JOJG Peer Rankings

keithnotrichardJuly 25, 2005

I just received my latest JOJG issue. Excellent as usual. There's an interesting article that lists the "Ten Most Respected Names in the World of Sukiya Living." Apparently the list was compiled using input from 51 different professionals in categories such as gardening and carpentry.

What do you think about that article? Who do you think has been left off the list?

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inkognito

An enigmatic question for those who don't subscribe to the Journal of, Um Sukiya Living (JOSuL). Can you elaborate?

    Bookmark   July 26, 2005 at 5:33PM
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keithnotrichard

Here are the following ten names that were listed: Takanori Adachi, Len Brackett, Asher Browne, Tim Gruner, Jim Hanselman, Junji Kagata, Hoichi Kurisu, Dennis Makishima, David Slawson, and Isao Yoshikawa.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2005 at 10:07PM
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gardenberry(z5 IL)

I find it interesting that they could only come up with 51 people to poll. There were 160 or so participants at the Japanese Garden symposium in Seattle last year and I know there were more people who wanted to come who could not for one reason or another.

I'd rather just see profiles of Japanese Garden professionals as a continued series, rather than a one-time ranking of them. It's a bit too elitist for me. It certainly doesn't motivate me to want to get to know these individuals better.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2005 at 3:28PM
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Niwashisan(UK)

It fascinates me that the vast majority of these "respected names" are North American. Japan is so clearly short of experts in gardening, carpentry etc ? I think not.

Graham

    Bookmark   July 30, 2005 at 1:10PM
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keithnotrichard

Yes, I agree it's strange that the majority are North American. And ALL of them are men! I suppose it stems from the demographics of the people who were polled. By the way, I think 51 sounds like too many, not too few. I don't want to read another public opinion poll. I'd rather hear the opinions of just a few people who know what they're talking about.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2005 at 1:56PM
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inkognito

As an attempt to turn a negative into a positive, who then would be the major influence on you. It is clear why women do not rate in features about a patriarchal society but they would have been one reason (Tale of Genji) to bother surely. The North American thing is one best not gone into here.
Who encouraged you to pursue the path once trodden by..., and here is another question.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2005 at 7:08PM
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Niwashisan(UK)

Personally I was encouraged to pursue my interests by a team of Japanese gardeners from a relatively small landscape company in Otsu. If such a poll of experts were to be conducted in Japan then my friends from Tsujii Landscape Co probably would not make a 'top 1000' never mind a 'top 10'. However I know that their skills, knowledge and dedication would leave many of Mr Roth's team of 'experts' looking like nothing more than wannabe experts who in their conceited way think they have taken a 1000 odd year old art form to a higher plane than the culture which developed it.

Graham

    Bookmark   July 31, 2005 at 4:36AM
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bahamababe(z4 VT)

Niwashisan, that sounds like a racist comment to me. Being Japanese does not make someone a genius. And being white does not mean that someone like David Slawson is a dope. But ethnics aside, I think you've misrepresented the article. The list includes several Japanese experts who are, without a doubt, at the very top of their field in Japan. Isao Yoshikawa is certainly not a "wannabe." Neither is Junji Kagata or Takanori Adachi. Do you even know who those people are?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2005 at 8:08AM
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Niwashisan(UK)

Hmm, I read your post but it seems like you failed to read mine or just read into it what you wanted to.
In an earlier post I said the majoroity (meaning not all) were N American and in the last post I said that many (meaning not all) were wannabes. I did not say David Slawson is a dope (or anything else for that matter) and yes thank you I do know who Kagata and Adachi are. Which is once again why I said "the majority" and "many". Having been fortunate enough to visit the Adachi museum, under the guidance of Japanese garden experts, I feel that the gardens are a masterpiece as is so often suggested in the JOJG. Do you understand what constitutes a racist comment and how offensive it is to suggest someone is guilty of such ?

The original post asked "What do you think about this article". I have expressed my opinion so whats yours BahamaB ?

    Bookmark   July 31, 2005 at 11:01AM
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gerald

Don't sweat it Graham, Your words were, fine he's likley just a kid not realizing his inaproprete words, I've seen inflamatory remarks in several places from him latley, best to just let it pass. I'm afraid not having read the article I have no thoughts on it, other than I have no interst in its' results or meaning..

Gerald

    Bookmark   July 31, 2005 at 10:08PM
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Niwashisan(UK)

Thank you Gerald.

I do subscribe to JOJG and often find some of the content useful though the editorials and 'Viewpoint' sections are often distasteful. Unfortunately it seems to me that many readers (for Bahama's sake that means some but not all) think, as does the editor, that it is the definitive word on the Japanese garden.
I nearly choked reading one edition when a supposed readers question asked "What is the single best source of information on designing, building and maintaining Japanese gardens ?" Roth replied "Your reading it" And yet some of the readership still defend its content as in yesterdays posting?. Its beyond me.

Graham

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 4:56AM
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gardenberry(z5 IL)

Graham

I agree, the actual practical content is full of good information, it's when JOJG delves into the realm of opinion that it tends to offend some of its readership.

... then again, maybe it's a clever ploy on the part of the editors to get everyone talking about them.... okay, maybe that's pushing it a bit.

As for the article about the experts, I don't deny that perhaps those who were listed are, indeed, in the top of their field (I am not aware of a couple of the names). However, I think we would be better served to get to know as many of the people who work in/with Japanese Gardens as possible. For instance, I am constantly asked for references for Japanese garden designers in the Chicago/Illinois region. I have only ever seen one advertisement for one designer in this area, yet I'm sure there must be more. And I would LOVE a comprehensive list of designers. I know jgarden.com has a good list, but there are few listed for this immediate area.

...Just thinking out loud. It's early in the morning and the caffeine hasn't quite worked its way around to arranging my thoughts yet.

Garden Berry (Kristin)

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 8:40AM
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Niwashisan(UK)

Kristin,

as always your thoughts are appreciated. I would hope that yourself amongst others know me well enough to understand why I found the racial slur so offensive. I find the same problem amongst so called experts in this country so it certainly is not an anti- american or anyone else attitude. It is simply that the JOJG and the group of experts they have 'surrounded' themselves with happen to be in N America. Other than the constant and truly deserved credit that is given to Adachi they think that they are the "single best source of information on designing, building and maintaining Japanese gardens" To that I say garbage. I have dozens of publications on my bookshelf which would be far more worthy of this credit, most of which are not simply filled with 'opinion'.

Graham

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 11:21AM
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bahamababe(z4 VT)

I've been reading JOJG for several years and I feel it is head and shoulders above any other source of information on the subject, including this forum.

About the article: It appears to have been written to honor some outstanding professionals in the field. What's so bad about that? I think it's a fine gesture.

I had the chance to meet David Slawson a few years ago, and he is certainly not a wannabe. Neither is Len Brackett. Both speak Japanese and have dedicated their lives to the subject. Both have written books. To imply that they are "wannabes" just because they are white men who live in North America is out of line. I suppose white North American WOMEN are completely out of the question, huh?

Anyway, this is an open forum. A variety of opinions is healthy, I think. Usually I'm not so verbose, but since David's not here I'm willing to stand up and defend him.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 12:44PM
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gardenberry(z5 IL)

Well, as a WHITE WOMAN working in the field of Japanese Garden maintenance and education, maybe I should be offended that I didn't get mentioned.... Of course, I'm not because I know I don't deserve to be on the list.

My point is that, in my few years of working in this field, I have met, spoken with, learned from many more people who are not mentioned on the JOJG list. People, I am sure, who deserve to be on any list of Japanese garden experts, whether ranked or not. I also am tired of hearing about rankings because they emphasize a competitiveness that I have never experienced when dealing with other professionals or other public gardens. Every time I've contacted someone for help with some problem I have experienced, they have gone out of their way to explain and give me advice.

Graham - I know you well enough to understand what your point was. You are the last person I would think was making a racist comment. I agree with you that there are many more people out there, working quietly, humbly, who possess much more experience and knowledge than I'll ever had and who deserve more recognition.

Kristin

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 2:27PM
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DonPylant(z8TX)

Maybe we shouldn't put emphasis on competition between Japanese Gardens or the professonals that build them. It's just not - well - Sukiya.

Now that said, the top ten most respected in Tokyo will be different than the top ten in Kyoto, and so on. So perhaps it is ok for JOJG to pronounce their top ten in the areas where they are experienced.

On the subject of the best source of information on Japanese Gardening; modesty is an appreciated characteristic of Japanese Gardeners. JOJG has an opportunity to become great. Maybe they could take on an attitude of growth and quest for knowledge, like most of those who subscribe.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2005 at 9:06PM
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Niwashisan(UK)

Interesting points made by all. Inkognito's suggestion of the Top 10 in Tokyo differing from the Top 10 in Kyoto etc perhaps hits the nail on the head.
The poll was rating the "10 most respected names in the world of Sukiya living(?)" The fact that a small number of number of Japanese are included in the list, some of whom are resident and working in Japan must mean that the worldwide 'world' of Sukiya living(?) is being rated. If that is the case then the majority of the list being N American (and contributers to JOJG) is farcical unless the 'world of sukiya living' is merely something that was dreamed up by a westerner and actually has nothing to do with Japanese gardeners, designers and craftsmen worldwide (ie also in Japan). I am sure that if a US magazine ran a poll of best vineyards and winemakers then Californians would rate highly. If a French magazine did the same I do not think Californians would get a mention.
Bahama, I have also been reading JOJG for a number of years and if you really feel it is "head and shoulders above any other source of information on the subject" then I am afraid that just speaks volumes.

Graham

    Bookmark   August 2, 2005 at 8:47AM
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patjonking(z7 VA)

I agree with Bahama that JOJG is head and shoulders above the rest. I've got enough crappy books on the subject to open a bookstore. Throw all hundred of them together and you still don't get as much info as a one-year JOJG subcription. I also want to say that I actually LIKE JOJG's editorial policy and its opinion pieces. I find those articles to be refreshing and right on-target most of the time.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2005 at 12:19PM
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Niwashisan(UK)

If people did not buy them then publishers would not get away with producing crappy books.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2005 at 2:08PM
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inkognito

Anyone interested in top ten listings should read Nick Hornsby's 'High Fidelity' as it is first essential to state the criteria. The term 'Sukiya Living' was invented by the JOJG so of course they are in the best position to say who are the most respected believers. The top ten most respected names in Japanese Gardening as you define it may well be a different ten. The assumption that this is something that can be learned from books would likely produce another ten different from those who believe in personal transmission.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2005 at 7:15PM
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gerald

Ink, you give credit where it may not be due. "Sukiya" is certainly nothing new. Try googling and see what you come up with.

Gerald

    Bookmark   August 2, 2005 at 9:50PM
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inkognito

My point exactly Gerald. Whilst the word 'sukiya' itself may not be new, linking it with 'living' to form the term that I was referring to, is.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2005 at 8:20AM
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keithnotrichard

I think it's obvious that the "sukiya living" concept is decades old if not more. JOJG itself said that it started 400 years ago with Katsura Rikyu.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2005 at 10:09AM
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inkognito

Strange then that all ten most respected names are current.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2005 at 5:03PM
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patjonking(z7 VA)

OK, all ten honorees are still alive. So what? They don't give Oscars to dead people do they? Same with Olympic medals and Nobel Prizes. I don't have any problem with JOJG honoring ten living professionals who are respected by their peers.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2005 at 7:46AM
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Niwashisan(UK)

The fact that "JOJG itself said it started 400 years ago with Katsura Rikyu" speaks volumes about some of the content of the journal and how some readers take it as gospel. Some posters on this topic have said they have been reading it for years so they will know that the term was coined by JOJG.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2005 at 2:18PM
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keithnotrichard

JOJG obviously didn't invent sukiya living; they just gave it a recognizable name. And I'm very thankful that they did. Now I think about the subject, not as an independent outdoor space, but as an integrated living area. And by the way, what's so bad about pioneering a new term or a new idea? In my opinion, JOJG deserves praise (rather than criticism) for shedding light on the whole sukiya living concept.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2005 at 10:06AM
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edzard(3b Canada)

keithnotrichard,..
perhaps you would take a moment to clarify the Japanese garden and its relation to Sukiya Living.
Many on this forum do not read the JoJG and your explanation would help them to understand.
thanks,

    Bookmark   August 5, 2005 at 8:23PM
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gerald

Graham,

Keep in mind that JOJG's fundamental goal is to bring japanese gardening and approach to living design space to grass roots Americans who would otherwise never have had the opportunity to be exposed to it.

It is not surprising that those who have read it and seen the light believe that they have discovered something new and want to spread it further.

Keith is a perfect example of this when he writes "Now I think about the subject, not as an independent outdoor space, but as an integrated living area".

I guess a byproduct of this is that "some readers take it as gospel" and will not be interested to advance beyond this level.

Keith further states "JOJG deserves praise (rather than criticism) for shedding light on the whole sukiya living concept." Even though nobody has critized JOJG he becomes quite defensive of his new found doctrine. I'm sure we're all appreciative of Doug for shedding this light. I guess he just needs to be more clear that it is a long burning light, not a newly lit one, and he'll hopefully learn over time to seperate his fact and opinion more clearly on his journey to becoming a proffessional editor

I guess the point being is, that engaging in true discussion of Sukiyaki Living with those who have only a minor exposure and are not yet ready to accept that they've only just licked the tip of the iceberg, and will be fearful of anything that threatenes their new found understanding and source, will not be possible until they've increased their understanding and experience in the field.

I do hope Keith can come to grips, think hard and try to talk about Edzards Question.

I usually try to start by telling people that the exterior wall/window/door is the centre of the room, not the edge. Not only bringing the outside in, but also bringing the inside out. Not because I'm smart and creating a new approach, but because I've been exposed deeply to the idea and have learned form history and others on the subject over the past thirty years.

Gerald

    Bookmark   August 7, 2005 at 1:29PM
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Niwashisan(UK)

Gerald, very good points you raise in response to this on going debate. I too am waiting eagerly for a response to Edzards question.

Graham

    Bookmark   August 7, 2005 at 2:35PM
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Lee_ME(z5)

How interesting that certain new posters have appeared whose opinions jibe so well with those of JOJG and whose knowledge of certain details happens to coincide perfectly with the knowledge of JOJG's editors. And whatever happened to our mysterious friend, Watanabe-san, who fit so well into that category himself?

Just wondering.....

Lee

    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 9:45AM
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patjonking(z7 VA)

I find the "sukiya living" terminology to be very helpful. It forces me to think about the house and garden as one unit rather than two different things.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 10:31AM
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asuka

Lee, It is rumoured that Watanabe-'sans' has moved to the UK after becoming wildly enamoured with a saucy British actress who speaks with a coquettish lisp and has a yen for Yen ... he's joined the Polo set and is taking copious notes on the 'elevenses' tradition..

But the upshot of this migratory merchandising, are the spawning of two new Journals which are causing a sensation in his own household!... 'Doric Living' & 'Corinthian Living' - both are set to knock sukiya mongering off the charts.. ;)

Jack

    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 7:54PM
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gerald

Lee, Jack, I'd find it hard to believe either of them would be Doug Roth as, although he's had some not nice things to say about Shunmyo Masuno I coulden't imagine him having said what these two have said about his work. See the past posts linked below.

Ms Watanabe (aka Doug) was a pretty funny-silly thing though. I guess some Japanese (and women) would have also found it hurtful though..

Gerald

Here is a link that might be useful: past post

    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 9:36PM
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asuka

Ah yes, now I remember... it was a "Ms".

Though I can't speak for 'Japanese women' :) - I can't imagine anyone was hurt by anything "Ms Watanabe" would have said in that outrageous broken english and theatrical syntax, plucked right out of Gilbert & Sullivan's 'The Mikado' ... amused, perhaps.

I know I was initially - but then s/he made more and more ridiculous assertions and got very boring indeed. The trouble with acting as a shill, is one of plausability. S/he overdid it and blew her cover... it's anyone's guess who these new acolytes are, with their evangelical devotion.. spreading the gospel..

...but if they are above board...and if this mag stops them from creating some grotesquery of a Jpn Garden & then writing a book about it ... hooray for them, I say :)

Jack

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 12:24AM
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keithnotrichard

If JOJG gets involved in this forum it will be a better forum. I hope it happens. By the way, in my original post about the peer rankings article I asked "Who do you think has been left off the list?" Even after all this time there hasn't been a single name put forth. So I'll suggest one: Robert Cheetham.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 12:12PM
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edzard(3b Canada)

keithnotrichard,
I can assure you that Robert would not be interested and would deny any knowledge of Japanese gardens, which he does often enough. His contribution via the Jgarden.org website is considerable, yet again, he did it specifically as a thesis project. He chooses not to design, tend, nor develop Japanese gardens, prefering other business pursuits.

Perhaps I misunderstand the definition of peer, if you would kindly explain 'peer', since to my way of thinking, Hanselman is hardly a contemporary or peer of Kurisu (and yes, I do know him) No disrespect to Hanselman, just apples and possibly crabapples?

patjonking,
if I may add your passage to this post regarding Sukiya Living,
"It forces me to think about the house and garden as one unit rather than two different things.", patjonking.

then, are people to understand that the two are the same thing? Japanese garden = Sukiya Living.

With the observation that the 'Japanese garden' name, as a phrase to the public, in writings etc., has always incorporated garden and living area as a fundamental tenet. (Doug, JoJG introduced a redundancy??)

still curious, and hoping that there is more for people on the Sukiya Living question.
edzard
- I could see many benefits if Doug did participate on the forum...

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 1:14PM
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Herb

According to an article about him in the JOJG issue #30 (Nov/Dec. 2002) Mr. Cheetham had lost his interest in practising landscape architecture & had become more interested in information technology. Perhaps this is why the JOJG didn't include him?

Click to see a listing that includes a description of what he's dong now

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 1:20PM
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nachodaddy(quiet, I’m trying to meditate!)

Edzard;

"then, are people to understand that the two are the same thing? Japanese garden = Sukiya Living"

My answer is a profound "no". Not this people. Apples and saba.

It is quite the western concept to put things in rankings and quantify as such, lots of good gardeners and designers out there, never really thought about how they rank...........

This exercise reminds me of the Zen story about showing up with a full cup of tea.....

Also,if you are gonna bandwagon, bring something stronger than "Robert Cheetham". Go pre Meiji or sumthin'.

Michael

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 5:36PM
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DonPylant(z8TX)

Mr Roth is unlikely to participate in a resource he has criticized. He has warned against following advice offered on this forum - causing me to participate as often as I have time! So here is another chunk of my misinformed, novice opinion.

My impression of sukiya is a Japanese architecture celebrating simple living space, natural surfaces and colors, but in keeping with high quality and detail associated with the culture of tea (this last aspect owed to the tea masters who strived for personal perfection through the tea ceremony). As it addresses the interests of this forum, this style of architecture includes, defacto, the extended circle of living to the gardens adjoining and created for this architecture.

The term "sukiya living" may be an attempt to present the concept above. It insinuates something more than just sukiya architecture and associated gardens as "things". This much I agree with.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 7:36PM
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inkognito

It was the sense of competition that first alerted me, indeed if the cup has some tea in it we can debate the quantity or we can drink the tea. Doug Roth, a fellow I don't know, has good intentions and we should salute this and if his intentions are to further the understanding of a complex subject we should cooperate and not compete against these intentions. Mr Roth does visit this forum we all know so there is no need for an undercover operation. My question is, in the spirit of learning. what is the problem?
Do we want to show that one view is correct or do we want to further an understanding of a way of gardening that answers to a question most are afraid to ask?
These are easy questions for anyone who has stepped outside.
Competition is anethema to how I feel about Japanese gardening.
I learned so much from a young Ricky who once posted here and he thought that he was learning from us. A top ten of experts who know stuff does a disservice to this interaction . A top ten of people open to other views than their own would make an interesting but short (not even ten) list.
It was the question that was wrong NOT who made the list.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2005 at 7:40PM
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ScottReil_GD(z5 CT)

As someone who recieved a signed threat from Mr. Roth that "non subscribing professionals will be lucky if we ignore them (rather than sabotage their careers).", I hardly find his manner to be supportive of, or furthering J-gardening as a whole (I retain said letter and will be happy to show it to anyone who cares to come look).

Rather I see his work as a blatant attempt to set himself up as the final authority and these kangaroo court polls of hand picked "authorities", largely based on who will parrot the company line are a fine example. If I want to regurgitate lies and harrass and threaten people I'll become a dues paying Republican!

AND as Lee implied, (smart girl, that Lee) PJK doth protest too much... (and should I be out of line there, Pat, you should know whom you are really supporting...)

Suprised Doug didn't put himself on the list (QUITE sure he's dissappointed he didn't get voted on...)

Scott

    Bookmark   August 12, 2005 at 4:01PM
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chris74robinson

I thought the article was fair enough. I'm glad they gave some recognition to Tim Gruner at the Anderson Gardens. He's done a bang-up job over the last few years.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2005 at 1:27PM
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Herb

I know Roth has strong opinions, but it would be a bit surprising that he would just start writing threatening letters. Was it in response to something that was written to him?

    Bookmark   August 14, 2005 at 9:40PM
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Lee_ME(z5)

Herb ---

I've heard the same story from two other unrelated people. No provocation, just failure to subscribe to the magazine when prompted to do so. It's an unfortunate posture --- a general attitude of sharing and tolerance would go much farther toward boosting subscriptions.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 9:02AM
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Herb

Lee -

I'm sorry to hear that. It's just that I wondered if there were two sides to the story.

If Doug Roth is that much of a prima donna , it's to be expected that it would put some people off. It seems to be an unfortunate fact of life that prima donnas emerge, whatever the milieu.

Herb

    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 2:11PM
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ltfuzz(Ctrl CA)

INKcognito wrote, wisely,

"Competition is anethema to how I feel about Japanese gardening."

Amen!
Striving to be the best, I remain,

Dave;-)

    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 3:48PM
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Herb

Itfuzz,

Thanks to you (and Inky) for an excellent comment.

Here's another (in my opinion) of similar wisdom from Shinichiro Abe of Zen Associates, Inc. He said, after the Japanese garden at Amherst College had been completed -

"...you can interpret the garden any way you want. We don't need too much explanation, and it isn't for the designer to say."

Herb

    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 5:54PM
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inkognito

This is a pitiful response considering the amount of support there has been for a collaboration, imagine a lecture given by edzard and illustrated by Herb wouldn't that be worth coming to this forum for. Yet Herb still needs to have the last word, as wise as this quotation is it is still aimed at edzard and this is pitiful.
A garden that "speaks to one's condition" (as the Quakers used to say) does not need to be justified, certainly a designer shouldn't make it obvious but there will be an explanation for those who want to hear it.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 7:16PM
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Herb

Oh dear. Just as you can interpret a garden any way you want, I guess you can interpret hanging out an olive branch any way you want.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 7:50PM
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keithnotrichard

I'm always happy at how JOJG keeps misinformation and bogus experts out of their magazine. I wouldn't call it a kangaroo court at all. I'd call it sound editorial policy and quality control.

By the way, no one seemed to like my "Robert Cheetham" nomination, so here's another: Kazuo Mitsuhashi. He's an author and he seems to be sincerely interested in helping gaijin understand the subject better.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2005 at 9:06PM
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edzard(3b Canada)

KnR,
I, if not some others would still be waiting for an explanation of Sukiya Living.

--Shin Abe is quite corrrect. If designers/gardeners provided explanation for the gardens, then the freedom of impression (understanding) that a garden gives would be removed. The explanation could forever bias a garden into misrepresentations. (as at the Nitobe, what is a Shinto stroll garden anyway??)
Therefore a garden should not be explained.

On the other hand, if a garden can not be understood at some scale of similar community, then it still needs some work.
edzard

    Bookmark   August 16, 2005 at 4:29PM
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Lee_ME(z5)

Isn't it true that taste and preference play a big role here? My favorite type of Japanese garden is one which does not provoke thought, but which induces a feeling of calm. I still do enjoy Japanese gardens which are representational or which illustrate a concept, although I'm much less likely to use that type of garden for relaxation --- because it makes me think and produces mental associations. Western-style flower gardens enliven, energize and promote exciting thoughts; the best Japanese gardens (in my opinion) help turn off the brain. Some Japanese gardens can work both ways --- they can be appreciated fully with no explanation, but do have underlying meaning, too.

But some people might prefer the excitement and intellectual stimulation of representational Japanese gardens. It's just a matter of personal preference.

Lee

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 8:33AM
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didgeridoo(z7 SC)

Good points, Lee, and i agree with you up to a point. There are the gardens which are said to represent a tiger's sturggle or the path of being human, but i too prefer the gardens which remove analytical thought. But when creating this meditative type of garden, doesn't the designer still have an intent? The design then becomes an intent to inspire peace and tranquility of the mind, it becomes a lesson about silence or a story about release. It is a much more subtle intent to manifest, and i would assert it requires mastery of the mind as well as the garden.

-christian

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 11:24AM
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Lee_ME(z5)

Hi Christian ---

It's a fascinating and complex subject --- the intent of the designer and the experience of the observer. It seems so deeply affected by the culture (and individual personality/experience) of the designer and of the observer. I think we're inclined to design spaces which evoke similar responses in similarly-minded people.

An example that comes to mind is the discussion in The Modern Japanese Garden (p. 28) of "usuzumi" --- the pale gray wash frequently used on stucco walls in Japan. The writer says it "...is both instantly recognizable and has pleasant cultural connotations" [to a Japanese person]. It evokes the culture and nuance of ink painting. I remember seeing usuzumi during one of my first trips to Japan and thinking it looked dull and muddy, wondering why they didn't either make it a nice crisp white or some more definite color. Now I appreciate usuzumi, but only when I make the association with ink painting (something a Japanese person does automatically, I guess).

As a 17-year-old exchange student I can tell you I had absolutely no appreciation of wabi sabi --- it looked like pure crud to me. I'm sure part of that was due to my age and part to my upbringing as a typical WASP midwesterner. I also couldn't stand the fact that you couldn't roam around at will in the Japanese gardens --- I didn't get the point of a garden where you had to stick to the path (or not go in at all). Just an ignorant gaijin.

Lee

    Bookmark   August 18, 2005 at 5:31PM
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didgeridoo(z7 SC)

I think your right, the client's (or viewer's) culture has to be accounted for in order to make the garden relevant. I guess the question is to what degree, and should we therefore be incorporating objects and materials which we are intrinsically familiar with from our own cultures when creating Japanese gardens in our own countries? And if so, it makes me wonder what does the American, Canadian, or European culture have that equates to the tsukubai, the stone lantern, the bamboo fence, the teahouse? These elements, through many stages of refinement, have achieved an almost perfected balance of function and form, of nature and man, of earthly and spiritual. American culture, as an example, is so (relatively) young that there seems to be a very shallow pool do draw something from with a meaningful cultural significance. Perhaps i am just being creatively lazy, but it seems much more efficient to use icons from other much older cultures and explain their meanings to the uninformed (who ask) than it is to start from scratch finding our own icons where few seem to have any relevance.

At the same time, while the specific cultural cues give the details of the story and distinguish the garden from nature-at-large, it is the universal themes and relationships which are probably the most effective way to convey the essence of the garden's design/intent/idea/message/lesson/feeling/mood/fuzei to the 'average' client/viewer. These things often tend to be psychological responses and instincts cued by the senses.

-christian

    Bookmark   August 20, 2005 at 5:51PM
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gerald

Christian,

Bird baths, garden sheds,barbeques,sundials, religious statues such as the virgen mary, just to name a few.

And yes you've hit the nail on the head. Its' quite too bad how so many people study Japanese Gardens and then try to copy them into their backyard or works, only to end up with could only be called kitch - there is no atmosphere or soothing feeling in the space as it's nothing more than a collection of things like the tsukubai, the stone lantern, the bamboo fence, the teahouse.

When, actually the best would be to study Japanese Gardens and then adapt things like the process, the inner feeling of space and aproach of building a garden.

Just think of a clothing designer or painter that studys in France for a few years, do they come home and copy what their theachers were doing - not likely.

Where did all that junk about Nitobe Memorial Garden come from anyway Edzard. Like you say. what is a Shinto stroll garden anyway??) There were hundreds of pages of pathitic interpretation of the garden by scolars.

Gerald

    Bookmark   August 20, 2005 at 7:35PM
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keithnotrichard

The way I understand it, "sukiya living" refers to a combination of house and garden as one single thing. It's true that Japanese gardens have always been associated with houses, but in English the term "garden" implies only the outside half of that equation.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2005 at 2:19PM
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Herb

It's true that the expression 'sukiya living' has no equivalent in English, but for those who in England who could afford it, a similar principle was often applied - they built houses with gracious living rooms and ceiling-to-floor windows - 'French windows' - that opened onto gardens.

    Bookmark   August 27, 2005 at 6:22PM
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Herb

If you go to this site & scroll down to & click on the item "garden view if you were sitting down at the table", I wonder if it explains - or at least indicates the general idea - of what people mean when they refer to 'sukiya living'? -

Click here

    Bookmark   August 31, 2005 at 10:30PM
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