Japanese Sister City Gardens
Kumamoto En 熊本園
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Elements of Kumamoto En
WALKING TOUR (page 3):
The water from a second ishi gumi flows out from the base of Mount Fuji and under a double bridge, ishi bashi 石橋, made of granite. The double bridge is reminiscent of the partnership of the two peoples, the two cities, and the two nations. Four stones called hashi basami 手挟 at the four corners of the bridge lend a feeling of stability and strength. Under the bridge, a stone called mizu waki ishi 水分石 separates the fast moving water that comes together again on the other side.
The stones around and to the west of the bridge were picked and positioned to resemble those around the lake at Suizenji Park in Kumamoto.
Leaving the azumaya and heading north, you are walking next to the Kenninji gaki 建仁寺垣, a third style of bamboo fence, enclosing the east side of the garden from the azumaya to the next group of grassy mounds. Here, vertical slats of bamboo are held over a wooden frame with horizontal split corms tied with palm rope. It is also capped with three half-culms to protect from rain. This style of fence can be either one-sided or two-sided. It also has the ornately scalloped diagonal braces on the garden side of the fence. See Kenninji gaki for more on this style of fence.
This area contains a second zazen stone, set into rolling hills of grass under an oak tree. It is the area of the garden representing San Antonio and the United States. The main body of water that occupies the center of the garden is a small replica of the lake of Suizenji Park, but could also be perceived as the ocean that separates the two cities and countries!
Just before the path turns again, there is a beautiful Japanese Black Pine, kuro matsu 黒松. This pine almost died at one point and since, has been given special training. Some visitors are able to see the form of a Phoenix beginning to take flight.
This shore of the pond is lined with special cedar posts called rangui 乱杭 that give a softer look to the waters edge in contrast to the stones used elsewhere. They have been stripped and flamed to char the surface and bring the resins to the surface to protect the wood from rot and insects. More stones interrupt the grassy edges along with a special cascading form of Juniper called "Green Mound".
In the center of the pond is the tsuru jima 鶴島 or Crane Island. The crane is the symbol of good luck and happiness. Look closely in the water near the island to see the kame 亀, or turtle that keeps peace and brings good luck and long life. The two sculptured pines on Tsuru Jima were donated by staff for this place of honor and have been in training since 1985.
A third style of Japanese lantern called sanko doro 三光灯籠, or three lights lantern, lies on this shore. It is named for its three lights - the sun, the moon, and the stars. This lantern is described in the article, Japanese Stone Lanterns.
Across the path from the Sanko Doro stands the Daimyo 大名, or Shogun 将軍 style of bamboo fence. Vertical branches of bamboo are sorted by size and woven together, lining up one row of branch nodes, and fixed inside a wooden frame. The branches are then pulled tight between horizontal split bamboo and tied with copper and palm rope. Before the top is finished, more waddle is inserted and cinched tight with the remaining two horizontal rows, then sheared to present the beautiful broomed top. In this instance, it is set atop a knee-wall of stone known as nozura ishi gumi 野面石組. It is held by chestnut posts and scalloped (naguri-shiage 名栗仕上げ ) diagonal supports. For a demonstration of construction of this fence, see Daimyo gaki.
The low-growing groundcover below the Daimyo gaki is" Sasa 笹 no Karikomi" or dwarf bamboo grass (Sasa pygmaea). It gives the illusion of a miniature forested mountain slope.
This final view of the garden reveals the largest part of the landscape, including the azumaya, mountain springs, the pond and Crane Island. It also offers the first complete view of the taki gumi 滝組石 or stone waterfall known as the sandan no taki gumi 三段の滝, or "three-step" waterfall. Beautiful in sound as well as sight, all three waterfalls were carefully tuned to create the individual sounds characteristic to that type of feature.
The waterfall is flanked by more juniper, ferns, and shaded by several varieties of Japanese maple. The stepping stones that lead down into the water create the "beach" area called hama 浜.
The Kumamoto En is located in the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. The Kumamoto En is supported in part by, Japan-America Society of San Antonio, Japanese Gardening Organization, and our sister city in Japan, Kumamoto City, Japan.
Article and reference by Don Pylant, who participated in the design and construction of Kumamoto En, and maintained the garden until 2002.
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