Japanese gardens are ordinarily defined by such adjectives as quiet and tranquil. They are places for escape from modernity, a private retreat where one can think and contemplate. They do not have to be large or lavish, but they should reflect a kind of simple, natural beauty. The gate to a Japanese garden should reflect those qualities.
Purpose of the Gate
The gate should be warm and inviting. A Japanese garden is as much a state of mind as it is a place. It ushers a visitor into your personal, private space. This is where you meditate.
When thinking about a gate for a Japanese garden it, is good to think of the famous Zen Koan, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” There are numerous possible answers to this question. It is unanswerable. It is a dumb question. It is the sound of ringing in your ears. The answer should be intuitive and individual.
You might ask: “What is the best gate for my Japanese garden?” It depends on what you like. If you copy someone else’s gate, then it is no longer a Japanese garden gate. Above all, your garden and your gate should be tranquil. There are some traditional materials and forms that can serve as a general guide.
The best material for a gate to a Japanese garden is wood. Wood comes from nature. Each piece of wood is individual. The color and texture of wood and the whorls of its grain are splendid to admire. Wood is not mass produced. A tree grows, assuming an individual shape, identity and natural beauty. The same for a piece of wood. A Japanese garden is a link to nature. Iron or plastic is contaminated by modernity. Redwood and cedar are good woods. Any wood with attractive grain or texture will do. Bamboo will give a gate an Asian look. When wood is weathered, it is improved. It looks more rustic and natural. It blends in.
If you are restricted by space for an entrance to your garden, you can build a wing fence. A wing fence is fastened to a wall or building and protrudes into the garden. There is the koetsu-gaki, or low-wing fence, and the sode-gaki, or high-wing fence.
Panels, tokusa, can be used for both fences and gates. They take advantage of the natural color and texture of wood. They usually consist of a frame that holds a panel of woven slats, often made of bamboo, but also made of other kinds of wood. The slats can be horizontal or vertical.
Choosing a Style
To give your gate an authentic Japanese look, look at photos of gates to Japanese gardens. Choose one you like and alter it according to your budget, the wood you like, the size of your garden, and your personal taste. Remember, it is your gate and your private space, not someone else’s. What do you like? Do not paint your gate. Allow your visitors to enjoy the natural wood. Japanese people sometimes put arches over their gates, but arches are not necessary, especially a gate to a small garden. An arch can be flat, peaked or rounded, your choice.