BY ANDREW R. DEANE
Of the thousands of questions posed in the Japanese Gardening Organization online forums, there are two recurring discussions: “What makes a Japanese garden a Japanese garden?” and “How do I approach creating a Japanese garden?” Like much of the art and culture of Japan, the garden can be both simple and complicated at once – a paradox represented in the Japanese word Yūgen (幽玄). In this work, A Japanese Garden Handbook, Andrew R. Deane cites garden historian Gunter Nitschke as suggesting that Yūgen describes “… an elegant beauty concealing profound depth, a beauty which lies within rather than without…” In other words, what appears to be a simple beauty on the surface may contain great depth in the making. This may partially explain how a Japanese garden can move us emotionally.
I was asked to participate in the Viewpoints essay for the Japanese Gardening Journal ‘Sukiya Living’ where the question posed was “Does one need to have a specific knowledge about Japan’s language, history, and culture to appreciate (or understand) the sukiya  living environment?” My contribution concluded that while a thorough knowledge of Japanese gardens, or, for that matter, Japanese culture, is not necessary to enjoy the beauty and serenity a Japanese garden may offer, having an understanding of Japanese garden aesthetics, forms, and elements can intensify the experience.
In this treatise, author Andrew Deane presents answers to the questions in an organized, easy-to-read, comprehensive handbook for anyone wishing to learn more about, create, or simply enjoy Japanese gardens on a more profound level. Following his linear presentation provides a foundation in the cultural influences, historical progression, and aesthetic principals that have produced the singular beauty that is a Japanese garden. He follows through with plain English discussions on the layout, materials, and features of Japanese gardening and how they may be applied to the garden canvas.
The Japanese Gardening Organization was founded at the request of 14th generation Master Builder, Kiyoshi Yasui (1925 – 2010), a sukiya craftsman nominated as National Living Treasure of Japan for his knowledge and talent in temple construction and restoration. He saw that the world was changing and the traditional Japanese method of passing on knowledge would not endure. His mission then, to share his knowledge and passion of sukiya architecture and gardens, is the foundation of this organization. Mr. Deane’s work in A Japanese Garden Handbook could not honor this mission more if he had written it with Yasui in mind.
Whether you are a student of Japanese gardening or art, a gardener wishing to create your own space, or an appreciative guest in Japanese gardens, A Japanese Garden Handbook provides a foundation of understanding and knowledge to help you in your appreciation and enjoyment of Japanese gardening.
Don Pylant, January 2016
Don D. Pylant founded and directed Japanese Gardening Organization Intl. from 2002 to 2020.
1. sukiya living – a complex term generally indicating the refined style and aesthetic elegance based on the Japanese tea ceremony and way of tea. In architecture, sukiya style focuses on the use of refined but natural materials an elegant simplicity.
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