, axes hardly crossing orthogonally have resulted on visitors experiencing fluctuated perception from the atmosphere.

Christianity, namely the Western culture, had made big influence on the construction of Katsura Imperial Villa at the beginning of Edo period. There are many examples of localization of techniques developed in the Western culture, such as audacious composition of axes, vista lines, placing landmarks, and the law of perspective, to examine the similarity of Japanese traditional garden techniques.

To be continued,

Yoshiki Toda

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