GINRINSŌ - Company Guesthouse, Hokone, Kanagawa Prefecture
The guesthouse building sits on the north edge of the T-shaped site, with a gravel court on the east side in front of the entry and the main garden stepping uphill from the building on the south side.
Located in the mountain resort area of Hakone, the Ginrinsō garden is designed
with the site and the specific visitors in mind. The garden complements a guesthouse for the company from which the garden gets its name—a company that originally made its money from herring fishing. The guesthouse, planned for workers who typically go for a relaxing weekend stay, has a design reminiscent of a traditional sukiya-style inn, which spreads across the top (the north side) of the T-shaped site. The garden wraps the perimeter of the site but mostly extends out to the south, along the stem of the T.
The primary views of the main area of the garden are visible from the guestrooms and the common spaces. Traditional tatami-matted guestrooms offer framed scenes of the expansive lawn leading to a pond, which is backed by a hill featuring a tall two-tiered waterfall. The hill emphasizes the vertical dimension of the garden and also gives the suggestion of something beyond.
The garden path starts from the curved bridge at the edge of the pond near the guesthouse and climbs through the garden to the top of the waterfall for a view back to the guesthouse and the mountains beyond.
Subtle nighttime lighting enhances the colors and forms of the main elements of the garden, creating views different from those seen during the day.
The garden visible from the bathing spaces features a cylindrical stone chōzubachi (water basin) and a single maple tree in front of an arrangement of rocks and shrubs with trees behind.
Sturdy rock retaining walls contain the garden and border the gravel-covered approach and entry court of the Ginrinsō guesthouse.
Carefully composed for balanced views when seen from both the interior of the guesthouse and while walking through it, the garden offers a variety of experiences—both for the eyes and the mind.
Stepping-stones lead from the guesthouse out to the garden, where the visitor can traverse the lawn and then cross the pond on a gently curving bridge.
From the pond, a gravel path climbs up and continues behind the hill. It winds through dense masses of clipped azaleas and loops through a heavily wooded section of the garden, reminiscent of a mountain trail. The path continues to the top of the hill—the starting point for the ten-meter-high waterfall, where views unfold back to the guesthouse and the mountains beyond. The path provides varied scenes and moments of discovery, from the quiet solitude of a secluded mountain trail to a moment of pause on the bridge, observing the colorful ornamental carp in the pond and listening to the water splashing off the rocks in the waterfall.
With its tall height and continuous sound, the stepped waterfall is a focal point in the garden and also draws the viewer’s eye into the high depths of the garden.
Tucked into the northwest corner of the site, a smaller garden designed to be viewed from the baths is much more enclosed and private, separated from the main garden by a wall. It features rough rocks set into a hill and interspersed with plants, as well as a stone chōzubachi (wash basin), reached by stepping- stones leading through the pea gravel surface in the foreground. Low mounds, green with ground cover and interposed within the pea gravel, form the base of the rocky hill. A few special trees, chosen for their form and seasonal color, are strategically placed on the hill for visual emphasis and focus.
As visitors generally arrive on a Friday evening and depart on a Sunday, the main area of the Ginrinsō garden incorporates subtle lighting for nighttime viewing. Concealed in hedges and behind rocks, the lighting apparatus is imperceptible during the day. At night, it illuminates specific trees and objects, like the curving bridge and the stone lantern positioned at the edge of the pond between the bridge and the waterfall. The lighting pattern is varied during the two nights of a visitor’s stay, allowing the pleasure of discovering different ways to see and experience the garden.
The gently arched bridge connects the lawn adjacent to the guesthouse to the meandering path, which steps up the hillside through the hedges and into the densely planted trees.
Tiled terraces and long roof eaves extend the interior space of the reception buildings into the garden, while the pond and islands of the garden move under the terraces to bring nature inside.