Japanese Gardens: a Kyoto Introduction with Gavin Campbell

Japanese Gardens: a Kyoto Introduction with Gavin Campbell


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Few cultures have gardened with a greater passion than the Japanese. Explore more with a local Kyoto expert with an introduction to these fascinating spaces.

The attention to garden detail in Japan is unlike any other culture. Their spellbinding tranquility and their bold use of color, shape and rhythm, gardens are one of Japan’s greatest artistic triumphs. And nowhere is there a greater concentration of these masterworks than Kyoto. This tour provides a basic overview of these mesmerizing spaces of emerald green and ancient stone.

“Hope he continues to do these classes and hope to see him soon in Japan.”

We begin with the aesthetic principles that guide their construction and maintenance. These include “mono no aware” (the passing of all things), “wabi” (the beauty of austerity) “shakkei” (borrowed scenery), “miegakure” (hide and reveal) and “ma” (space or interval).

“Dr. Campbell was fantastic”

With these fundamental building blocks as our guide, we then delve deep into a number of representative gardens, including the Zen rock garden of Ryōanji, the tea garden of Kōtō-in, the warrior garden at Kinkakuji, and a Kyoto merchant’s townhouse garden. Each of these jewels illuminates basic design principles, while also showing how the needs of different clients gave rise to different gardening styles.

“Conveyed a passion for (his) subject, which was delightful. Thank you!”

Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, this interactive seminar is led by Gavin Campbell, a Context expert who (normally) regularly guides our “Beyond Zen: Kyoto Garden Tour.”."

Gavin received a Ph.D. in history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and came to Kyoto in 2001. He is a Ph.D. professor of history at Doshisha University. His teaching and research revolve around Japan's cultural encounters with the West, particularly during the Edo, Meiji, Taisho and early Showa periods (1600-1940), and he has published on the history of foreign tourism and of Protestant missionaries in Japan. To further explore Japan's global cultural encounters, he is currently writing a book on the history of Japanese menswear from the 1600s through the early 20th century. He is also an expert on Kyoto geisha culture and a frequent participant in geisha entertainment.

This conversation is suitable for all ages

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.