In Japan you can find a perfect garden not only in temples or in tourist areas, but also in less expected places. In restaurants, hotels, ryokans, traditional homes or even in the spaces between buildings, you can find tiny but amazingly beautiful gardens, so small that they cannot be “visited", being built just to be admired: these are tsubo-niwa (tsubo is an old Japanese measuring unit, about 3.3 square meters) and they are popular in Japan since the Edo period, when wealthy merchants started building them between the store and the house.
Built so that they can have direct sunlight, these courtyard gardens are made with a few plants, stones, almost always a stone lantern and a water basin. One of the most beautiful tsubo-niwa I have seen is in Kurashiki, in a very famous house, the house of the Ohashi family.
The ancestors of this family, during the Sengoku period, were samurai loyal to the Toyotomi family. After Toyotomi was defeated by Tokugawa in 1615, they moved to Kyoto, where they lived under the Gojyo-Ohashi bridge - hence the name of the family, Ohashi, which means “great bridge". In 1705 the family moved to Kurashiki as merchants and the house they built in 1796 is today one of the most interesting places to visit in Kurashiki. Their beautiful tsubo-niwa courtyard garden is typical for the merchant houses of that period…
Yesterday’s Japan Photo: