ISSUE 62  |  Japonesque

Kyoto’s Tofuku-ji Gardens: Anything Look Familiar?

March 08, 2013 11:00 AM

BY Michelle Slatalla

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You are acquainted with Japan's master gardener Mirei Shigemori even if his name sounds completely unfamiliar. Or, more accurately, you have seen gardens that were influenced by his ideas. This checkerboard pattern of pavers, for instance. Thousands of gardens have copied the idea, but it belongs to him:

Shigemori designed the checkerboard garden—and three others, as well—for the Tofuku-ji Buddhist temple in Kyoto in 1939. His work, unusual and distinctive, influenced other gardeners in so many ways that the power of his own designs may feel diluted by the derivatives. This fate befalls many geniuses, of course; is there a person alive today who can truly appreciate the shocking hilarity of Groucho Marx? If you get copied too often, people may forget you were first.

Above: Photograph via Kitka. The Tofuku-ji temple dates to 1235; the gardens are arranged in four squares surrounding it. The square stones and moss are in the temple's north garden.

Above: For more information see Tofukuji, the temple's website. Photograph via Whreimgon.

Above: Shigemori's intent was to express the simplicity of Zen. Photograph by M. VanPatten via Flickr.

Above: Photograph by Art Club via Flickr.

Above: The temple, on a rainy day. Photograph via Whreimgon.

Above: Raked gravel and bluestone. Photograph by CPantsios via Flickr.

Planning a visit to Kyoto? Be sure to stop by our favorite local florist: Shokubututen Kohii Shop.