Japan Adventures: Kyoto Part 1

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Our Airbnb in Kyoto

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Shopping in Kyoto

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Ryoan-ji Temple and gardens

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Those colors!

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Karesansui (rock) garden at Ryoan-ji

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Beautiful!

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Taizo-in Temple

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Details

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I love all of it!

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Stunning!

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Traveling monk

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The colors are so pretty!

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Mike and Philip in Kyoto

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Ryoan-ji steps

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Persimmons

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I love Kyoto!

Kyoto was the place I had been dreaming about visiting for as long as I can remember. Pictures don’t do it justice- Kyoto needs to be felt. I arrived and completely fell in love with it. When a place you visit for the first time just completely blows your mind. Kyoto is that place for me.

We rented a wonderful house in Kyoto through Airbnb and the seven of us enjoyed our Kyoto neighborhood so much: a comfortable home, warmth from the kotatsu table (look it up!), the Family Mart a short 5 minute walk away, the takoyaki and yakisoba noodle place right next door, temples within any walking direction, friendly neighborhood, vending machines on every corner and the slow pace we were looking forward to after our last week in Japan.

Carre and I were so excited to go explore the temples. Visiting the Ryoan-ji Temple was a highlight for me on this trip. We visited here twice, it was a 5 minute walk from the house. Philosopher’s walk and Taizo-in Temple were another 5 minute walk. Like I mentioned, Kyoto is one of those places that must be felt. It has a certain feel to it, a sense of wonder, mystery. Then the beauty of the place just takes your breath away. Carre and I would say, just when you’d thought you’d seen the most beautiful thing, something new would be equally, if not more lovely. This happened so many times! It is one of my favorite places and I cannot wait to go back and see more, feel more and explore more.

Arashiyama in Kyoto is the next blog post. Stay tuned!

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DIY Japanese Garden

Backyard before November 2013

Backyard before November 2013

Grass and concrete removed

Grass and concrete removed

Mapping out

Mapping out

Lumber staining

Lumber staining

Heavy lifting done by Philip, Tony and Brandon

Heavy lifting done by Philip, Tony and Brandon

The work has just begun!

The work has just begun!

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Getting ready to lay the decking

Getting ready to lay the decking

Decking installed

Decking installed

Decking done!

Decking done!

Lattice work

Lattice work

Landscaping begins

Landscaping begins

My little helpers!

My little helpers!

Nearly there!

Nearly there!

The mound

The mound

Ready!

Ready!

Last summer, my husband and I were debating what to do with our backyard. When we moved in nearly three years ago we knew we didn’t want to tackle the backyard right away. I spent many nights, up late at night, scouring Pinterest (addicting I tell you!) for fresh ideas for our future space.

We decided that we would take out all the grass (big water save) and remove a lot of the existing concrete-it was just a giant sea of concrete that really had no purpose. We wanted to create a back yard that reflected the simple character that our Craftsman style home has. Having a love for the simple, Japanese aesthetic, we followed our hearts and decided on a traditional Japanese garden.Truthfully, we modified our plans over and over again. Did you know how many different kinds of gravel there are? Choosing one plant over another. Researching which bamboo is not going to be invasive…and so on and so on. My handy husband built the wooden pergola, installed the decking, and built the fire pit/seating area. I was in charge of the landscaping design and finishing touches. After 6 looooooong months of working on our project (literally every weekend) it’s completed! We are so pleased with how it has turned out. We just hosted a baby shower with 40 people over and it is a wonderful place to have a party! Now that it’s finally Summer, were hosting a movie night with friends!

Japanese Gardens 101

Karesansui Garden in Pasadena, California at Huntington Library and Botanical Garden

Karesansui Garden in San Diego, California at Japanese Friendship Garden

Raked design

Rock textures in Pasadena, California

Pathway- notice the different shapes, sizes, textures. This is the designers way of controlling the visitor’s experience.

Common feature in Japanese Gardens: bridges

Pond stocked with koi. Notice the asymmetry of the rocks in the pond

This water basin is for visitors to wash their hands and refresh before entering the tea house.

Courtyard garden in Toyama, Japan

Gorgeous Japanese Maple with red foliage

Often large ponds like these will include an island.

One of my favorite aesthetics of Japanese design is in the garden. In a traditional Japanese garden, design emphasis is placed on the balance of yin/yang, harmony, mystery, and meaning. Here are some of the fundamentals in Japanese landscape design:

1 Gravel or sand- “Karesansui”-which in Japanese, translates as “dry mountain water”. This style of landscape is meant to be viewed but never entered- except for raking and maintenance purposes.

2 Rocks- Each selected as a work of art and it’s shape, color, texture, and character are carefully considered.

3 Plants- The seasons dictate which plants to use. Each plant is selected for its leaf colors, bark, stems- even branch pattern. Asymmetry is the goal.

4 Water- Represents change. It represents impermanence: it flows. A stream, pond, lake or even just a simple granite water basin creates ambient sound that’s conductive to meditation.

5 Paths- Paths are meant to guide you through the garden and are constructed in such a way that a visitor must move carefully and slowly through the garden.