Over to our foreign correspondent

September 28, 2013

There’s an immediacy about the images that are sent through from a friend, as opposed to the highly composed shots that one views within books. There are also no copyright issues with photographs provided by a friend, and therefore when David Green (who worked with us for several years) moved to Japan, I asked David to send through photographs of interesting Japanese gardens or landscape fragments.

Fortunately for me, having worked together on a very detailed scale for years, David understands the aspects of landscapes that I would like to see. Two sites that were of particular interest to me were the famous gardens of Katsura Imperial Villa (of which there are three images in this journal entry, including the beautiful path shown above) and the national shrine at Ise (pictured below, left).

The latter is an understated landscape that possesses the essence of Japanese attitudes to landscape, in a much more naturalistic, subtle manner than the ‘iconic’ images of Japanese gardens and landscapes that are represented in Western literature.

The room above is from Katsura Imperial Villa. One of the most striking features of it is the light blue colour that adorns the doors and walls. It is interesting to see colour assuming a primary role within a tradition that is commonly recognised as one of the major influences upon the development of modernist architecture (as such use of colour has come to be considered anathema by many architects who would actively proclaim Japanese architecture as an important protoype).

The path above demonstrates the inventive compositional ability that is manifested in the highest examples of Japanese stonework.

There is a clear interest in aberrant form (as well as fostering a variety of solutions) within the best examples of traditional Japanese garden design, and the well-known, exceptionally well-composed path below (from Katsura Imperial Villa) is one of the most remarkable examples of this.

The character of the unusual set of concrete posts is established by their diagonal placement, whilst the texture of the concrete contributes to their appeal.

One of my favourite images that David has sent through is this eccentric, colourful gate. One suspects that the tea masters of Japanese garden tradition would not approve, but there is a place for the naive, often joyful efforts of homeowners (in addition to the ‘high art’ of places like Katsura Imperial Villa).

The final photograph illustrates a phenomenon that has been occurring throughout Japan for many years. As a consequence of extreme urbanisation, many rural areas have suffered major population declines. One result of this is the degradation of buildings that are no longer maintained to previous standards (or at all). In some cases, this has strangely beautiful outcomes, as with this corner store.