Japanese Courtyard Gardens - Tsubo Niwa

Japanese Courtyard gardens are small gardens with a tsubo(Japanese measurement) being 3.3 square metres. The origin of the TSUBO NIWA starts with the traders and merchants in the MOMOYAMA and YEDO eras (1573-1867) when Kyoto brought in building reforms and the land allocated was in thin strips.The first courtyard gardens were a necessaty as without them the houses were cave like and suffocating in the summer heat. The challenge was to make a damp, foul shaded place into a place that was clean, ventilated, well maintained,drained and would refresh and relax the gardens owners.

The early gardens were in the open spaces between the house and storage buildings with the eaves, passageways and position of the pavements all being taken into consideration. The elements of a courtyard garden are similar to the elements of a tea garden, using grass, flowers, stone groupings and lanterns with some shade tolerant plants. The big difference is that in a courtyard garden they are not functional but ornamental. To ensure that the garden does not appear to be small everything is full size giving the illusion of it being part of a larger garden or that there is more than is visible to the naked eye.

The design principles of traditional courtyard gardens are suited, in the modern world, for small spaces on roofs, atriums or terraces, but long, long ago the name TSUBO-NIWA meant a garden in a glass jar! They are made not to walk in but to bring the natural world by the use of sounds, seasons, sunlight and wind into your living space.

Swaying bamboo, what’s your sound?

Windy whisper,

Breezy chatter,

Motion music all around.


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