Japanese Sister City Gardens
Kumamoto En 熊本園
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Elements of Kumamoto En
|Niju Masu, or "double measure" style basin|
This Gyo style combines cut granite with natural shaped stones to form a surface that has a formal feel tempered with the calm beauty of natural shapes. The path is shaded by two deciduous trees called momiji もみじ, or Japanese Maples (Acer palmatum). Throughout the garden, varieties of momiji provide color and texture spring, summer, and fall, and graceful sculptures of nature through the winter.
The path comes to a place to pause and symbolically purify before continuing into this special space. The square granite basin is called chozubachi 手水鉢. It is of a style called niju masu 二重桝, meaning double measure for the diamond-shaped hollow within the square shape cut of the stone. The basin provides water for washing of hands and face, removing the dirt, cares and troubles of the world. The flow from the basin symbolizes an underground water source - something both Kumamoto and San Antonio have in common. The basin is set low so a visitor must bend in honor and humility to fill the take bishaku 竹柄杓, or bamboo dipper. The small stones below the large platform stone catch the wash water. For more information on this special area, see the article on Tsukubai つくばい .
|Mizu-hotaru Toro or "Water Firefly Lantern"|
The mizu-hotaru toro 水蛍燈籠, or water firefly lantern, stands over the chozubachi, providing light for night time visits to the garden. The beauty of fireflies dancing magically over garden ponds at night inspired this lantern. It is usually placed near the water's surface to provide a reflection resembling its namesake. More detail can be found at mizubotaru toro.
Both the hotaru toro and the chozubachi lay at the foot of a grass-covered mound symbolizing the active volcano that stands above the City of Kumamoto. It is known as Mount Aso 阿蘇山.
Under the red-leafed variety of momiji growing from the side of Mount Aso, stands a special stone called a zazen ishi 座禅石, or Meditation Stone.
From the earliest Japanese history, stones have always been an important part of the garden and the selection and placement of these stones is considered a special art. The stones in the Kumamoto En were placed with no less care. Those located in the water were taken from water - those used in forming the mountains were selected from the mountains. The hotaru toro, chozubachi, zazen ishi, and the symbolic Mount Aso are included in an area of the garden considered the "Kumamoto, Japan" side of the garden.
|The symbolic "Fuji-san"|
Another Roji gate is located to the right of this area. It is hoped that it will soon lead to a small bamboo garden and sitting area.
There is a second symbolic mountain in the Kumamoto En. Another grass-covered cone, standing to the left of Mount Aso and more central to the garden, represents the famous Mount Fuji 富士山.
Mount Fuji or "Fuji-san"
In Japan, it is known as "Fujiyama " or "Fuji-san ". Internationally, it is thought of as a icon of Japan. This particular representation of Fuji-san is patterned after the one in Suizenji Park in Kumamoto.
Mosses are a traditional groundcover in many gardens in Japan. They require cooler temperatures and a constant source of moisture to remain green and healthy. Since this is not common in South Texas, a fine-bladed variety of Zoysia grass called "Emerald" Zoysia was used through most of the garden. It is a variety of an Asian native grass, Zoysia tenuifolia. The Zoysia in this garden is trimmed twice per week in the growing season to keep it short and smooth to resemble a moss growth habit.
The path turns left and is paved in a style even more natural than the Gyo style. Smooth stones are mortared together in a random pattern to form a mostly even walking surface. It is the So 草 style and represents the "informal" garden path paving. The So path leads past another type of matsu, the Italian Stone Pine (Pinus pinea). The fence on this side of the garden is the Otsu gaki 大津垣 - style. Vertical strips of bamboo are woven in groups of 3 between widely-spaced rows of 2 strips. In this case, it is trimmed at the middle and bottom with split corms tied horizontally with palm rope about every meter. The fence is topped with 3 split corms in a similar way as the Katsura gaki. The top is then tied with special decorative topknots
The larger pines in this garden were growing here before the garden was built and were trimmed to shape and scale them to the garden. Since the time the decision was made to incorporate them in the new landscape, a disease has reached the San Antonio area that is slowly killing this species. Care is being taken to keep them as long as possible, and replacements of a different species are being prepared for when that time finally comes.
The Azumaya, 東屋 or tea waiting arbor, is a waiting area for a teahouse and here serves for tea ceremonies as well. It was constructed by Japanese craftsmen according to Mr. Yasui's specifications (Mr. Yasui was nominated for National Living Treasure of Japan for his abilities in reconstructing temples and garden structures). The splits and wedges used in the posts and beams are to prevent splitting and checking as the wood ages. Much of the structure is assembled using secret techniques that eliminate the need for nails. The roof is made from hand-shaped copper strips. A border of Ryu Kuchi-hige 竜口髭, or Dragon's Mustache (Dwarf Mondo Grass or Ophiopogon japonicus nana), is held in place around foundation stones by a border of bamboo stakes cut at staggered heights.
This azumaya is a replica of the original at Katsura Detached Palace. The four benches of the azumaya are arranged in the Manji style so they do not face each other. The waiting time before the tea ceremony is a time of introspect and meditation. This arrangement is so the eyes of those waiting for the tea ceremony do not meet.
The view from the azumaya is like the view from Mount Aso of the Kumamoto Plains. It looks over a mountain spring, Izumi Ishi Gumi, 湧水石組 and a bubbling brook. These are again symbols of the underground water source Kumamoto and San Antonio have in common.
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