Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Kyoto's Saihoji Temple and its 700 year old Moss garden ( Koko-dera )

I travel with a strict balance of planning ahead and winging it.
Truth be told I prefer spontaneity and I just like to walk and see what I find.
But Kyoto is a formal city and it doesn't really like drop in visits.

On the way to our destination that was on the outskirts of Kyoto, we passed by promising signs that the garden might live up to expectations.

Isn't this main door to a private residence magazine worthy?
We were so lucky to be in Kyoto as the leaves were turning.  
The leaves were earlier by a few weeks than normal which was fortuitous and there are two high seasons in Kyoto: one is the cherry blossom season and the other is the changing of the autumn leaves.
We were headed to the Zen Buddhist temple called Saiho-ji that has a garden that that was originally founded in 749 as a villa for one of the ancient royal family members but was turned into the present function in 1339.
The entrance had the usual austerity of a Zen temple.
It was also very strict in other ways.
You had to get pre-approval to gain entry.

One has to write a handwritten letter to the temple with your personal details but also an enclosed addressed stamped postcard for them to then send you their invite.

No last minute planning there.
So my friend in Australia had to send the letter as the UK don't do self-addressed postage for overseas letters.

The price is the equivalent to US $30 for one person.
It isn't cheap compared to even the private gardens in the UK hence this temple makes millions of dollars a year in admission fees.
Then just when you think I have walked in and now I can just be on my way and take some snaps,
you are reminded that you have to join / sit through a Buddhist chanting ritual.
One waits in a holding hall and then are ushered in the main temple to sit on the tatami floor. with a desk with information, 
the prayer book in Japanese, and a calligraphy pen with a bamboo stick where you can write a wish.

I can read the two basic Japanese alphabets and 
wasn't reading the Chinese characters but they were all reading so fast that I just had to hum the rest.
The ritual was done by two Buddhist monks and 
took about twenty minutes.

The theory behind this is that they want you in a right frame of mind before you enter the garden.
In Japan, most temples will have a natural spring water source where you can also clean your hands and rinse your mouth.
While it seems obvious the garden in Asia and 
particularly in Japan is a form of meditation.
 
The cultivation and maintenance of a garden is a reminder and symbolic of the change of seasons, the cycle of growth, death and renewal, the impermanent nature of things.
Even the curvature of a path and the rocks laid out was considered in meaning and function by all the monks who created and maintained this garden.
( Straight paths are avoided as feng shui principles dictate that evil spirits travel in straight lines.)
The revered master gardener was also a monk called 
Muso Suseki.
 
He was part of the aristocracy and the most revered Zen teacher and created not only this garden but numerous other famous and acclaimed gardens.
Many of the features and the placements of the tea house and rills are still in place according to the Muso's plans from the 1300's.
Interestingly, the new name of the Moss temple is a new name.
 
 It was due to the moss having grown in the gardens during the turbulent and huge change during the Meiji period.
 
This was the era Japan was slowly shedding the shogunate system and opening its borders.

The garden now contains about 120 varieties of moss.

But this garden has had other guardians such as the famous monk called Honen who was another pivotal and influential figure in Japanese Buddhism.
I know that many tourists to Kyoto don't make it here because most don't realize the protocol involved in visiting one of the most famous sites in the city.
So this is just a sharing post for you to see the gardens.
I have posted the pictures in the order as I took them as the path is one way and it encircles the grounds.
I will do another garden post only because even though I myself am not a huge gardener, Kyoto has the most amazing gardens.
Those with green thumbs or with historical interest of garden design among the readers will know that 
Kyoto is to gardens what Rome is to churches.
This garden is important in its historic significance and for being one of the oldest continuously used gardens in the world.
It also shows how to create a feature of something that was originally not wanted but now is famous for moss.
In fact so much so that there are many Japanese gardens that copy this style.
While I hope you also get the chance to go, 
I hope it inspired some gardeners and others to try and use something negative and turn it into a positive feature.
I couldn't get an answer to when the rowboat was installed as the lake isn't really so vast it needs a boat that size but it was more of a meditative and contemplative feature.
The feature made sense once I walked into the tea house that was just opposite.
When one sits to sip tea...
one looks out onto the rounded window that frames the view of the rowboat.
What was so interesting for a novice in garden design like me was that the garden was a guided one way path.
It was not an open garden with multiple routes 
but a gentle guide and walk without having to stop and 
get distracted by a choice of whether to go right of left.
But it didn't feel forced and even no go areas was just a stick covering the path.
Everywhere you looked was a perfect shot and and composed still.
The moss was maintained beautifully and there were gardeners that would sweep the moss to reveal the green color and the velvet texture that made it look like a luxurious carpet.
This was also a garden that inspired many western gardeners particularly French ones.
While I would have like to sit and reflect in one of the temples and tea houses, the time allowed in the garden after the ritual was an hour and a half.
But I hope you enjoy the pictures and am sorry that
 I couldn't better capture the mood.

But I did capture the koi fish wiggling away and 
leaving a zig zag in its wake.

Well that is the exit door and marks the end of the tour.
  Hope you enjoyed it and felt some of the peace and calm that many of us did when exiting.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

PAD Fair 2014 London - Best of Decorative Arts, Fine Art, and Furniture

It's a busy week in London with two fairs to choose from. 
Frieze Art Fair is also on but 
I decided to go to the PAD Fair  today in Mayfair.
Frieze is an event in Regent's Park where modern art dealers hold court but I stopped enjoying it a few year ago so decided a mix of fine art, decorative arts, and furniture was a better bet. 

Private galleries from Europe display their finest wares and the items that will be copied by IKEA in a few years time like this multi-limbed brass lighting fixture.

There are modern reproductions of furniture inspired by antique mid century furniture that had brass accents which I love.

Brass pipes reconstituted as a console which 
I might get my builder to recreate.

Mirrors with enamel and brass detail.

Some galleries display all their exquisite chatchkes that are available for purchase if you have a big enough budget.

But what I realized is that lighting makes everything look better and beautiful objects look priceless.

This particularly drew me in as I love antiquities.


The problem is that this sort of direct museum lighting is also very expensive...

Some things were beautiful such as this ancient mosaic that was reframed but you would have thought the frame could have highlighted the piece better so one must not have automatic 
dealer knows best mentality.

I found chairs that I will purchase when I win the lottery.
These are from Gustave Serrurier-Bovy who was a Belgian designer and architect. 
He was one of the creators of the Art Nouveau movement. 

This probably explains why I fell in love with these chairs at first glance. The accents up close were flawless.
The chairs were apparently upholstered in white originally.
The pair of chairs were asking £120,000 but there are only 6 editions and the other pairs are in museums.

 
They were still available at Oscar Gaf and 
they had so many other beautiful artefacts.


The other runner up to favorite stall was this range of furniture from James-Paris.

Furniture has been reaping huge financial gains in the auction world and now isn't just about lasting 10 good years of function but people are looking long term as artifacts.

I really liked the brass lights and danish shelving.  
I would have taken the tree trunk if 
they gave it to me in the mood I was in.




Such layouts weren't just for interior decorators but astute investors looking for versatile investments.
( I eavesdroped when I could.)



It was like going to a show home where everything was for sale except for the building itself.

Some pieces would be "THE" piece that rooms would be designed around such as this corner cabinet and mini tables.

A feature of this fair I adore is that one can be up close and really inspect and enjoy museum pieces without a glass 3 feet away.

The workmanship on this gold artifact could only be appreciated a few inches away.

Another item on my lottery shopping list was this ancient Persian alabaster iron vase.  I was very careful with my breathing walking around this otherwise I would have to be an indentured servant to the gallery for 5 lifetimes.

There were a few items that were very fashion victim-y.

I don't buy the whole limited edition for the sake of it business as was the case of this special mould acrylic side table by some artist.

And no this isn't part of the latest Anya Hindmarch bag collection but a pithy statement that will cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars that a crazed psychotic serial killer would do for free.

But where else do guests get to ponder their purchases on such pretty areas.

There was also fine art on show but
 I didn't take too many pictures of those as that was the standard range not particularly unique to PAD.
But I like this arrangement of art.

Most stalls were like the one below where everything was for sale - picture on the wall, stool and table.

There was something for everyone.
Used samurai armour anyone?


Benches that might be bought by some corrupt municipalities.

Can't you just see a bachelor financier coerced to buy this coffee table by his interior decorator/entourage.

I never thought an Egyptian mummy would be appropriate home decor until I realized that this would be a perfect replacement for a grandfather clock.

I have never seen an Indian headdress more beautiful.  
Each and every feather was perfect.

Standards are so high at the fair that a stall like this I would have normally been salivating over just didn't make me dizzy after the other chairs I saw.
There was a special rest area designed by the David Collins studio.

Piled up bottles of Ruinart champagne.

The outdoor area looked out on the remaining green 

of Berkeley Square.

The fair will be on for another couple of days so I would suggest you visit if you can.
It's also held in Paris in the spring time so 
do put that in your diary if you are near.