Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A Visit to the Japanese Garden

On Sunday, March 31, I attended an Ikebana exhibition and demonstration that was held at the Japanese Garden.

Suiho-en:  "Garden of Water and Fragrance"

The Japanese Garden is located in the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Los Angeles, in an area known as the San Fernando Valley.  It was designed to showcase the use of reclaimed water, which is used throughout the garden (there is a viewing tower which enables visitors to look out onto the adjoining water reclamation plant).   The Garden covers 6 1/2 acres and consists of a  karesansui or "dry Zen meditation garden", a chisen or "wet-strolling garden" with a water fall and streams, a roji or "tea garden" adjoining a teahouse, and a lake.   Entrance to the garden costs $5, or $3 if one is a senior (62 or older) or a child under the age of 10.  It is often referred to as "one of the best kept secrets in the Valley", although, on the day I visited, the parking lot was practically full!

After I attended the ikebana demonstration and exhibit, I strolled around the garden for a bit and took some photos:

Karesansui or Dry Zen Garden, with Tortoise Island in the upper left

The Tortoise Island represents longevity as, in Japanese mythology, the tortoise lives for 10,000  years.

The Plover Path in the Dry Garden

The plover path, apparently laid out in a manner that represents the bird's tracks, leads to a wisteria covered arbor, which wasn't in bloom when I went.

There are several bridges in the garden, including a zig zag bridge, but I didn't take a photo of that.  Instead, I took these photos of two different log bridges:

Log Bridge

I read that the log bridge has four foundation stones, but, because the Japanese word for four sounds a lot like the word for death, a nearby stone was also incorporated into the design of the log bridge!

Modified Log Bridge

I don't know for sure, but, I think this second log bridge might have been modified to make it more wheel chair accessible.

Bamboo Water Fountain:  sōzu

This type of water fountain is known as a "sōzu".  It is is a type of shishi-odoshi, which are devices meant to scare away wild animals that might eat plants in a garden or field.  The water drips from the tall bamboo spout onto a long bamboo that is set up on its pivotal point so that the heavier end rests on the ground and the bamboo slants upwards towards the water spout.  Water trickles into the bamboo until the weight of the collected water causes the bamboo to pivot down and dump the water.  When the water is emptied, the bamboo then pivots back and the heavier end hits a stone placed under it and makes a noise, which is supposed to scare away the wild animals.  In this photo, the bamboo pole is pivoting down and dumping the collected water.

I read that the three levels of the waterfall is meant to represent heaven, man, and earth.  The garden is meant to showcase reclaimed water, it is designed to represent three states of water, with the waterfall representing the falling or vertical movement of water, the streams its flowing or horizontal movement, and the lake its still or calm state. 

View of the Lake

Another View of the Lake

There are several islands in the lake, one of which is called Crane Island, representing longevity and good fortune.  There were several kinds of water birds swimming in the lake and resting along the edges of the islands and lots fish in the water.  I also saw at least one turtle.

The Garden is built adjoining the Reclamation Plant and incorporates the plant's Administration Building into its design.  The ikebana exhibit was inside the building.  I didn't take a photo of the building, but I liked these fountains in front of the building:

Active Water Fountains
Practically all the water fountains that were located on public property (city buildings, parks, etc.) had been turned off during our recent nearly five years long drought.  To see and hear an active fountain was a sheer delight to me. 

A Series of Views
This is the area under the walkway connecting the Garden to the Reclamation Plant viewing tower.  It features a series of openings, designed to give a glimpse of what is beyond, which I thought was interesting. 

View of the Lake showing the Shoin Building (left of center) and Viewing Arbor (to the right)

Shoin buildings were originally audience halls in temples where the monks taught Buddhist doctrine.  Eventually, they evolved into the residential dwellings of aristocrats, high-ranking monks, and samurai during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.  The ikebana demonstration was held in the Shoin building, which also contains an authentic 4 1/2 tatami mat teahouse and adjoining tea garden.  Tatami mats were originally used as seating for only the highest ranking person in the room; eventually, they were used to for everyone and the floor of the shoin rooms were covered with them.  Since tatami mats have a standard size, the floor plans of a shoin are designed in terms of tatami mats.  

Roji or Tea Garden
I didn't actually go into the teagarden on this particular visit.  But roji apparently means "walk" as the stepping stones are the main design element.

The tea garden is located in the bamboo grove:

Bamboo Grove
This was one of the coolest spots in the Garden, on that hot afternoon, as the bamboos provided some shade.

Bamboo Grove

Old Growth/Cut Bamboo Stumps

The azaleas were in bloom and this hedge of them was very colorful:

Azalea Hedge
By then, I had spent a couple of hours in the Garden, and I was getting tired.  Plus, it was hot (88F) and guess who went walking in a garden on a sunny afternoon without a hat!  I had a bottle of water with me, so I stayed hydrated, but I was starting to get hungry, too.  I had a granola bar in my purse; one isn't allowed to eat inside the garden, but I could have gone into the area just outside the garden and eaten if I needed to.  But, I was ready to go home by then. 

Bamboo Water Dipper 
Just outside the entrance/exit to the Garden, there is this water fountain, with a bamboo water dipper.  It's a good thing it was set at the back of a newly planted bed of petunias - otherwise, I'd have been tempted to splash some of that refreshing water on my arms and face!  

There is a gift shop, too, just outside the Garden; I poked my head in there, hoping to find a book about ikebana, but I didn't see anything, and I left without buying anything.

I will be going back to the Japanese Garden, later in the summer, as that's when the lotus will bloom.  I shall need to go in the cooler morning hours and wear a hat!  

Have you visited a Japanese Garden?  


  1. Replies
    1. Yes, it is a very relaxing place to visit. :)

  2. I really enjoyed reading about this Japanese garden and seeing all your photographs. It was amazing to realize how hot it was, while we had cold and a brutal gale blowing for several hours. I told DH he was not to get his friends and go to the woodlot because of the danger of falling trees or limbs. Now it has calmed down and we wait to see what kind of winter weather tomorrow will bring, but meanwhile I can look at those azaleas and dream of summer!

    1. Glad you enjoyed this post, Bushlady. Yes, we had a bit of a heatwave over the weekend! It has cooled down a bit now, but, we will be back in the upper 80s by the weekend, again. Summer is coming! Hope you have some better weather, tomorrow.

  3. I have visited Japanese gardens both here and in Japan. I am always impressed by the symbolism that goes into everything in them. This garden is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    1. There is a lot that goes into their design, isn't there? I am planning another visit, later in the summer to see the lotuses in bloom. :)

  4. The pictures of the garden are stunning. I have not visited a Japanese garden, although there is one in Portland. I'm glad to see the pictures of one since I probably won't find time to visit that one any time soon. But, it does give me an idea of a good place to visit in the future, maybe:)

    1. I hope you will be able to visit the Japanese Garden in Portland, one day, Becky. I'm sure you'll enjoy the experience.

  5. I very much appreciated you taking me to this wonderful garden with you today. I especially liked the explanations for what I was seeing. Did you once tell me that the Japanese gardens don't have places to sit and linger, or am I making that up? I didn't see any benches or areas where one might sit and rest.

    1. It was my pleasure, Susan. I think I mentioned that the other, much smaller, privately owned Japanese garden, in downtown, didn't have benches or other sitting areas. That was definitely a "strolling" garden. There were benches in the plaza level, above the garden, but a high wall blocked the view of the garden, when seated, because the garden is at a lower level. The garden I went to on Sunday had some benches and sitting areas. The viewing arbor, next to the shoin building, for example, was meant as a place to sit and view the garden. I didn't take any photos of the benches, this time. I honestly could have taken at least another 20 photos and not duplicate any I have already taken! I will go again, on another day, and take more pictures. :)

  6. Oh, it looks beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

    1. You are welcome! It is a beautiful place and I am planning to go there, again.

  7. Those pictures are so beautiful. Thank you for sharing all the knowledge that comes with it - it's fascinating! It must be wonderful to be able to just be quiet inside yourself and listen to all that wonderful water. I love how there are so many layered meanings.

    1. Thank you, Lyssa, and you are welcome. I like learning about what I am seeing; I feel that it adds to the experience. :)


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