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Visiting Katsura Imperial Villa No.3


As proceeding to the left led by steppingstones, a small waterfall and shallow stream filled with pebbles could be seen over Oribe style Tourou (garden lantern). The diminutive space enfolding the flow rather engendered intensity implied by scenery of Oigawa River recited in the Tale of the Genji.

Then, stepping forward on a stone bridge enhanced with sound of water flow, suddenly the one of most transcended space of Katsura Imperial Villa “Amano-Hashidate” is unleashed 180-degreed panoramically in front of us. In any direction the scenery is thoroughly sophisticated as though every single photo shot would be a postcard quality. Imagining and creating such landscape stands overwhelming.

The scenery was initially engendered with affection of Imperial Prince Toshihito toward his wife, Joshoin from Tango-Kyougoku Family, and there is an original Amano-Hashidate at her homeland. That is why the imperial prince set such garden as a gift for her. Therefore, it is quite reasonable that Mr. Kanji Nomura identifies the most famous Japanese garden as “a garden of feminism”.

After going up and down constantly along the hillside as seeing Shokintei on the right, a splendid hewn stone bridge (L=6m, W=65cm, T=35cm) made of andesite from Shirakawa region, waited right in front. The bridge raised high enough to give an impression hesitating to cross, was probably contained with a kind of a psychological proposition perceived in moderate choice of Hashibasami Stone (bridge anchoring stone), massiveness on thickness of stone, or sense of security while crossing.

Once crossing the bridge there is the tea garden spread, and looking back the scene behind, it has impressive depth of the garden observable. Suhama (pebble beach) and stone arrangement are transcendent though not so often remarked in guidebooks. This is why Katsura Imperial Palace is magnificient that gorgeous methodology of Momoyama period can be seen even in such small portion of the garden.

Airy Shokintei, with three sides are open, is constructed with half hipped roof style and an exhaust port of cooking stove for warming is attached on the north side of the shed. The splendid scenery observable from Shokintei clearly verifies that typical Japanese garden composition that the observation spot itself can also be worth to be observable can be perceptible. Every angle of the scenery from the shed is possibly the best, such as a delicate arrangement of islands and a bridge on the right, or dynamic scenery including the writing alcove on the left. White and blue check patterned sliding doors, famous for unconventional artificial design, composes an antithetic space to the outside garden.

After leaving Shokintei, and surprised with noticing the architectural simplicity of the shed as functional space on the south from the bridge, by following a trail, we headed to Shokatei, where is highest elevation (5.5 m above the water level) of the villa and engendered the atmosphere of teahouse at the trail. Like placing an iron basin as a small landmark down from Shokatei, sensibility is the real pleasure of Japanese garden.

The appearance of the writing alcove observable from the hilltop is particularly magnificent as a part of the unwearied sequence. However, the balance between vegetation like a grown fir tree and infrastructures got a bit off compared with scenery I observed when I was a student. Some sorts of maintenance might be required.

As we more proceeded on to Onrindo along mortuary memorials of Katsura Imperial Family, there are steppingstones of marvelous modern look. Raindrops collected by the roof of Onrindo fall to pebbles in which quadrate steppingstones lined up with unnoticeably shifted manner. Supposedly, the design was ended up so to include two contrasted propositions at once that were rigidness in rectangular steppingstones expressing intensity as it belongs to formally important facility, as well as elegance in full of playfulness as they shifted slightly.

To be continued furthermore,

Yoshiki Toda

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