Shunmyo Masuno

japanese garden


Designing gardens is for me a practice of Zen discipline. And there is no end to Buddhist training.


I cannot be landscape designer without being a resident priest at the same time and vice versa. Designing gardens, to me, is a means of engaging in a Zen task. I express Zen principles in the garden spaces. I design landscapes that best describe one’s state of mind achieved through religious practices.

Zen aims to teach one how to live, so it has no form. Literate Zen Buddhists built their gardens through Chinese poetry and garden designing. Against this backdrop, the concept of Karesansui, or dry landscape made mainly from rocks and white sand, came to be. Zen gardeners built gardens based on their findings through religious discipline. This includes the historic Muso Soseki, who played a major role in designing and producing gardens.

Japanese gardens are traditional gardens whose designs are accompanied by Japanese aesthetics and philosophical ideas, avoid artificial ornamentation, and highlight the natural landscape.

the inclusion of nature in design

There is nothing more enjoyable than creating a classical garden by arranging only materials that could be found in the natural world. There is no greater joy for me than expressing Japanese aesthetics and values in a limited space and experiencing first-hand the journey through space. The Japanese find beauty in impermanence, the constant transformation. The light and shadow, winds, the flowing of time, the changing seasons… Mother Nature never stays the same. I find it so appealing that we are part of this vast nature, with its state of constant change and uncertainty of the times. At the same time, designing gardens is for me a practice of Zen discipline. And there is no end to Buddhist training.