Koyabu Sensei

My karate teacher, Tomaki Koyabu shihan ("teacher of teachers", or master), designed a Japanese garden my front yard, transforming a non-descript corner into an exquisitely beautiful little world within a world.






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Making a Japanese garden is very different from making a Western gardening. Process and forms must adhere to fundamental traditions, philosophy, and elements, some of which are shown in these watercolours.

There must be a place of refuge, a quiet place where human constructs are separate from, yet in harmony with, the rest of the garden. A chair sits on a brick half-circle, beneath the blossoming plum.

The little stone lantern embodies the human spirit of the garden, a five-part 'head, shoulders, torso, hips, and legs' that keeps watch with its light in the night.

In the fledgling garden, when the rocks and earth were still just bare bones, with some volunteer poppies, six chickadee babies fledged in it. Five of them flitted quickly to protective greenery, but one brave little soul stayed in the open, risking all to drink in the sun's warmth

The fall leaves fell into the ribs of the dry pond, accentuating the pattern carefully made to imitate the actions of nature, showing how the human and natural work in harmony

Rocks edge the dry pond and stream, feeding it as if they were formed by a debris torrent. First morning light plays up the integration of the contrived and natural.

A Japanese garden must have a path that encompasses this world within a world. The human-made objects must be in stark contrast to the curves of nature, to play them up while fitting perfectly with them. Signs of the forces of nature that formed it must be subtle and clear.