The Japanese Gardens


Although the author of the texts included in this site has been a student of Japanese gardens for a number of years, I am indebted to many of the authors cited in the Bibliography, their studies having provided me with much of the historical materials included here. I am particularly indebted to Jiro Takei and Marc P. Keane for their translation of the Sakuteiki and their scholarly analysis of the principles underlying the designs of Japanese gardens; to David Slawson for his translation of the Senzui narabini yagyoo no zu and his interpretation of that important text; for Wybe Kuitert's Themes in the History of Japanese Garden Art; and for Ono Kenkichi's and Walter Edwards's Bilingual Dictionary of Japanese Garden Terms. Information on these publications can be found in my Bibliography.

Some modern authorities have interpreted the gardens in very personal and subjective terms, often going well beyond documentary evidence of the intentions of the gardens' creators. As long as their subjective character is made clear, I find no fault in such interpretations, but I have chosen to take a more conservative approach, relying as much as possible on documented facts and direct observation. I have also tried to keep the textual components of this site to a modest length, since the images should hold the stage. Those who wish a fuller and more historically contextual record of the history of Japanese gardens need only consult the sources listed in the Bibliography.

I have intentionally and initially kept the focus of this site limited to the gardens of Kyoto and its near neighbors, although I hope and expect that the site can be expanded to include gardens in other areas of Japan. I have omitted entirely the important subject of tea house gardens, not because I am unaware of their significance, but because they deserve their own independent presentation. To those whose interests run strongly in that direction, I recommend the more comprehensive texts cited in our bibliography, particularly Marc Keane's Japanese Garden Design.

It is the hope of the designer of this site that it can grow and develop over time, partly in response to visitors who may have questions which the site does not currently address, or to students of the Japanese garden who may wish to share information with me, correct my mistakes (I hope there are few), or contribute opinions or interpretations to the site. One of the advantages of this medium is that it allows a body of knowledge to expand freely and in response to the interests and expertise of its users, and I strongly encourage that participation. --C.O.

Clifton Olds of Bowdoin College created this online Japanese Gardens resource in conjunction with Bowdoin College's Department of Information Technology. The project was funded, in part, by grants from the Freeman Foundation and from Bowdoin. All of the images in this resource were made by, and are owned by, Clifton Olds, who also wrote all of the texts. Educators and students may use this resource as part of their teaching, research, and/or studies, but may not sell or otherwise make a profit on their use.

For assistance in navigating this site, go to the Help section. For a more detailed description of the site and the sources upon which it draws, go to the Copyright section.