Welcome to Mokurai's Temple!

Japanese Gardens and Aesthetics

Guiding Thoughts
Heian Gardens
Zen Temple Gardens
Strolling Gardens
Tea Gardens
Tsubo Gardens
Garden Timeline
Suggested Reading

Portraying a Japanese Buddhist Monk in the SCA

Japanese Films

Essential Dharma


The Clan of Matsuyama

SCA Resources
(The Chatelaine's Box)



Japanese Aesthetics and the Garden

Shuyu (strolling style) and Kaiyu (many pleasures style)


· Built by Imperial aristocrats, Daimyos, Shoguns; reached zenith in the Edo era.

· Designed for leisure and relaxation, often many acres in size.

· Paths of various types leading to views.

· Bridges, lanterns, decorative fences, statuary (rare).

· Waterways large enough for small boats.

· Elaborate tea pavilions.

· Shakkie - Borrowed scenery.

· Rich colors, striking flowers, exotic trees.

· Usually attached to mansions or villas.

First built in the Kamakura era, strolling gardens cover a wide breadth of design as well as area. Strolling gardens were an outgrowth of Heian mansion gardens and temple gardens. The largest of all Japanese gardens, they include strolling paths, decorative tea houses, and artificially created ponds. Here, courtiers, and later the highest ranks of the samurai class, could relax and immerse themselves in artistic activities such as poetry competitions, tea parties and “moon-viewing parties.”

The garden was an expression of affluence as well. The Kinkaku-ji (“golden temple”) of the shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu is an excellent example. Here, styles of old and new mingled. The structure is three stories tall and houses tea rooms, reception halls and a Jodo Buddhist shrine. Each story is in a different architectural style, yet the whole is a harmonious design covered in gold leaf.

Strolling gardens offer a look at the broad face of nature; more exuberant and less enclosed than temple gardens. Visitors are encouraged to take their time in exploring. Strolling gardens were the first to incorporate the concept of Shakkie or “borrowed scenery”; using the hills, trees and sky outside the garden’s boundaries as part of the composition. In this way, the garden can be imagined to extend for miles. How big are the gardens themselves? Consider Ritsurin-en in Takamatsu: 7,590,000 square feet including artificial hills and ponds.