[Book review] Japanese Gardens: Learning the Origins of Beauty from Hakone Museum of Art and Katsura Imperial Villa

Japanese Gardens: Learning the Origins of Beauty from Hakone Museum of Art and Katsura Imperial Villa

I found this book by chance when I searched for something completely different.

It was written by a Tokyo based landscaper family and one of their employees, a German landscape architect.

This is also the reason why I bought the book in the end; I am not the only German gardener in Tokyo. Although maybe the only female German gardener, who is not only doing designs, but also work on the construction sites myself and doing the maintenance as well.

“Japanese Gardens” promises to teach the Origins of Beauty from Hakone Museum of Art and Katsura Imperial Villa.

Both are gardens listed on our website and the goal of the book sounds very similar to our own goals to me.

With this in mind, I really had to buy it.

And what can I say? I like it a lot!

The book starts with an introduction of the Japanese authors and their company history via a prologue and a foreword.

Then the authors will dig into the gardens.
The garden of the Hakone Museum of Art is introduced first.

We find chapters with a brief introduction to the Museum and its garden, what to see in the garden, they take us on a virtual walk and complete the first chapter with visitor information.

The second chapter is about the Katsura Imperial Villa, its historical background, what to see in the garden, the main facilities, a virtual strolling through the garden and visitor information.

There is, although not mentioned in the title, a third chapter in this book.

This contains three garden elements and ornamental items.

We find brief information about ponds, stones, plants and items like lanterns, pagodas, fences, tsukubai and suikinkutsu.

Tearooms, teahouses and how to enjoy light green tea is also explained.

The whole book is written in English and Japanese. This makes it perfect to study the language. All texts are only short paragraphs and with basic knowledge of Japanese it is easy to find the matching words in the Japanese text.

I didn’t check the whole text, but it seems that the English version and Japanese version are matching very well throughout the whole book.

However, one will find the one or other mistake in the English text.

The design and arrangement of photos is very appealing to the eye and the whole book is easy and fast to read.

Pictures of all features of the gardens are shown, often with additional explanation.

If you know Real Japanese Gardens eBooks, you can say that the style of this book is very similar.

An overview of the garden is given, followed by an introduction of noteworthy garden elements and sceneries. Everything is explained with the help of a lot of photos.

However, this book is of course by no means a pure copy of our work!

The style of how the introductions are done is unique and the layout is completely different and very good done for a printed book.

You will find hand-drawn maps of the gardens with a suggested route (although you have no free choice in Katsura Rikyu), black and white sketches, related poems and footnotes, where necessary.

In the third chapter, the Kosugi family shares a little bit of their knowledge in garden design and maintenance with us by giving great arrangement tips for plants in combination with garden elements, always explained with sketches.

At the end of the book there are short profiles of all the authors and an overview over the works of Kosugi Zohen Co. Ltd.

[youtube https://youtu.be/E1UQZGp-OpE]

My opinion:

I like this book! It is clear and simple and it is good to see how other gardeners in Japan see traditional Japanese gardens.

We didn’t publish the eBook about the Hakone moss garden yet and I am sure when it will be time to do so, this book will become one of my references.

Our eBook about the Katsura Rikyu is already published, but has a totally different focus, because it tells the story of the palaces stone lanterns.

The explanations of the elements are short and precise in this book, whereas in our books we were able to introduce them more detailed and more of them like in our books about bamboo fences or our stone setting book.

However, I think the Japanese Gardens -Learning the Origins of Beauty- is a good addition to what our eBooks tell.

So, if you like the style of our books, are studying Japanese gardens and Japanese and like printed books, this one is for you!


Title: Japanese Gardens: Learning the Origins of Beauty from Hakone Museum of Art and Katsura Imperial Villa.
Author: Saki Kosugi, Ryuichi Kosugi, Fumiharu Kosugi, Andreas Hamacher
Publisher: Banraisha
Pages: 123
Published in 2017
Price: 1200 Yen excluding tax

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