Miyamoto Musashi was a famous Japanese samurai of the early Edo period (1603-1868). In recent times, he is also recognized as a great thinker, who left the writings on art of living well and cherished mottos.
Musashi was born in 1584. At the age of 13, he fought a duel for the first time and won. Then he left his village and spent his time traveling and honing his skills in swordsmanship. During this time, he engagrd in as many as 60 duels, in which he never lost. His most famous duel is the duel with Sasaki Kojiro.
His swordsmanship was characterized by practical strategics. He was always seeking for the meaning of life through swordsmanship. Musashi created and perfected a two-sword kenjutsu technique called Niten-Iichi (meaning “two heavens as one”).
Musashi’s cleverness in the use of hands and his acute sensitivity brought him to the field of at, sculpture, calligraphy, and handicraft. Records also show that he had skills in town planning and landscape architecture.
Just before his death, he completed “Go Rin no Sho (the Book of Five Rings),” a book on strategy, tactics, and philosophy, which is still studied today.
The Sesshu Garden at Sho'okuji Temple in Sao, Hiji, Hayami County, Oita Prefecture, was reputedly built by the famous Zen monk and artist Sesshu.
Sho'okuji Temple belonged to the Kinoshita family, who were the Hiji domain heads. This family continued for 16 generations and there are more than 40 gravestones at the temple, including that of Asahi-no-kata, mother of Kita-no-Mandokoro.
The temple garden includes the Manryu Garden, which Sesshu is also reputed to have built, and which contains the largest cycad in Japan, designated as a national natural treasure.
After his return from Ming China in the first year of the Bunmei period (1469), Sesshu set up his studio somewhere around Oita. He later moved to Yamaguchi, then Shimane, and so on. His fame has never diminished and even today, he continues to be admired as a god of painting.
Sesshu Garden features a nearby mountain as a 'borrowed landscape' and has a pond shaped like the Chinese character '心' for 'heart'. Sesshu's artistry and sensibility continue to astonish us today.
Old Daijoin Garden consists of the traces of a garden at Daijoin Temple in Nara Prefecture.
In the first year of the Kanji period (1087), Daijoin was built as a Monzeki temple of Kofukuji, one of the seven major Nanto temples. In the fourth year of the Jisho period (1180), it was burnt down during the attack on Nara by Taira-no-Shigehira. It was subsequently renovated at its present place. In the third year of the Hotoku period (1451), it was burnt down again, but Jinson, a monk of Daijoin, rebuilt it and it was Zeami who made a garden at that time.
Daijoin Garden remained as the best garden in Nanto until the end of the Edo period. In the Meiji period, because of the government's oppression of Buddhism, it disappeared. In 1909, the site was reused as part of the Nara Hotel.
Now, the garden is being renovated and you can see some parts of it at the Daijoin Garden Museum, to the south of the garden.
When Mori Nagatsugu, the second clan lord of Tsuyama, founded Shuraku Garden, he invited a landscape gardener from Kyoto to design it.
Shuraku Garden is a pond cloister style garden created between 1655 and 1658. The garden was modeled on the Sento Imperial Palace in Kyoto. The lake portrays the sea and, with its view of islands, its reflection of islands in the lake and the seasonal beautiful sights, it has a Kyoto-style sophistication.
At the time of its creation, it covered some 75900㎡, which is about three times more than its present site. It was originally used as a leisure garden for the clan lord. Apparently, the Tsuyama clan did not invite outsiders into the castle, for security reasons, but did allow them into the garden; thus it was called 'place for encounters'.
The garden changes color in spring with the cherry blossoms and in autumn with the fall foliage, always creating something interesting for the visitor's eyes.
Raikyuji is a Zen temple that was established by Ashikaga Takauji in 1339. Its garden is especially famous and was designed by Kobori Enshu, a great tea master. It is a representative Japanese Zen garden that was built in the early Edo period.
From the temple, Mt Atago can be viewed in the distance as a 'borrowed view' beyond the garden. In the center of the raked gravel, there are two artificial rock islands called Tsuru Island and Kame Island. Both of them are surrounded by shaped azalea topiary ('okarikomi'), which is arranged along small artificial hills. This form was also used to illustrate the 'Seigaiha' (one form of Gagaku).
The garden has a graceful atmosphere and, in 1974, was designated as a Japanese beauty spot.
Okayama Korakuen is one of Japan's three major gardens, as well as a National Special Place of Scenic Beauty. It is located in Okayama city, Okayama prefecture.
The 2nd Okayama domain head, Ikeda Tsunamasa, ordered his chief retainer, Tsuda Nagatada, to build the garden. The garden has not changed much since that time.
The center of the garden is Enyo-tei, where the domain head entertained guests. Okayama Castle and the circumjacent mountains form a backdrop to the garden scenery. Grass, ponds, miniature hills and trees are disposed around the vast grounds which are some 130,000m2 in area.
As you walk along the garden paths, the scenery unfolds before you just like a picture scroll.
Omizuen was the garden of the Kinoshita clan and the Ashimori domain head. It is located at the foot of Mt Miyaji, and is constructed around a pond at its center. It is unclear when the garden was built, but the 6th head, Kinoshita Kinsada is reckoned to have built it in the early 18th century. It is a Zen garden designed by Enshu.
Omizuen is one of the biggest gardens in Okayama prefecture, like Korakuen in Okayama City and Shurakuen in Tsuyama City.
There is a teahouse called Ginpukaku just near the pond. The view from the house is especially beautiful because the garden harmonizes with the backdrop of Mt. Uno behind it. Ginpukaku is made from wood that was left over from the construction of Kyoto Imperial Palace. The roof used to be thatched but is now covered with copper sheeting.
Within the garden you can see a monument inscribed with a poem by Kinoshita Rigen, a local poet of the Shirakaba School, and there are also Maria Lanterns for clandestine Christians.
Yusentei Park, located in Jonan-ku, Fukuoka City, is an historical area that includes the former villa of the Chikuzen-Kuroda clan. The villa was originally built in the mid-Edo period (1754) for Tsugitaka Kuroda, the 6th domain head of the Kuroda clan.
Yusentei ('friendly fountain villa') gets its name from a tanka poem written by a later lord, that goes: 'A fountain ('sen') does not know the heat that people cannot endure, The fountain is friendly ('yu') with a hermitage.'
It is wonderful to find such a genuine Japanese garden such as this. It includes a pond, as well as trees and flowers that include maple, beech, camellia and wisteria. The flora vary throughout the seasons. The view of the garden from the main building is splendid. The fall leaves are very beautiful and thousands of carp swim in the pond.
This park is like a sanctuary that calms us in our busy daily lives.