Aroma Gardens Landscape Design
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Japanese Landscape Style 庭園様式

Japanese landscape design is a philosophy designed to create an aesthetic that reflects nature's tranquillity, majesty and ambiance. The Japanese landscape communicates to our scenes, often in the form of a scaled down vista from the world 'outside'. Mountains, waterfalls, streams, beaches, islands and seas are expressed differently during the various epochs of design. Emerging in the mid 10th century during the Heian period; Shinden Zukuri gardens evolved over the centuries into newer forms and styles.


During the Kamakura and Muromachi periods dry karesansui 枯山水 landscapes emerged with a clear emphasis on austerity and elegent simplicity. Later, the Momoyama period the perfected forms of karikomi (pruned) shapes and ishi-bashi stone bridges reached their height of importance. During the Edo period Sen no Rikyu promoted the importance of the wabi cha, or tea ceremony. As a consequence, the chaniwa, tea-house garden provided a place of quiet, contemplative serenity. Tsukubai water basins and ishi-doro lanterns from this era prevail. In the sukiya zukuri garden the roji, mossy ground and the tsubo niwa, internal courtyard garden reach their peak.

In contrast to the Western ethos of designing the landscape after the dwelling is constructed, the Japanese philosophy is holistic; the landscape designer and the building architect work collaboratively together to create a living environment where nothing is left to chance.

Although their has been great change during the evolution of Japanese style gardens, the Heian period's 5 elemental principles endure.

karesansui and moss

Earth (ji 地)is exemplified in the unchanging nature of rocks, buildings, and hard surfaces. The primary rock, stone or boulder remains as the foundation of the entire landscape composition. All ensuing landscape elements have an intrinsic relationship to the position of this rock.

The elemental force of Water (sui 水)is evoked in the growth and movement of plants, streams, and the small pebbles used to express the flow of water. Sui 水 elements adapt to their environment and emanate in relation to the other elemental forces.

Fire (ka 火)is depicted by the moving things of the world. The sun, the seasons, people, animals, even our emotions and desires are ka 火.

Wind (fuu 風)enjoys the freedom to move; shadows, breath, air, smoke, things that grow and expand all evoke the elemental force of fuu.

The final element of great significance is Void (kuu 空). Void is the lack of an immutable intrinsic nature within any phenomenon; the sky, the passage of time, spirituality, and a transcendental state of freedom from the effects of karma and from bodily existence, encapsulating eternity and immortality .

Today, the 5 elements, jisuikafuukuu 地水火風空 have faded from the mind of the Japanese style landscape designer, nevertheless, these ancient design principles are still being realised in Japanese style landscapes. To the Western mind the manifestation of the 5 jisuikafuukuu 地水火風空 elements within a landscape can seem somewhat abstruse, but let's imagine: Returning home from a long day at the office. Removing your shoes and work clothes, then slipping into a comfortable silk robe. Now sit quietly on your open verandah, the warm, late sunshine melting the day's stresses away. You savour the subtle flavour of a fine green tea and gaze out upon your small landscaped garden.

In the foreground the soft, lush green moss creates a sea of peace and serenity, resonating fields of green that stretch out towards a sandy shoreline. Small blue-grey waves of pebbles gently wash against the shore. Further, in the distance, a lone island evokes a sense of mystery and intrigue. Beyond this island, a distant shore rises up towards an ancient forest of gnarled and twisted trees. Within the depths of this forest a stream leads up to a waterfall nestled within the cleft of a ravine. Perhaps a deer is tentatively drinking at the waters edge? In the background, distant hills rise up through the mists to meet a solitary mountain temple.

Japanese landscape style

In this landscape all of the five jisuikafuukuu elements are reflected within an area of only a few square metres. This landscape is no mere garden, it revives the senses, evokes the beauty of nature, the stillness of the ages and the flow of the seasons. This is a landscape that is the essence of refined style and elegance.