Murinan is the former home and final residence of Yamagata Aritomo, a Meiji statesman and garden enthusiast. Yamagata worked with Ogawa Jihei on this garden and the attached two-story sukiya style house from 1892 to 1896. As a product of the Meiji period, this home represents a juxtaposition between a classic taste and the Western-influenced modernism that was influential in Japan at the time. The one hectare site is primarily covered with mowed lawn, but two yarimizu streams, clusters of stones and clipped shrubs line the water features that meander across the space. It is one of the finest residential gardens open to the public in Kyoto.
Yamagata Aritomo1, a member of the aristocracy and a veteran statesman the late 19th century, bought land in the Kusakawa-cho neighborhood and proceeded to build a villa and garden there in 1892, completing it in 1896. He hired Ogawa Jihei as his designer. Ogawa will reappear as the designer of a number of gardens in the Meiji period including Heian Shrine and Shinshin-an,and he had a hand in virtually all of those constructed in Kusakawa-cho.
In this case Ogawa created a stroll garden around two pairs of brooks and shallow ponds, all fed by water from the new canal. He "captured alive" (ikidori or shakkei) the entire Higashiyama mountain range through the device of two groves of trees growing in the area around the property. The trees form both the vertical elements and the horizontal trimming line to frame the mountains. Below the gap in the trees, the eye is drawn down a three-tiered cascade from which the water flows over a miniature rapids into the first pond. A second stream flows from the north part of the garden and is spanned by a bridge from which a rock composition at the confluence of the streams can be seen. Other such compositions are interspersed among the clipped shrubs in a way that draws the eye across the intervening lawn space.
A member of the so-called "literary" tradition and considered a progressive thinker in his time, Yamagata's preferences were toward what was known as the "naturalistic" rather than the more stylized gardens and limited palette of earlier periods. Despite this, the garden is firmly rooted in the Edo stroll garden tradition with Ogawa offering little innovation other than the introduction of some European plant materials and the deployment of patches of lawn around the buildings. The topiaried azalea, the use of shakkei to draw outside elements into the garden, and the revealing and hiding of views as one passes around a prescribed path are the techniques that structure the experience of the garden and would be recognizable to anyone familiar with gardens throughout the last two centuries.
1. Yamagata Aritomo (1838-1922) was born a samurai of the Yamaguchi clan. The members of this family were leaders in the 1866 revolt that ultimately brought down the Tokugawa shogun two years later. As a result, they were made noble after the Restoration. Aritomo served as Minister of Justice, President of the Privy Council, general in the Sino-Japanese War and Prime Minister. In addition to Murinan, he commissioned the gardens, Chinzan-so in Tokyo and Koki-an in Odawara.
Itoh Teiji. Space and Illusion. Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1973, p. 41.
Kuck, Loraine. World of the Japanese Garden: From Chinese origins to<
Ryoanji Temple, Kyoto
Only in the cloister
Could such a garden thrive, a soil where nature
Flowers in spiritual dryness,
Drawing an interior nurture
From sand and rock.
Where the labyrinth of illusion
No longer entangles the senses
Enmeshing vision in delusive lusters;
Where the lust of the eyes is silenced
And desire of forms, and names of forms,
Move to no visible end.
Those who planted here
Sowed no ephemeral seed
For the seasonal tempests to scatter,
But the silent root that ripens in detachment,
Flowers in renunciation.
Gardeners of eternity,
Those who planted here
Framed the garden in the image of a desert
And the desert in the image of a sea --
Then shrunk the seas to the mind's salt and, tasting,
Dissolved all thought away.
On these rocks no water breaks. Without attrition
Tides and currents in this ocean rest and revolve
In a void of sound, vortex of sand; perpetual
Circles enmesh and paralyzed sea and air:
The effigy of time and measure
Purged of time and measure
Becalmed on this dead sea of being
No wave moves, no wind of desire
Flexes the indolent sail.
But focussing its single eye
On dreamless immobility
The gulf like a burnished mirror
Regards the empty void.
In this dead sea of vision the surges
Merge without movement; the tides
Indifferent to flood and ebb
Freeze in a flux of haste.
The seagull without motion
Broods on the changeless waste,
Then sinks, his feathers frozen,
In a sand ocean.
Frail caravels who sail
This subtle gulf, morte mer,
Who stir with urgent keel
The fossil waters of the Great Mirage,
Or steer by lodestone to delusive ports:
In this calm beyond stasis, dead calm,
No compass points to the land,
No magnet of attachment
Guides the helmsman's hand
Through fifteen naked rocks in raked and rhythmic sand.
Here is no sea for the admirals,
The whalers, the merchants of cargoes --
Those finite venturers for the temporal haven.
These depths are destination,
And naufrage sweeter than harbor.
Shipwreck is haven on this inland sea.