The Garden Guide

Book: Landscape Gardening in Japan, 1912
Chapter: Chapter1. History

Korakuen Garden Tokyo 1

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KORAKU-EN GARDEN, TOKIO. The Koraku-En, at Koishikawa in the northern part of Tokio, is one of the most famous and best preserved gardens of the city. It was originally laid out in the beginning of the seventeenth century, by Mitsukuni, Daimio of Mito, who, amongst other ï¾µsthetic pursuits, was passionately fond of landscape gardening. It is stated that the Shogun Iyemitsu himself gave advice as to its arrangement, and lent the assistance of a famous Chinese artist, called Shunsui, who was the real practical designer. This would account for many Chinese characteristics in the garden, which is a combination of Japanese and Chinese scenery. It has a large lake with a central island, formerly connected with the shore by a long wooden bridge which has been since destroyed. The bridge was in fact never an orthodox feature of this particular island, which was called the "Elysian Isle" and represented one of the sea islands of the Chinese classics on which mysterious genii were supposed to dwell. On the island is a shrine called Benzai-Ten-no-Miya. On the east side of the lake are high shady trees and a hill clad with Chinese palms, pine trees, cryptomerias, firs, and bushes of Olea fragrans. On the south is a level portion designated the Kiso Valley, with a stream called the Tatsuta River entering the lake, both of these names having reference to places in Japan renowned for their beauty. The river of Tatsuta or Tatta is, in imitation of its natural model, planted with maples and other reddening trees, forming a beautiful spot in the autumn. Near here is a little shrine called the Saigio-Do, after the noted traveller and poet Saigio, whose name is connected with so many spots and natural objects in rural Japan and close by is a horse-ride called the Sakura-Baba, planted with cherry trees. On the west, a fine giant pine spreads its branches over the Oi-gawa, another stream boasting a river-side tea-house, called the "Glass House," built at a time when glass was a great rarity in Japan. The name Oi-gawa, meaning Rapid-river, belongs to a noted stream in the province of Yamashiro which is rendered picturesque by a wide pebble-strewn bed with bamboo baskets of stones piled as breakwaters on the banks: similar scenery may be observed on the river Tamagawa near Tokio. An expanse of water planted with white lotuses, and called the Seiko-tsutsumi, after a famous Chinese lotus lake, forms an important feature, and is spanned by a semi-circular stone bridge of Chinese design called Togetsu-kio, or Full Moon Bridge, made by Komahashi Kaihei. A hill called Shorozan, after a mountain in China, overlooks the lake. In the vicinity are a shrine to dedicated Kwannon, a small tea-house, some hills called "Loochoo Mountains," thickly planted with white azaleas from Loochoo, and a cascade named Otowa-no-taki, after a famous Japanese water-fall. On the north side of the garden stands a large hill supposed to represent a distant mountain, and a pine grove to suggest a forest, and formerly there existed a fane to the household god Fukurokuju, used in the landscape as a mountain shrine. This building, which was altogether in Chinese style and paved with tiles, was destroyed in the great earthquake of the Ansei period, some fifty years ago. A marshy area, planted with irises and spanned by a zigzag plank bridge in imitation of the scenery of Yatsuhashi, occupies another portion of the grounds, near which is a shrine to the Fox God, Inari. In the same quarter is an antique stone monument named after Ono-no-Komachi, a famous beauty of Japanese romance, the locality of its production being a place called Ono, in the province of Hitachi. Such plays upon words are common in Japanese poetry and other arts.