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Kazuyuki Ishihara, the Genius of the Japanese Landscape Design

The Japanese Style in Landscape Design

Flowers and plants during their flowering period bring life and energy to the exterior and interior of living space. They are a source of joy, or, sometimes, carry an encrypted message. Flower compositions in landscape design, combined with other elements of Japanese style, create a special atmosphere, and allow people to enjoy the precious moments of life.

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Landscape Design of a Japanese Garden 

No truly Japanese house can be completed without flowers inside, and without even the smallest garden outside. Gardening traditions in Japan have their roots in the deep past and are directly connected with the religious and cultural beliefs of Japanese people. Flowers are presented to the gods at the family altar – a place of ancestor worship. A Japanese garden is a small part of wild nature in miniature, a simplified model of space. 

This approach towards plants and landscape design explains the highest level of skill the Japanese apply for their garden design. Establishing a real Japanese garden is not a simple task; it requires not only special expertise in landscape design but also extensive knowledge of botany.

Today Japanese landscape designers are widely demanded specialists, who provide consulting services or create gardens for many major companies in the architecture or landscape industry.

Kasugai Architects+  actively cooperates with Japanese landscape artists from Japan and can offer a wide range of services related to landscape design or land planning.

Garden Designer Kazuyuki Ishihara

We would like to introduce you to Kazuyuki Ishihara. Today he is one of the most recognizable landscape artists in Japan, as well as an emblematic person in the world of landscape design.

He was born in 1958 in Nagasaki. From early childhood Kazuyuki grew up surrounded by greenery and flowers and he formed a deep emotional attachment to them. It determined the choice of the future career: the master began to study the art of flower arrangement at the age of 22 years at Ikenobo, the famous prestigious ikebana school in Japan, where he developed as a floral artist. 

As he didn’t have enough money to open his store, Kazuyuki Ishihara began selling flowers at the age of 29 years. He used a unique selling method, a kind of street performance: he made unique flower bouquets in a minute, and these bouquets could amaze even the most demanding client. Word of his skill has spread widely. He became so famous that it allowed him to open his stores when the time came. The master opened the Manabi, an authentic Japanese garden and flower store. Starting with a small flower store in Nagasaki, Kazuyuki quickly became the most profitable florist in Japan.

Казуюки Исихара

Over time the flower business grew into a garden and landscape bureau. In 2006, the master took part in a prestigious exhibition called Chelsea Flower Show in London, where he won a gold medal. Breaking all stereotypes on his way, Mr. Ishihara quickly became a Chelsea legend due to his incredible style and attention to detail.

Japanese Landscape Design Trends 

During the next three years, he was the only contestant awarded a gold medal at the exhibition. Besides, he has received numerous awards at landscape design exhibitions around the world. 

Today Kazuyuki Ishihara is known as an owner and a founder of Ishihara Kazuyuki Design Laboratory with a portfolio including design of Haneda International Airport, Aeon department stores, Westin Ebisu hotel, the Ueno Zoo, Four Seasons hotel in Saint Petersburg. In addition to his commercial works, the master gives numerous lectures, workshops for children and professionals. 

Using flowers and plants as a medium between earthly and spiritual worlds, the master became an interpreter of the Japanese distinctive view of nature. Kazuyuki Ishihara tries to convey to people around the world his vision about the necessity of peaceful coexistence between people and nature. 

The works of the master are the works of art in the world of floristics and landscape design. Kazuyuki Ishihara managed to preserve and reproduce the ancient vision of the Japanese about the relationship between man and nature.

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Photos of Japanese Landscape Design

In his works, the master improvises a lot: the combination of plants of different families, the introduction of other art objects to the landscape, use of antiquities and religious attributes, a play of light and shadow, water and air, application of landscape design trends – it is only a small part of magical techniques he uses to create a fascinating fairy tale in which you want to sink into and stay longer.

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Comparison of Chinese and Japanese Landscape Design

The main difference between these two styles is the purpose of the garden. Many centuries ago, the Chinese garden was aimed at activating the Emperor’s thoughts and leading them into the direction of correct decisions of national importance. While the Japanese garden was designed for a human to have some time and space alone with nature for meditation, introspection and cognition of universal truths.

The features of a Chinese landscape are semicircular bridges, various animal statues, large stones, and stone buildings. In a Japanese garden, you will find flat bridges without any zigzags, small stones or metal lanterns, small-scale compositions of stone and sand, which symbolize the ocean and islands.

We should also note:

  • a Chinese garden doesn’t have any restriction for colors – any color, including the brightest one, can be used, but it is unacceptable in the Japanese culture because it allows only soft and calm tones;
  • Chinese gardens are much larger than Japanese ones;
  • both cultures imitate only the nature of the corresponding country. 

The only common thing is water in the garden. If it is impossible to have a water creek or a waterfall in a garden, the Japanese will replace it with sand or stones, but the Chinese culture will require water in the garden at all costs. 

Main Features of Japanese Landscape Design 

There are no random elements in a Japanese garden: all materials and their location are thought through to the smallest detail. Japanese landscape design is a smaller version of the great wildlife, and the main features such as stones, water, and flowers, the Japanese interpret as mountains, ocean, and trees respectively. 

Stones in the Japanese landscape

Stone is the main element of a garden in Japanese culture. The most commonly used stones are vertical ones of different heights, arched stones, or stones with sharp slopes, as well as more horizontally shaped ones. The main rule here is to have a natural form that we can see in wildlife. Stones are arranged in groups in small odd numbers, and there is a balance in shape, size, and color. Stones of different sizes can symbolize feminine and masculine origin.

The Japanese avoid stones with indecorous tops or random stones that do not fit into the general scenery. In addition to decorative purposes, stones are also used to create pathways or steps of a bridge. 

Water in Japanese Landscape

In Japanese culture, water symbolizes not only water bodies but also time. That is why any Japanese garden has water flowing alongside stone paths, which symbolizes the fleeting time. Waterfalls and streams are welcome here, but inappropriate artificial decorative elements that do not exist in nature (fountains, swimming pools) shouldn’t be used in a Japanese garden.

Plants in Japanese Garden

Plants, though a compulsory feature of the Japanese landscape, play a minor role in forming a garden. They are mostly used to demonstrate the change of seasons, so gardeners do not use exotic plants and plant only local ones. The following plants are considered to be the most popular:

  • a bamboo (durability, longevity, spiritual truth);
  • a cherry (a symbol of birth, a bride, youth and beauty);
  • a pine tree (a symbol of long life, bravery, and perseverance);
  • a sakura (clouds, mysterious things, a symbol of Japan);
  • a morning glory (everyday poetry);
  • a willow tree (obedience, timidity and modesty);
  • moss and lichen (maternal kindness, care and love, protection and reliability);
  • a maple (wisdom and knowledge), etc.

Emptiness and Garden Sculptures in Japanese Culture

The major principle of Japanese garden creation is having empty places and it is especially difficult for the Europeans to comprehend. We perceive emptiness as an unfinished part of a painting. The Japanese culture interprets emptiness as a spirit of truth, which is the heart of the garden. The Japanese philosophy says that nothing can exist without emptiness.

A garden doesn’t necessarily have decorative elements in it. Modern decoration or furniture is inappropriate: roughly cut boards are used even for building bridges. People come to the garden to get away from the hustle and bustle of the world, to forget about the benefits of civilization, to merge with nature, and find inner peace.

Japanese Style Landscape in Your Garden

The design of a Japanese garden requires a strict sequence of actions. The first thing to do when creating a landscape is to arrange stones. After that, the trees should be planted. The last thing is to do the planting. It is important to take into account one subtle detail when choosing elements – they must be marked with time, with something like a patina. Thus, a stone with lichen is more preferable to an ordinary boulder. A rather old lantern will have privileges before a new one, as it carries the ancient spirit and the imprint of rain, wind, and sun. One should create a garden based on the principle of proportionality; a garden should reflect the natural landscape, which is visible to a bird during the flight.

Japanese Landscape Design by Kasugai Architects+ 

Kasugai Architects+  works with the best landscape companies of Japan and is ready to design a unique landscape project, considering all the requirements and preferences of a client, and to provide quality customer service at any project stage. 

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