Sunday, July 27, 2014

The legacy of Isui-en Garden through its owners

The site of Isui-en Garden now used to be a part of the land of nearby temple. The ground was bought in the 1670s by Kiyosumi Micikiyo, a wealthy bleacher and hemp textile maker.  He reconstructed the front (west) garden and built two houses with thatched roofs: Sanshu-tei and Tei-shu-ken as a family villa.
The bridge below leads you to Sanshu-tei building.

 The building remains the same as it was at the construction time.


The place is used as a Japanese restaurant. 
Isn't it nice to have meals while looking at the garden?

Leaving the front garden and passing by another building, Hyoshin-tei, ......


...., you'll be stunned with the view unfolding before your eyes.

Wakakusa and Kasuga mountains and Nandiamo Gate of Todai-ji are used as "borrowed scenery".

The larger rear (east) garden designed by Seki Tojiro, a businessman of Nara, dates from 1899.  Tojiro hired Horitoku, a garden architect from the school of Urasenke, for the redesign and left two Tea Ceremony houses, Seishu-an and Hyoshin-tei. 

The pond is dug in the shape of the  sosho style Chinese character for 水(water) different from the Japanese garden convention of creating 心(heart).  依水園 Isui-en literally means "garden founded on water".  It's ponds and streams are fed by the small adjacent Yoshiki River.

Hyoshin-tei (1911) is a Tea Ceremony house for more commonly drunk “sencha" different from the Tea Ceremony house for “matcha”. The former is open and is built so that it becomes one with nature, while the latter is closed in a narrow confined room considered to be an entire universe by itself.  (Differences between sencha and matcha)
The building looks tuned with nature through the old handmade glasses.

The inside of the ceiling is made of smoked bamboo.
The building stands quietly facing the garden.

Many historical assets were taken into the construction of the back garden. For example, old Japanese cypress timbers of Shin-yakush-ji Temple (8th century) are used in the construction of Hyoshin-tei , which adds the weight of history to the sukiya style of building.

The “tsukubae” stone basin was once treasured and used by Hidenaga Toyotomi 400 years ago.

This split huge stone is two-fifths of a foundation stone once used at the seven-storied pagoda of Todai-ji Temple (8th century).

Shall we take a stroll in the garden? 

 The stepping stones were formerly used as mortars to grind the pigments used in dyeing.

While strolling, you always hear the rustling sound of water.

These photos were taken in the middle of may when azaleas were in full bloom and moss were getting greener and greener.

In 1939, Jyunsaku Nakamura (1875-1953) who made his fortune in Kobe purchased Isui-en in order to construct a museum in a historic site to host his personal collection: Chinese mirrors both Tang and Han as well as Chinese bronzes, ceramics of Japan and from Korean peninsula, and so on. He set up Neiraku Museum on its ground and made the garden as it is now.  The third-generation Nakamura, a young 25-year-old man, is preparing to be maganging and hosting as the next owner.
I'm fascinated with the continuance of the legacy.  Three men came to this place with the same dream in the different times and added something new to make the positive progression.


  1. おはようございます。借景の写真の素晴らしさは、最高です。reflectionの写真も見事です。古いガラスは暖かみを感じさせて呉れます。滝の写真はフィルターを使われたのでしょうか。これもとても美しいです。

  2. incredibly beautiful place! always love the gardens and ponds, but i liked the stepping stones being from former grindstones. :)

  3. Zachwycająco :)
    Tak pięknie że jakbym miała pieniądze na wyjazd w te Wasze cudne strony , to dałabym się zaciągnąć na siłę do samolotu (mam straszny lęk od zawsze taka fobia ;))
    Miłego weekendu :)
    Pozdrawiam serdecznie

  4. I like seeing the materials used in construction of the garden architecture as well as the reused materials used in the garden landscape. The Japanese gardening philosophy of "borrowed scenery" interests me. I try to use this concept with my own small gardens. Gazing at your water and reflective photos brings a sense of peace. I love the composition of the step photo.

  5. Yokoさん こんにちは。 
    皐月、菖蒲が綺麗に咲いているので6月ごろでしょうか? 小川の水の流れをなめらかに撮られて素敵です。d(゚-^*) ナイス♪
    木目が美しい縁側に寄り添い、緑の木陰で休むご夫婦の姿が好きです。 いいなぁ~ こういう時間。

    1. 何時も丁寧に見ていただきありがとうございます。皐月の他に咲いているのは菖蒲でなく杜若です。撮影は5月中旬です。


  6. Dear Yoko, thank you for the tour of this magnificent place! The gardens are really breathtakingly beautiful. I wandered around there via your link in autumn too, the seasons are competing with each other in presenting natural wonders of superb kind, and I could never decide which one is greater than the other. My heart feels thankful for all those men in the past who cared for creating this wonderful gift to the Japanese people, and for everyone from around the world visiting there, and as well to the gardeners and caretaker of today. We are having difficult times here right now and your post was a highlight in my day.

    1. My thoughts are with you and the people involved in the ongoing conflicts. This is a difficult time for Jews and Arabs, but with so many victims including children, I can only wonder why cease-fire is so difficult. Wish you peace of mind sooner.

  7. Thank you for transporting me - if only briefly, and through photography and words - to such a tranquil and beautiful place.

  8. You showed beautiful pictures of the wonderful place ! I love the combination of water and greenery !
    Have a great Sunday :)

  9. Magic place and extra class pictures! All those reflections and my favourite duck create such a soothing effect. Your pictures are really artistic. Is it your job, Yoko?
    I hope you have regained your usual self after the loss. With best wishes from Russia,

  10. I just dropped by and was surprised at your great photos. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Beauty, peace... your pictures reveal all of that....and much more...
    Thanks for sharing !
    Have a great week !

  12. Why...those precious buldings are so happy to live in the paradise which is this garden!!! I feel...looking at your photos...that people are trespassing...

  13. This is heaven on earth. What a beautiful garden. I sure wish mine would look like that. It's a feast for the eyes and soul and you captured it perfectly. But it's also a very practical garden which I like as well. Great post!

    Mersad Donko Photography

  14. I, too, like the reused ancient stones, now stepping stones, and marvel at how this special place has suvived the ages with new purpose and additions for all to view and enjoy. Such tranquil scenes in the world are in great contrast to war zones in the news. I sometimes wonder when mankind will learn to solve its most vexing problems more intelligently so that the entire planet can be as peaceful as your pictures.

  15. ✿⊱。¸.
    Simplesmente lindo!!!!
    É um dos jardins japonês mais lindo que já vi.

    Boa semana!

  16. How beautiful. I think the last picture is my favourite, as it suggests three different ways of looking at the scene - the flower petals floating on the water, the green leaves reflected from the water, and the surface textures of both water and greenery. Three in one.

  17. Regards from the German North Sea coast, dear Yoko!

    Thanks for sharing your wonderful photographs of Isui-en garden! What an inspiring place!


  18. I don't know how I missed this post Yoko, but so pleased that I came across it now. Yes, I am stunned by the view of the gardens with their exquisite reflections, and the fact that the building is so old and yet preserved in such wonderful condition. I love the way that the mortars have now become part of the stepping stones in such a beautiful garden.

  19. Yoko,your beautiful photos show these gardens to perfection....... such an interesting story and sense of continuity too!
    I love the last two images. Thank you for sharing this.


  20. 奈良には、素敵な場所が、まだまだ残されて大切にされていますね。暑い夏の盛りに、涼しげな緑と水の風景を見せて頂いて、オアシスにたどり着いたようです。今日も又あついですね。一雨を期待してるのですが、又肩すかしのようですね。
    Have a good Summer!

  21. Every time you show me the beautiful gardens of Japan, I want to visit your country and see for myself. But that's not possible for me right now, so I will have to enjoy the gardens through the lens of your camera. I enjoyed reading about the history of this place.I hope it is preserved forever!

  22. What magical and serene gardens. Truly stunning photos!

  23. thank you for sharing these beautiful and inspiring glimpses of a beautiful place!
    I so enjoyed each photograph!

  24. Just beautiful!
    Art and nature combine to make a wonderful space.

  25. I love the way how reflections merge with the real. I would love to have dinner in one of those restaurants overlooking the garden, few things match up to the joy provided by the company of nature. I remember having tea in one of the zen temples in this fashion when I had visited Japan and it was truly a wonderful experience. These are things I miss in Mumbai. All your pictures are surreal, breathtakingly beautiful - emanating a sense of divinity. Thank you for showing me a glimpse of paradise.

    PS: I am sorry for being a late visitor this month around... July went by quick when it came to blogging. Navigated back to last month's archives to read your other stories and got to know about your mom. Sorry about that... it was calming in a way to read about the peaceful last days she spent with her close ones, I pray her soul rests in peace. And send all my best wishes towards you and your loved ones.

    Take care, Yoko.

  26. こんにちは


  27. I love the handmade glass photo :) Combined with the serene surroundings, it gave a very surreal effect.

  28. I love all the reflections, both indoors and outdoors. What a special place - so peaceful and tranquil. A lovely place to recharge one's energy.


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