Imabari Kokusai Hotel
The garden at the Imabari Kokusai Hotel completely fills the outdoor spaces, connecting the various hotel spaces visually and physically.
The lobby of the Imabari Kokusai Hotel affords a view of two parts of the Bakushōtei, or Garden of the Great Waterfall and Pine Trees. Immediately adjacent is a karesansui (dry) garden designed as an extension of the lobby. A polished granite curb contains the white shirakawasuna (literally “White River sand,” or pea gravel) weaving between the rough strips of aji-ishi (a type of granite from Shikoku Island, also known as diamond granite). Low mounds with ground cover and maple trees anchor the dry garden to the building, as the main garden expands out from a level below and slopes upward toward the opposite traditionally designed wing of the hotel.
The strips of rough rock in the dry garden are mimicked in the horizontal layers of pea gravel, rock, and falling water of the main garden. Taking advantage of the natural steep slope of the land, the garden is designed with three separate waterfalls. Shunmyo Masuno designed the movement of the water across the site to have a calming effect. This relaxing atmosphere is punctuated by the largest fall, the thundering Great Waterfall, which “produces echoes deep in the body.” 1 This combination of dynamism and calmness is a hallmark of the garden.
Two enormous stone planks join together to create a bridge over the river of pea gravel, allowing visitors to move through the garden to the traditional washitsu (Japanese-style rooms) of the private dining wing.
The stone path and bridge meander through the garden past the smooth gravel river, rocky coastlines, and mossy hillsides toward the traditional wing of the hotel.
Small metal lanterns cast a soft glow over the garden, illuminating the path and creating a picturesque evening scene.
Inspired by the landscape of the Inland Sea, the plantings and rock groupings are arranged among the waterfalls and streams to suggest the nearby scenery. The hotel building surrounds the garden on three sides, with a traditional teahouse tucked into the greenery in the upper garden on the open side. Standing symbolically near the center of the garden, a beautiful red pine acts as focal point. When viewed from anywhere within the hotel or while moving through the garden, the composition of water, rocks, and plants is well balanced and evokes a strong sensory response. The garden is created to change with the seasons—the azaleas bloom in the late spring and early summer, the maple trees from Kyoto turn red in the autumn, while the pine trees remain green throughout the year.
The garden is designed for strolling as well as seated viewing, and a path pieced together with large stones leads through it over a sturdy aji-ishi bridge and through smooth expanses of pea gravel among the rocks and trees. Stepping- stones mark the way through the foliage to the teahouse, where the garden becomes denser and more inwardly focused, and views back to the hotel are blocked by the trees. The design of the roji (inner garden path) leading to the teahouse emphasizes tranquility and simplicity within the dynamism of the larger garden. Near the teahouse, water springs forth from a low carved rock reminiscent of a chōzubachi (water basin) and flows down into the garden, winding through streams and passing over the various waterfalls. At the lowest part of the garden, tucked under the dry garden that extends out from the lobby, the water gathers its force in a thunderous drop over a tall wall of rough rock.
The Great Waterfall is framed in the windows of the restaurant on the level below the lobby, visually revealing to patrons what others above can only hear and feel but not see, and creating yet another changing view of this expansive garden.
Conveying a strong sense of movement, the powerful waterfall is juxtaposed with the black pine trees expressing stillness.
Rounded stepping-stones move from the garden under the eaves of the traditional teahouse and up to the small square nijiri-guchi (“crawl-in entrance”).
Connecting the interior of the teahouse to the garden, stepping-stones progress through multiple layers of space embodied by different materials on the ground.