Renshoji Tempe Guesthouse
A fast-moving stream of fist-sized rocks flows between mossy banks and under an asymmetrical stone plank bridge toward craggy rock cliffs.
Constructed within a tight vertical slot of space immediately adjacent to the reception rooms in Renshōji temple, the Fushotei garden is a powerful example of the spatial potential of traditional Japanese gardens. Although the space of the garden is quite constricted, it appears much larger than its actual size, through its connection to the interior space of the adjoining hall and the skillful use of perspective and layering in the garden design. The temple reception hall, built in the traditional sukiya style, has three adjacent tatami rooms facing the garden. A wide tatami-matted engawa (veranda) runs the length of the rooms—the depth of the veranda equaling the length of one tatami mat (1.8 meters or about six feet). Long low roof eaves stretch over the engawa and the garden. Together the engawa and the eaves extend the interior space out to the garden, effectively connecting them as one.
Layers of variously sized rocks enhance the sense of spatial depth of the narrow garden.
A tall stone chōzubachi (water basin) placed immediately adjacent to the engawa (veranda) connects the garden to the interior space of the temple guesthouse.
The depth of the garden itself is only about twice that of the engawa, with a tall concrete retaining wall holding back the earth that was excavated to make space for the reception hall. The rock arrangements and plantings in the karesansui (dry) garden completely conceal the concrete wall while creating visual depth and a strong sense of movement. The main feature of the garden is a dry waterfall, constructed at one end of the narrow slot of space. Large rocks, set one atop the other, compose the falls and give an impression of the movement of water. This movement is picked up by smaller rocks that also give a sense of tumbling down into a stream. The stream is formed by river rocks, winding among larger boulders and grassy mounds and under a stone plank bridge. As the “water” flows away from the waterfall, the space appears to open up. The skillful use of differently sized rocks—with the rocks growing in size as they move away from the waterfall—tricks the eye into perceiving a greater depth of space than actually exists.
Although the garden is carefully composed in a very constricted site, it is full of movement and constantly in flux. With a blend of evergreen and deciduous trees combined with shrubs, ferns, and ground cover, the shadows on the rocks created by the leaves are ever-changing. As the seasons turn, so do the leaves, with different plants becoming focal points at different times of the year. These feelings of movement and flux are important to the designer’s concept of connecting the garden to history through the passage of time observed in the seasonal changes and the continuously flowing “water.”
Renshōji, a jōdoshū (Pure Land Buddhist) temple, has a history of almost seven hundred years and continues to be a guiding authority for the people of the area. Shunmyo Masuno designed the garden to build on that history by expressing the value of the flow of guidance that comes from our ancestors. The dry waterfall and stream represent that flow, particularly the guiding teachings of the temple founder, Renshō Shōnin. The main tateishi (standing stone) represents Renshō Shōnin himself, as he watches over the single strands of water —or individual teachings—coming together to form the stream. It is easy for an individual to get swept away in the current of contemporary cares, but Fushotei (“Garden of Broad Illumination”) is designed to provide a quiet place of contemplation, a place to receive insight based on the ancient and ageless teachings.
Delicate trees and enormous boulders combine to create a feeling of shinzan-yukoku (depths of mountains and deep secluded valleys) in the compressed space of the garden.
Views of the huge rocks and carefully placed greenery hiding the concrete retaining wall were carefully designed to be controlled from both sitting and standing positions by the height of an adjustable bamboo blind.
A carved stone tōrō (lantern) by Nishimura Kinzō is positioned in front of a tall fence made with thin horizontal strips of bamboo held between vertical bamboo poles.