Art Lake Golf Club - Nose, Hyogo Prefecture
An outdoor bath constructed of smooth granite is set within the raked pea gravel of the enclosed karesansui (dry) garden adjacent to the locker rooms and bathing areas.
The main garden encircles the pond, with the golf course extending beyond it, while the private karesansui (dry) garden wraps the northeast corner of the clubhouse.
Exiting the cavernous clubhouse of the Art Lake Golf Club toward the golf course, the visitor is met with a powerful scene of a large pond with a strong, tall waterfall at the opposite shore. The sight and sound of the water flowing quickly over the rocks into the pond is at once energizing and calming. This balance of contrasts—the Zen principle of creating a single unified whole from seemingly opposing parts—is fundamental to this garden.
The expansive garden is made of two distinct parts. The main garden is focused on water—the waterfall, stream, and pond—with islands of granite planted with black pine trees evoking the scenery of the Japanese Inland Sea.
The second garden is a secluded karesansui (dry) garden, which wraps a corner of the clubhouse building, allowing intimate views from the locker rooms and the traditional Japanese baths.
Two primary concepts, both intended to establish a sense of calmness and freedom, drove the overall garden design. First, rather than a direct view from the clubhouse to the golf course, as is typical, the vista should be toward the garden, with the golf course initially our of sight. Here tall “mountains” of earth and stone—artificially constructed in the mostly flat landscape—conceal the golf course behind them. The mountains appear quite natural, but a concrete foundation supports the enormous rocks that define the waterfall and buttress the earth. These rocks, used in their natural state, were excavated when creating the golf course.
The second concept stems from an important Zen notion, which in Shunmyo Masuno’s words is present in any “true Zen garden.” The principle is to create “a ‘world free of a sense of imprisonment,’ full of beauty and tranquility, and completely devoid of any sense of tension.” 1 This freedom and tranquility allows the viewer to let go of the cares of everyday life and focus on the beauty and enjoyment of being in natural surroundings. Masuno’s ability to create tranquil harmonious compositions with juxtaposed and contrasting elements—a calm pond and a roaring waterfall or a flat bed of pea gravel interrupted by layers of rough rocks—is the result of his long Zen training.
On entering the garden from the clubhouse, the land is flat with a wide path leading in two directions, some low ground cover, and a beach-like crescent of stone at the edge of the pond. The path continues to the left to the tea-room café, with its own small garden nestled within one end of the main garden. A glance in the direction of the café reveals a second, smaller waterfall across the water.
The power of the primary waterfall guides the visitor to the right as the path narrows, crosses a wood bridge, and winds through the layers of clipped shrubs and over stepping-stones, following the perimeter of the pond and circling back to the café. Adjacent to the café is a robust chōzubachi (wash basin), with the bowl carved out of a large roughly textured rock, and stone lanterns and trees emerging from thick clipped hedges of azalea and evergreen.
Surrounded by large rough boulders, the powerful waterfall commands the attention of the eyes and the ears, as water gushes over the rocks into the pond.
The raked pea gravel expanse of the private garden is punctuated by islands of long flat stones and mossy mounds topped with rough dark rocks.
A pond of shirakawasuna (white pea gravel) winds its way through a grassy expanse within the main garden at the Art Lake Golf Club.
While the views of the main garden from the clubhouse are appropriately expansive, the dry garden is revealed in a series of contained scenes only visible from the private bathing areas. Islands of stone and lush green ground cover dot the surface of the expanse of carefully raked white shirakawasuna pea gravel.
The islands slowly transform into long strips of stone emerging from the gravel sea, emphasizing movement and creating layers of space in the garden. A tall plastered wall bounds this refined dry garden while separating it from the lush green garden beyond. Although very different in their conception and composition, both gardens at the Art Lake Golf Club invite the visitor to leave behind the day’s troubles and regain a tranquil mind.
The gently curving cap of the carved stone tōrō (lantern) and the closely trimmed hedges contrast the rough landscape of the mountain and waterfall beyond.
The raked gravel “beach” draws the eye along the pond past the tea room and toward the mountains in the distance.
Interior and exterior are connected with a large window opening out to an outdoor bath in the private karesansui (dry) garden.
Many powerful elements—the long waterfall in the lower left, the large rock islands and bridges, and the refined traditional teahouse—come together to create a garden full of movement and energy.