[Book review] A study on history, use and management on Japanese Gardens in Europe

A study on history, use and management on Japanese Gardens in Europe

From gardens created after the World War II in Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France

First published on September 01, 2018
By Koichi Kobayashi / CreateSpace / Amazon KDP
Paperback
ISBN-10: 1-726-34189-5
ISBN-13: 978-1-726-34189-9
38 Pages
$ 10

Koichi Kobayashi is a Japanese-American urban and landscape architect currently based in Seattle, Washington. Born in Kurayoshi, Tottori, Japan in 1945, Kobayashi has more than 50 years’ experience in a diverse field of landscape architecture, including planning, design, teaching, and community development. He is a 1972 graduate of the University of California, Berkeley, and in 1968, of Kyoto University.

Introduction by the author (edited by the reviewer):

This is a study on history, use and management on Japanese Gardens in the central parts of Europe covering Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium and France. Most of these gardens were designed by Japanese, whom I mentored, studied with and built gardens together after the World War II.

Purpose of this study is to provide a brief historical background for each garden, to identify uses originally planned and currently observed, and to obtain more detailed information from each garden surveyed on management and maintenance.

This study is based on the on-site observation of gardens and conversation with gardeners, administrators and volunteers, literature research and survey on questionnaires.

Index:

  • Photographic introduction of Gardens
  • Designers and contact
  • Questionnaires sent to and responses from Gardens
  • History and Use of Gardens
  • Evaluation of Japanese Gardens in Europe Gardens Koichi Visited
  • Proposal to establish “Japanese Garden Network of Europe (JGNE)”

While there are several works about the gardens in Japan, including our own works, there are only a few about Japanese gardens in America, Europe and the rest of the world.

Being a European, the history of Japanese gardens in Europe is most interesting for me and I bought this book as soon as I found it.

While it is often difficult to find information about who designed a (modern) Japanese garden in Japan, the designers of Japanese gardens in Europe are all well known and listed in a short overview above the gardens described in this book.

The questionnaires were answered by people currently in charge of the gardens and include questions about the visitors, the use, the maintenance and the future of the gardens. What seems interesting is, that a lot of Japanese gardens in America have a mission statement, while almost all European gardens are missing these.

The history and use of the gardens described often copy the answers from the questionnaires. However, every description of a garden comes with a plan and a detailed list of important elements and intentions of the designers.

The evaluation of Japanese gardens is short but most interesting. In a diagram, Koichi Kobayashi sorts the gardens he visited into four categories: (traditional) evocation with nature & spirituality, placement of symbolic structure and features, (modern) art/ aesthetic: visual, expression of artistry.
Most of the gardens in Europe are sorted within “expression of artistry” and “evocation with nature & spirituality”. Few gardens have a “placement of symbolic structure and features” and “art/ aesthetic: visuals”.
The garden of my hometown and another garden by the same designer then seem to lack everything that people see as basic elements of a Japanese garden: no evocation with nature and no symbolic features. Only artistry and visuals seemed important here.

This is very important since one of these gardens, Planten un Blomen, might face a temporary demolition.
After reading this study, this might be, in my opinion, a great chance to give young and promising landscape designers from Japan and Germany (the place where the garden is located) the possibility to create a new, modern Japanese garden there, which might provide a fitting space for the population of the city of these times.

The book promises a study based on on-site observation and conversation with people, who work with these gardens. After reading the book I have the feeling, that Koichi Kobayashi only shared a little bit of the data he collected. While it is interesting to read about the history of all gardens, I believe it would have been possible to go deeper into the importance of the gardens for the local population. A more detailed description of how the gardens changed due to a lack of professional maintenance, would also have been of great interest.

A big point what made this book not so easy to read were the many spelling errors. Even the names of the gardens and cities (Humburg instead of Hamburg, Augustusburg instead of Augsburg etc.) were misspelled more than once and always in a different way.
The book gives the impression that the author collected his sorts and didn’t read it twice before publishing it. This is very sad due to the very interesting content. I hope he will correct the major mistakes in the future.


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