The combination of karesansui with okarikomi

Momoyama garden-makers found unexpectedly new and powerful means of expression through the combination of the kare-sansui with o-karikomi, shrubs and bushes clipped into specific shapes. Karikomi was not in itself a novelty; it had formed a traditional aspect of Japanese gardens from their earliest beginnings. But it was only in the Momoyama era that it emerged as a primary feature of garden design.

The trend towards abstraction in Japanese garden art can be traced back to the earliest gardens of Nara and Heian times. Gardens were then composed of a few elements isolated from nature's infinite range of forms and surrounded by a man-made wall. The trend gained momentum in Kamakura and Muromachi times in the symbolic rock groups denoting Shumi-sen, the Buddhist mountain at the centre of the world, and turtle and crane islands, and in the white sand and pebbles indicating ponds and oceans. In the Momoyama and Edo eras, this trend took a new turn with the introduction of o-karikomi, the topiary art of dipping evergreen shrubs and bushes into shapes now only vaguely suggestive of such images as Mount Horai, treasure-laden ships and the storm-tossed sea. We owe the perfection of this art to just one man, Kobori Enshu (1579-1647).

As Mirei Shigemorei respectfully acknowledges, o-karikomi reached its climax and its end with the life -and death - of this great garden artist.67

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Sernhu*aku Garden

Nrshhonjan-fi Temple Garden (dry)

Gentyu-en Garden \pond)

Sernhu*aku Garden

Nrshhonjan-fi Temple Garden (dry)

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Karikomi Wave

View oí the o-kankomi m Da<hi f> îemple Garden


The art of o-kankorru m DaKht-p Temple Garden Toptary treasure ship m front of the shorn

The introduction of o-kankomi m the early Edo era Large evergreen shrubs are clipped into the shape of Mount Horai


History relates that Kobori Enshu designed the garden of Raikyu-ji. a Zen temple in Okayama Prefecture, about 1617. The garden combines a typical Zen-tem-ple kare-sansui with a garden landscape whose central motifs are Mount Horai and crane and turtle islands. The most unusual and striking feature of the garden is its large-scale topiary representation of the waves of the ocean against the backdrop of a steep hill. The scene is entirely created with tsubaki, camellias in rows at the back, and satsuki, azaleas in curved lines at the front. Bearing in mind the practical difficulty of preserving such a "living sculpture" in its original form over the centuries, this illustration of the Horai motif remains one of the most remarkable of its kind. 0-karikomi has here become a design tool in its own right

Directly in front of theshoin lies a crane island composed of dipped azaleas and an unusually beautiful group of some twenty rc-cks. When viewed from the shoin, these rocks appear to compose a Shumi-sen group. When viewed from the hondo. the main hall in the north, however, they appear as a triadic composition set against the "borrowed" background of Mount Atago in the distance.

The turtle island in the south of the garden has unfortunately been destroyed, and its original form is unknown. Shigemon believes that the small stream and pond below the clipped bushes in the south of the garden are additions of the late Edo or Meiji era. Under the wide eaves of the hondo lies a rectangular field strewn with pebbles. It is crossed by carefully-placed stepping-stones, and contains a water basin similar to those in the temples of Konchi-in and Koho-an in Kyoto. Both of these terrples are known to have been designed by Kobori Enshj.


Daichi-ji, the "Temple of the Great Pond", is located in Minakuchi in Shiga Prefeiture. The garden immediately east of its shoin contains an o-karikomi of clipped azaleas, which is ascribed to Kobori Enshu or one of his successors It is said to represent an enormous treasure ship carrying the "seven gods of good luck" of Chinese mythology. In another interpretation, it is seen as

Garden of Koncfo-m. a sub-temple of Nan/en-p fcmple. Kyoto The head of the turtle island is represented m the dynamic sweep of a diagonal rock

Crane Island Japanese Garden

a large crane island counterbalanced by a small turtle island lying directly beneath the eaves o: the shoin. The turtle's body is composed of a single clipped bush, with a single stone for its head. The composition as a whole appears somewhat softer in its contours than Raikyu-ji, perhaps because its rock components play a quieter role. Noteworthy, too. are the garden behind the tea house and the karikomi beneath a vene-able pine tree outside the entrance to the temple.


Konchi-m is a sub-temple within the Zen monastery of Nanzen-ji at the foot of the mountains east of Kyoto

The abbot's quarters, accompanying tea house and Toshogu shrine were desgned by Kobori Enshu on behalf of an influential Zen priest called Suden; they were subsequently executed ir 1628 under Kobori Enshu's personal supervision. The work itself was carried out by now highly-respected kawaramono, among them a certain Kentei. the last "riverside worker" to be mentioned in official records. He had also worked on Sambo-in and other famous Momoyama gardens. The garden attached to tie south side of the hojo, also designed by Kobori Enshu, was completed by 1632

The area of sand immediately in front of the hojo is raked into the shape of a boat To the east and west lie. respectively, a turtle and a crane island, equidistant from the central axis of the abbot's quarters. Between these two islands, and directly aligned with the central axis, there lies a large, flat reihaiseki. a worshipping stone within a field of bluish pebbles. This reihaiseki relates to the Toshogu shnne. whose roof can just be discerned to the west of it. ^he shrine itself was dedicated to the spirit of Shogun levasu.

The view southwards ends in an o-karikomt, which conceals the sharp fall of the land. The topiary forms created here are different, however, to those encountered m the two abovementioned gardens. Apart from perhaps representing the waves in whose midst the Isles of the Blest are sited, they appear to have no symbolic character and instead serve purely decorative purposes.

Senshu-kaku Pond Garden, yted betow Tokushima Castle. displays surety the most dramatic rod. grouping of the Momoyama era

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