Sun and fun with Morikami

In Japan, the changes which society underwent in the second half of the 19th century opened up new possibilities for Japanese garden design. With the opening of the country to trade with other nations, elements borrowed from the West, including lawns, formal arrangements of plantings, paved walkways and fountains, made their way into Japanese gardens of the period. More importantly, Japanese garden designers were discovering forms and materials from their own culture that had never been utilized to add new and interesting textures and experiences to their designs. The new trends were part of a renaissance that cut across many areas of artistic expression to redefine what it meant to be Japanese in a modern world.

Innovations based on native forms might include masses of flowers such as irises or camellias, which resonated with the aesthetic sensibility of the Heian nobility by way of the 17th and 18th century paintings of the Rimpa school. Materials appearing in gardens for the first time had been around for centuries, like roofing tiles used to pave pathways or to provide other decorative accents. New patterns, too, were familiar, such as stepping stones cut from old stone pillars across a garden pond, adding a contrasting geometric quality reminiscent of the strongly graphic surface designs of textiles.

At Morikami another trend of the period, naturalism, is explored in the garden. Lighter, more open in feeling, the modern romantic garden is freer in its choice of plantings while recalling nostalgically the love of nature expressed in the literature of the Heian Period. For more information, go to