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Hanadaen, Koshigaya no.1

2016.06.14

Have you heard about a large scale Japanese Garden created in the Heisei era in Koshigaya, Saitama prefecture, Japan? Ten minutes bus journey from Koshigaya Station, Hanadaen opened in Heisei four (1992 in western calendar) and was constructed on the flat land surrounded by neighboring residential property. The designer was Ken Nakajima whose portfolio included designed landscapes for museums, hotels, and Japanese Gardens abroad. In the later stage of his career he created many large-scale public gardens.

Nakajima started his career making small-scale gardens but in later part of his life progressed onto larger landscape projects, some over four hectares. I choose Hanadaen garden as today’s topic, because it is a good example of a landscape in which Nakajima faced difficulty in terms of the site and subsequently overcame these issues to produce the magnificent landscape we see today. A garden that fully expresses the deep nature and sole personifies Japanese gardening.

As a public park, Hanadaen had several restrictions in design process compared with other traditional Japanese gardens. Firstly there were the typical requirements for public use and maintenance such as a need for incorporating universal design principals that require large open spaces and wide paths that vehicles can drive through.

Secondly, Nakajima thought it important to install interpretation of traditional Japanese garden design theories down to earth. This is Nakajima’s hospitality making the garden accessible to all visitors at various educational levels at this age.

Throughout the landscape there are various devices and ideas that are borrowed from other famous traditional gardens such as Katsura Rikyu, and visitors have enjoined picking up on these themes and ideas. He also made sure to apply familiar elements for all visitors such as flowers, autumn color, and there is a strong emphasis on the mirroring effect of water.
Thirdly there was a need of administrative procedures to complete this public facility. Nakajima needed to reason all decisions and explain it to the government. This procedure is something which he never experienced in creation of private gardens.

The biggest attraction of this garden is a set of huge water mirrors, into which a waterfall and a stream pours. Its length is long in an east-westerly direction following the traditional Japanese manner. The bank and capes have a sequence of curved lines that emphasize the depths of the landscape. Islands and peninsulas visually divide the pond into three parts. The largest of these features an intimate, human-scale stone bridge and a wooden bridge surrounded by plantings of Irises; these are arranged so as to bring contrast and interest within this otherwise expansive garden. Unfortunately at this time of visit, the water level of the pond was 20cm lower than usual so that I could not admire the best of its appearance.


Stones by bank are arranged individually rather than in groups. Despite lacking the delicate complexity of a traditional Japanese garden, this decision seems to be appropriate for this scale of the garden. Also, Nakajima created many suhama shores to bring smoothness and simplicity delivering contemporary impression of the landscape.

Also worthy of note is the use of visible and invisible elements in the garden. There is an invisible element by the smaller surface of the pond that merges in front of visitor when they enter the gate. Visually veiling the larger surface of the water sitting at its back, Nakajima let visitors imagine the existence of large body of water by the ‘sound’ of water pouring into the front pond. Furthermore, he used a sequence of path and undulation of topography to maximize the expectation of visitors for what is coming up next; this is one of genuine method of Japanese garden.

One criticism I have with the design is the outer path around the edge of the garden. I should say it is visually dull. It is understandable that there is a necessity for wider path in terms of maintenance and public use. However, I believe, Nakajima could have weaved the main path around the pond in a much more dramatic way with changes in elevation so as to make the journey more dynamic.

Yoshiki Toda

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