Introduction to Japanese Garden Buildings:
One of the most popular structures you are likely to find in a Japanese garden is a tea house, or chashitsu. As the name implies, tea houses are a place where the traditional Japanese tea ceremonies are held. This is not to be confused with another style of tea house, call ochaya, which are exclusive clubs where guests are entertained by geisha.
The Japanese tea house is typically located away from the residential portion of the property, and in many cases, the only way to get to the tea house is to follow a winding path through elegantly landscaped gardens. This is not just for the owner of the property to show off his or her gardening skills, but rather it is a walk that is designed to give the visitor a chance to unwind and shake off the encumbering thoughts of a hectic life. By the time the guest makes his or her way to the tea house, they should have cleared their minds and are ready to begin the tea ceremony.
Often times there are stone water basins placed at the end of the path, just outside of the tea house. Once again not just for show, the significance of the basin gives the visitor a chance to rinse their hands and mouths, effectively clearing away the "dust" from the day's toil.
Japanese Garden Buildings - Bridges:
Japanese bridges are very popular elements that are commonly found in Japanese gardens. Japanese style bridges are designed out of either wood or stone and can be fashioned in a variety of ways. One of the first designs that comes to mind when one considers the topic are the recognizable arched bridges, or sometimes called moon bridges because of their crescent shape.
While being visually appealing, this design was more for a practical reason. Since many ancient Japanese gardens included vast lakes or ponds which islands dotted throughout, the garden designers need a way to allow small boats to pass underneath the bridges. The bridges would connect one or more islands closest to shore, while the further islands would only be accessible by boat.
In modern times the use of lakes and ponds is becoming smaller and smaller and garden designers are simply constructing bridges between the two shores of the water to connect pathways. They have still retained the traditional moon shaped bridge for aesthetic reasons more than anything else. It is also common to see Japanese garden designers use bridges to cover their gravel "lakes" and ponds, to give the visitor a sense that they are still traveling over a body of water.
Japanese Garden Buildings - Pavilions:
Among the many Japanese buildings you are likely to come across; you will see a lot of pavilions. Traditionally pavilions were used as viewing areas more than anything else and were almost always constructed with a particular view of the overall garden. The owner could stroll through his or her garden admiring the design and he or she might find themselves at one of the many pavilions that would dot the estate.
From there they would sit and stare out across their garden enjoying the tranquil and peaceful setting. Many times these Japanese garden buildings were used for entertaining guests as well. It was not uncommon for Japanese pavilions to be built out over a lake or pond where available, giving the viewer an opportunity to gaze out over the water.
Japanese Garden Buildings - Shoji:
Many traditional Japanese garden buildings you will see will typically include a shoji as a door or window. While most people will not recognize the name, there are few who will not immediately recognize the distinct look of the sliding paper covered doorways and windows that is so reflective of Japanese design. These sleek doors are designed to slide rather than swing open, which greatly conserves space.
Shoji are still used today in modern construction, although typically not as exterior walls. In those applications the paper doors and windows are built into sliding glass doors instead to protect them from the elements.
Common applications for these Japanese garden buildings include the above mentioned tea houses and pavilions. Not only do these doors provide a critical design element to the buildings, but they also make access easy. No tea house would look complete without its sliding shoji doors.
Japanese Garden Buildings - Covered Walkways:
One more element commonly found in Japanese gardens are the covered walkways you will see in many pictures. These walkways are provided for several reasons. Not only do they provide a sheltered connection between the various buildings on the estate, they also serve to divide up the grounds into courtyards that can then be designed as individual gardens.
The walkways also provide a viewing area for visitors to the gardens, without giving them access to the grounds themselves where foot traffic might cause irreparable harm to the gardens. These walkways have been in use for thousands of years and are still found today even in modern Japan.
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