You are here

Self Guided Tour

In this traditional Japanese Garden, every element is significant. The varied colors and textures of the plants, the cascading waters, the graceful forms of the trees and the movement of the koi in the lake are all vital to the overall setting. We hope you will enjoy the beauty and serenity.

Wooden Gate

The entry gate with its tiled roof is designed after a gate in Kyoto, Japan, a city of many beautiful gardens. To the right, a stone kasuga lantern is set against a backdrop of Japanese black pines. Just inside the entrance, the koma-inu, or lion dogs, stand guard. Evil spirits are afraid to cross the paths of these fierce mythical creatures. On the slope to the right stands a three-tiered stone pagoda. The azaleas covering the hillside burst into rose, white, and the palest pink in spring.

Lake Shore

Venture down the large stepping stones to the landing rock just as the emperor and his empress traveled to board their imperial barge.

Platform Bridge

Following the path, to the right you soon come to a votive stone nested among the mock oranges and azaleas. This small shrine depicts Senju Kannon or Kannon of the Thousand Hands. A symbol of infinite compassion, she carries Buddhist emblems such as the wheel, rosary, lotus flower and incense burner. To your left, the black pebble beach is reminiscent of a stream bed leading to the sea. A stone snow lantern stands at the water's edge beneath the Chinese willow.

Black Rock Beach

The large area of rocks leading to the lake form our first of three waterfalls throughout the Garden. When water cascades down the hill, it runs across the rocks, forming the waterfall. This area also gets its name from the dark black color that the rocks turn when they are wet. Throughout the Garden there is a theme of threes represented in various ways. There are three waterfalls, bridges, willow trees, and most importantly, three elements featured throughout. The three elements represented are earth, water and life.

Moon Bridge

The arched bridge, patterned after the more-highly arched drum bridges, crosses the stream that cascades down from the waterfall. Pause for a moment for a picturesque view of the Garden and the island. Follow the path to the right as it divides beyond the bridge. Embedded in the path is another carved inset of stone, this time depicting phoenix birds which are symbols of immortality. In winter and spring, the heavenly bamboo lining the lakeside of the path is laden with red berries. The bamboo, it is said, brings good luck, health and happiness.

Tea House

The tea house in front of you is used to commemorate special occasions. The traditional tea ceremony is a spiritual occasion shared by host and guests. Sliding shoji doors cover the front of the teahouse, however, tea ceremony guests enter on the left side through the low nijiriguchi, or kneeling door, humbling themselves in the process. If the doors are open during your visit, you will see the main room with a little alcove in the back. The scroll hanging in the alcove is changed to commemorate the seasons, festivals, special occasions or other events of importance. To the right is a nure-sagi lantern that represents a heron, a traditional Japanese bird standing solitarily in the rain. In front of the tea house is the stone water basin used for traditional symbolic purification before the ceremony. The basin or tsukubai is fed by water from the bamboo pipe or kakehi.

Zen/Rock Garden

Following the stepping stones down to the main path and moving to your right, you will see the dry garden, a contribution of Zen. The gravel represents water and the raked pattern expresses the "state of the sea" as tranquil. Notice the grouping of nine large stones. Framing the little garden are Japanese wax-leaf privet and golden bamboo. In front of the dry garden, three podocarpus are trimmed to form a living screen.

Zigzag Bridge

The zigzag bridge wards off evil spirits that, according to folklore, can travel only in straight lines. If one of these phantoms tries to follow you across the bridge, it will undoubtedly fall into the water and drown. Another waterfall flows under the bridge. To the right of the waterfall, a unique rankei lantern of the 19th Century stands at the water's edge. Beyond the zigzag bridge past a large clump of fern leaf bamboo to the right, a gorinsotōba, or five-tiered pagoda, shares the hillside with Japanese camellias and Indian hawthorns. As you count the tiers, you might reflect on the five cardinal virtues of Zen - humanity, justice, politeness, wisdom and fidelity.

Willow Terrace

Completing your walk around the garden, you pass beneath one of the large, graceful weeping willows. In May, the Japanese irises at the lake's edge produce a wash of large lavender, purple and white blossoms. To the right is a grouping of camellias and around the curve stands a majestic wall of rare black stemmed bamboo.

Your self-guided tour if now complete. We hope that the beauty and serenity of this oasis continue with you throughout your day.