the Forbidden City and Heian Imperial Palace

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The Forbidden City is one of the most famous palaces in the world, and the biggest palace within China, and as the residence of the royal family, the Forbidden City experienced twenty-four emperors and their families. The Dadairi Palace of Heian Period in Japan also provided private residence for the royal family, and both Palaces imitate the construction style of the Chang’an City, which is the royal residence of Sui Dynasty (581-618) and Tang Dynasty (618-907). In the following essay, I am going to compare the main palaces of the two royal Palaces and the functions of the palaces.

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Chang’an City is in square-shape, and the whole city is a symmetry construction that separated into west and east sections by a main street called “ Zhuque”, and at the north of the city, the Imperial Palace was placed on the end of the north axes, the palace is divided into the Front Court and the Back Court, three main halls in the Front Court, and one main halls surrounded with other smaller halls were located in the Back Court. In addition, the palace was surrounded by nine gates.

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The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from Ming dynasty (1368-1644) to the end of Qing Dynasty (1636-1912) and was the heart of civilization for nearly five hundred years. Zhu Di the emperor of Ming Dynasty was the one who decided to tear down the old Kublai Khan’s palace and built the new Forbidden City, and enhanced the Great Wall at the same time. The construction of the Forbidden City took fourteen years after ten-year preparation, and there are nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-nine rooms and half inside the palace. It is said there were ten thousand rooms in the heavenly palace, the mortal palace should not have more rooms than heavenly palace, in case of offending immortals, therefore the Forbidden City was built with half room smaller. The whole Palace is shaped in a large rectangular and separated by the high walls and the moat from the rest of west Beijing, people can only see the gold roof from the outside. As the largest wooden complex in the world, and was completed in year 1420, some of the building technique remains mystery.

Similar to the Chang’an Palace, the whole Forbidden City is divided into two parts, the outer (front) Court for ceremonial purpose and the inner (back) Court for living purpose. The main palaces are all seating on the symmetry axes. And the first three great halls on the axes are the heart of the outer Court, which standing on high marble stairs that raised on more than two stories above the court yard. The entrance of the outer Court called the main Meridian Gate, placed on south end of the Palace, which is the tallest gate of the Forbidden City with five small gates, the central gate is for emperors only, and sometimes offers to the greatest scholars, and after the entrance gate is the Gate of Supreme Harmony, the courtyard that the emperor gathered the highest government officials and held the courts, and after this gate is the first main hall called the Hall of Supreme Harmony, even it is the most important hall, but the hall is only used for the key events. Followed the Hall of Supreme Harmony is the Hall of Middle (central) Harmony, the reason of why this hall used the name of “middle”, is “middle” means unbiased, only being free from prejudice can achieve harmonies and progresses. The function of the Hall of Middle Harmony is a rest and preparation place for emperors before events. The last main hall is called the Hall of Preserving Harmony, in Ming Dynasty, this hall was used for changing for emperors, but during Qing Dynasty, being specifically when after Qianlong emperor, the placed started to held national examinations every four years. What is more, besides the main halls located on the central axes, the section on the west of the axes is called the Hall of Military Eminence, and on the east, is the Hall of Literary Glory, it is obvious that the civil officials and the military officials are separated. In additional, two more gates are placed on west and east sides of the front Court for the officials.

Following the symmetric axes of the palace to the north, the next construction is the third gate called Gate of Heavenly Purity, which is the entrance of the inner Court. Different from the front Court, back Court has more rooms and many private courtyard are created by concubines and members of the imperial house. And after the Gate of Heavenly Purity, only three palaces remain on the south-north axes, which are the Palace of Heavenly Purity, Hall of Union, and Palace of Earthly Tranquility, which are the residences respectively for the emperor, the empress and the emperor’s mother. Then the last gate on the axes at the north is the Gate of Divine Might. And like the outer Court, the inner Court is also divided into left and right sections by the central palaces, but the there is no distinction of the west and east Courts, they are all for the royal family members, maidens and eunuchs.


In Heian Period (749-1185), the capital city (Heian-kyo) was also learnt from Chang’an City, since it was the period that influenced deeply by Chinese culture, and the capital was divided into west and east city by a main street, and at the north end of the city was the Imperial Palace. significantly, reassembly to the Chang’an Imperial Palace and the Forbidden Palace, after two Gates on the south end, three main halls seated on the axes of the Front Court for emperors dealing with government affairs, officials worked at west and east sides of the Front Court, moreover, the west front court and the east front Court had resemblances, both Forbidden City and Dadairi chose to separate military departments and civil departments, and arranged military officials on the west and civil officials on the east, and this arrangement was learning from Chang’an Palace. Following the north-south axes, the inner Court was after the three main halls, and several main halls located on the axes provided the living halls for the emperor and empress, and on the west and east of the main hall were the residences for royal members and servants. Finally, the Gate at the north of the palace separated the whole Palace from the rest of the Heian-kyo.

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According to the Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari), a literature written between 1001-1008, desicribed the imperial life of Genji, who is a son of an ancient Janpanese emperor, and lived in the Imperial Palace of Heian period, it is a love story about Genji and his concubines, on the other hand the book introduced the imperial life of Heian period and showed the Heian Palace to the readers. The author is a female literary in Heian period, whose brother is a government official, even the name of the palace halls in the book were named mostly by plants and different from the real Palace, but the documentary illustrations of the palace in the novel, resemble to the real Imperial Palace in a large extent, which the Palace used three main halls divided the front Court into west and East, and one main hall separated the back Court into half and half, from Court for working and back Court for living. Therefore, the Tale of Genji also offered a reference of the construction of Heian Imperial Palace.

In conclusion, the two Imperial Palace both learnt from ancient city, Chang’an about it’s constructions and layouts of the official departments, and had the same symmetry structure, it is a good way to organize the function of the palace and keep a harmony, also both Palace lasted for a long period of time, which indicates the reasonable of the layouts. Besides the similarities, since the construction of the Forbidden City was more recent, the building technique was more advance, and the scale is bigger than the Dadairi Palace. As for the Dadairi Palace, it applied the symmetry layouts earlier and the Heian period was the first period that accepted outer culture and used into their country. Therefore, both Palace are the outstanding examples of Asian Imperial Palaces.

Baidu. “Baidu Baike.” Last modified March 27, 2017,
Jinglun Wan, The Forbidden City: A City in the City (Beijing: The Forbidden City, 2014), 1-249.
The Palace Museum. “Time Travel in the Forbidden City.” Last modified March 27, 2017,
Baidu. “Baidu Wenku.” Last modified March 27,2017,
Youtube. “National Geography.” last modified March 27, 2017,
Wikipedia. “Forbidden City.” Last modified March 27, 2017,
Shenlituxing. “Kyoto: Japanese Ancient Capital with Thousand Years History” Sina Blog (2010), accessed March 27, 2017.
Murasaki Shikibu. The Tale of Genji. Translated by Royall Tyler. New York: Penguin, 2006.
Wikipedia. “Heian Period.” Last modified March 27, 2017,

The Moon Rising over Matsushima

One aspect of Matsushima that Bashō references as being particularly beautiful is the moon rising over it.  He contemplates the moon rising over the islands before beginning his journey. He comments on the rising moon reflecting on the sea, and then seeks out lodging. In his room, he describes looking out the window as filling him with mystery and wonder, and his companion Sora writes a poem…Continue reading


Bridges in Japanese Gardens



Traditional Japanese gardens, like the Nitobe Garden at UBC, are very different than traditional Western Gardens. According to Polat and Kaklik, “the role of the visitors in Japanese garden is important. The paths in gardens should provide wide sceneries to the visitors. Because of this, creation of scenery in the gardens its the first aim of its design” (441).

The Nitobe Garden is the Chisen kaiyu style which means that it is a stroll garden featuring a path around a pond. Objects are one of the four elements in a traditional Japanese garden. Objects, such as a bridge, provide a scenery characteristic. Bridges can be made out of stone, mud, and wood. “Bridges are elements, which both provide the facility of passing the water and watching the landscape in the gardens” (444).

As you enter the Nitobe Garden you can immediately see the bridge that allows you to walk from the pagoda to the other side of the pond. Made from wood and covered by gravel it blends in with the path depending on the position of the visitor. In Japanese gardens “various shapes of bridges make the garden gain a picturesque character”. Nitobe’s bridge has a steep arc that makes it a statement, but also doesn’t disrupt the flow of the path or garden. Many bridges are designed in the shape of arcs in Japanese gardens according to Polat and Kaklik are to,  “form a complete circle by reflecting on the water” (444).

Nitobe has a beautiful representation of example of the bridge convention in traditional Japanese gardens.



Works cited:

Polat, A. T., Güngör, S., & Kaklik, N. (2010). KYOTO JAPANESE GARDEN IN KONYA, TURKEY THE DESIGN PRINCIPLES OF JAPANESE GARDENS. Prostor, 18(2), 438-451.


sozu map1           cdm.tokugawa.1-0213137.0000full

Schuyler Lindberg:
(Description on UBC Library website)

  • This double-sided Japanese woodcut displays a world map on the front and illustrated examples of the peoples of the world on the verso.
  • It exemplifies the Bankoku-sōzu (“complete maps of the peoples of the world”) style of cartography influenced by European techniques and geographic knowledge in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.


One of the most significant and representable Japanese maps from the Tokugawa Era of Japan is the Bankoku-sōzu (萬國総圖). The map was printed from woodblocks format in Nagasaki, Japan and published in approximately 1645. This woodcut map displays a world map during the era on one side and illustration of peoples of the world on the other. As a viewer, we do not only see the locations and countries but also much astronomical information that was collected during and before the Tokugawa Era. Therefore, Bankoku-sōzu is more than just a normal map.

The Bankoku-sōzu was also called “The Complete Map of the Peoples of the World” and it was the first and earliest modern world map published in Japan. On the world map side, we can see a very similar illustration of the map of the world as we have in present days. We can see the continents and locate many countries. On the other side of the map, it has the illustrations of male and female couples from 40 different countries wearing their own traditional clothing. It does not only include existing countries such as, Portugal, England, Holland, India, Taiwan, Japan, and many more, but it also includes people from some of the imaginary places and countries like, the Dwarves and the Giants.

‘Japanese cartography too was based on Chinese scholarship, and was also influenced by European techniques through the Jesuits and their dissemination of Ricci’s work. (Bankoku-sōzu) is an example from 1645 of these Westernized Bankoku-sōzu (“complete maps of the peoples of the world”); which were printed in Nagasaki and spread around the Japanese market in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Dutch maps also heavily influenced the Japanese Nanban (“southern barbarian”) map genre.’ (Wintle 36) Therefore, in this project, we will take a deeper look on how did the Dutch and Chinese influence cartography and the making of Bankoku-sōzu.

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Japan & Netherlands:

The history of the interaction and relationship between Japan and the Netherlands go way back to the beginning of the 17th century when the first Dutch ship, “Liefde” arrived in Japan. When the Liefde arrived on April 19, 1600, the Japanese showed great interest in the ship.

Liefde dutch in nagasaki.jpg
The first Dutch Ship arrived in Japan: “Liefde”


The military ruler, Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) wanted to know more about its firearms that it was carrying onboard. “Will Adams was the captain of the Liefde. By and by he managed to win the confidence of Tokugawa Ieyasu inspire of the interference of the Portuguese, who denounced the Dutch as pirates. This was the beginning of exclusive trade relations between Japan and the Dutch East India Company that would last for nearly 250 years.” (Wanczura 2013) Ieyasu gave permission for the crew to stay in Japan. Some of the Dutch crew then started careers with their valuable knowledge of understanding of maps, navigation, shipbuilding, welfare, and etc. This was when the Dutch cartography technique first established in Japan. Also, the relationship between Dutch and Japan kept growing afterwards.

Tokugawa Ieyasu
Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康 1543-1616), the Millitary ruler who showed great interest in Liefde.


The Dutch East India Company (VOC):

In addition, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) had an important role in this relationship. The VOC was uniting many smaller trading companies into the one big organization that could ease the trading business and help them to lead the world’s trading businesses. Dutch government also permitted the VOC to initiate building relationships with foreign authorities. They then were allowed to trade in all Japanese ports. During that time, the Dutch were first one to be able to comply with Tokugawa’s hopes in the early 17th century, when two ships formed the first official Dutch VOC delegation to Japan. ‘The Dutch East India Company arrived this time with two ships, commanded by Nicholas Puyck, which had been detached from a 13 ships fleet which had left Amsterdam in December, 1607. Puyck’s ships, ‘Roode Leeuw met Pijlen’ and “Griffioen”, carrying a modest cargo of silk, pepper and lead. They were led directly to Hirado by two Japanese pilots, There, they received official trading privileges and encouragement to set up a factory.’ (Pflederer)



Nagasaki Woodblock Prints:

Another unique part of Bankoku-sōzu is that is formed by Nagasaki woodblock prints. “Compared with the prints from Edo, they are rather primitive design and applied techniques. These prints were already made in the 17th century; in most cases town plans were printed. Not earlier than the mid-18th century, the publishing firm Hiriya publishes the first print on which a Dutchman is depicted.” (Swean 2016) After Bankoku-sōzu, the woodblock prints were more common in Japanese cartography.

Dutch continuous influences:

We can see that the European, especially the Dutch had influenced the Japanese cartography so much ever since the 17th century and onward. Michael Winetle also states in his book, “From the mid-eighteenth century the Dutch influence became even stronger through the promotion of Dutch Studies (Rangaku) in Japan, at a time when the Western presence was confined to the Dutch merchants in Nagaski harbor. So despite its isolation from the West, Japan actually had a plenteous supply of European influence on its cartography over several centuries, as well as its own Chinese-derived and religious mapping traditions.” (Winetle 37)

The Chinese influences:

matteo ricci.jpg
Portrait of Missionary Matteo Ricci, Italian-born Jesuit priest who created Kunyu Wanguo Quantu (坤輿萬國全圖)


We shall also look at how was Bankoku-sōzu made back then. The person who contributed the most in making this map was the Italian-born Jesuit priest, Matteo Ricci who was the first Westerner admitted to Beijing, China and the Forbidden City. He can be considered as one of the must influencetial person to the development of Japanese cartography from China. One of his most well known maps, “A Map of the Myriad Countries of the World” (坤輿萬國全圖) was issued in 1602 and it was the first European world map in Chinese. He published this map with the knowledge he gained when he was in China. The result of Ricci’s maps being introduced to Japan after his death brought improvement on the Japanese geography and cartography knowledge. Beforehand, the Japanese believed that China, Japan, and India were the three main countries of the world; however as the European culture slowly developed in Japan, Ricci’s maps acted like a catalyst to help the Japanese to realized there is also a civilized Western world aside from China, Japan, and India. The Chinese or Hanzi titles of “A Map of the Myriad Countries of the World” and “Bankoku-sōzu” have their similarities as well. Bankoku-sōzu also has the 萬國 in its name. The meaning of 萬國 is 10 thousands countries; which can also be all the countries in the world. The Bankoku-sōzu was also called the “Shoho map”, which “was a Japanese copy of a world map that an Italian missionary, Matteo Ricci, had made in China at the end of the 16th century. It was based on various Flemish and Dutch maps by Ortelius, Mercator, etc. Far into the 19th century it was frequently copied and reprinted so that gradually this 16th century world picture superseded the Buddhist three-culture map.” (Swean 2016)

Matteo Ricci’s “A Map of the Myriad Countries of the World” (坤輿萬國全圖)


Bankoku-sōzu (萬國總圖)
* The alignment and placement of countries and continents are very similar to Matteo Ricci’s “A Map of the Myriad Countries of the World”.


The 17th and 18th century was considered as the Era of Matteo Ricci’s map in the history of the Japanese cartography. This was an example of cartographic influences from the imperial China. The alignment and placement of countries and continents are very similar to maps that were created afterwards, Bankoku-sōzu is a great example. It simply had so much influence on the Japanese maps that were issued during the Tokugawa Era. One of the most significant examples must be the Bankoku-sōzu that was produced during the mid 17th century.

Act of Seclusion (1636):

Other than the Dutch and the European, the Chinese was also influential in the development of the Japanese cartography during the Tokugawa Era. At one point, the Shogunate re-advocated the relationships with China and Korea within the East Asian international structure by constraining the trade with Western nations. With the establishment of the “Act of Seclusion” in 1636, Japan had limited trades and interchanges with the Western world for the next two centuries. During those times, only the Dutch still maintained their access and relationships with Japan because they were allowed to keep a small outpost on an island in Nagasaki Harbour (Dutch knowledge and learning were “imported” into Japan through the translation of their books. The Japanese then developed themselves upon them throughout this period). However, aside from the Dutch, no other Western countries could maintain the trading relationship with Japan. Meanwhile, the trades continued within East Asia between the Japanese, Korean, and Chinese. In addition, China was located at the center of the structure.

dutch port
Right: Onaji dejima oranda yashiki (The Same: The Dutch Residence on Dejima), left: Oranda fune nyūtsu (The Dutch Ship Entering Port), from Nihon sankai meisan zue (Famous Products of Japan’s Mountains and Seas, Illustrated), 1799


It will require another few thousands words to describe the influential role of the Chinese through the trading relations to the development of the Japan; “The first major account of cultural diffusion into Japanese culture, which can be found in recorded Japanese history, was between 206-to 700 A.D. during Japan’s Yayoi and Yamato period, by 200 A.D. Japan was slowly beginning trade negotiations with nearby China. There was a large contrast between Japan and its more modern trading partner. The Yayoi people of Japan were a tribal society, with the separate tribes spread across Japan.” (Baker)

When we are looking precisely on Japanese maps and geographic knowledge, they “were embedded in a larger framework of political and intellectual order, geography and cartography were never separated out as separate disciplines or fields of study in imperial China.” (Yonemoto 151) The Chinese had tied sciences, geography, arts, literature, and cartography altogether. Therefore, these elements would appear on their maps and the technique got to Japan through their trading relations. ‘On the influence on early modern Japanese mapping of the comprehensive maps of China made during the Qing dynasty with assistance from Jesuit missionaries (Matteo Ricci was one of the greatest examples), Ronald P. Toby has argued that in the Tokugawa lexicon of “foreign” concepts, Chinese ideas not only served as models for change, they functioned as a default mode in times of transition or stasis.’ (Yonemoto 151) In short, the Dutch and the Chinese participated the most in the development of the Japanese cartography in the Tokugawa Era.


Baker, Mike. “Cultural Diffusion and Its Effects on Japan.”

Lindberg, Schuyler. “Bankoku sōzu.” (accessed July 5th, 2012).

Pflederer, Richard. “Dutch and English ties in 17th centuryJapan.” (accessed 2016)

Schley, Harrison. “Our Sense of Place: A Place Is a Spectacle: A Description of the Arrival of a Dutch Trading Vessel in Edo-Period Nagasaki.” University of Pennsylvania.

Swaen, Paulus. “400 YEAR JAPAN – THE NETHERLANDS.” (accessed 2016)

Swaen, Paulus. “The Mapping of Japan.” (accessed 2016)

Wanczura, Dieter. “The Dutch in Nagasaki.” (updated April, 2013)

Wintle, Michael. Imagining Europe: Europe and European Civilisation as Seen from its Margins and by the Rest of the World, in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Germany: P.I.E.-Peter Lang S.A; 1 edition , 2008.

Yonemoto, Marcia. Mapping Early Modern Japan: Space, Place, and Culture in the Tokugawa Period, 1603-1868. USA: University of California Press, April 21 2003.




One meisho or famous location that is often referenced in Japanese literature and arts are the bay of Suma. Though described in the Kokinshū as being in the, “province of Tsu,” Suma is known in the present day as being within Kobe in Kansai Prefecture. Contrary to its current status as a popular summer destination, the literary depictions of Suma evoke, “…autumnal loneliness and melancholy..,” with imagery such as, “…salt fires, fishermen, smoke trailing in the sky…” Amongst seafaring peoples, saltmaking ama particularly embody Suma’s melancholic aura, as their sleeves “wet with brine,” convey tears, while the rising saltfire proclaims, “…her unhappy love to all.” For this reason, many examples of poetry use female ama to indicate romantic yearning, making their presence in Suma thematically relevant.

Suma makes a noteworthy appearance in Tale of Genji, as its somber atmosphere is reflected in the subplot of Genji’s exile. During this portion of the book, Genji’s thoughts, “…dwell endlessly on those he has left behind in the capital,” and he expresses his longing in a letter to one of his lovers, conflating the motifs of a passionate fire and tearful brine:

How long, languishing here at Suma on the shore, must I dream and mourn

    while the briny drops rain down on the seafolk’s fuel of care

Yearning enters in the consecutive “Akashi” chapter, in which Genji falls in love with the Akashi Lady, who he is also forced to leave temporarily, causing her great anxiety in the chapter “Miotsukushi.” As many characters display anguish from longing and separation, Suma’s environment, alongside Genji’s exile, “…signifies the urban versus the rural.” The maritime motifs of Suma illustrate a distance between the coastal world and that of the capital, both physically in terms of its natural topography, and culturally in terms of the livelihoods of its inhabitants. This, in turn, creates a sense of longing common in other examples of travel literature, which is compounded by the seasonal association of Suma with autumn.


In Zeami’s Noh play Matsukaze, Yukihira is a male courtier exiled to Suma who enters a romance with two ama or seafolk. Thematically, this is similar to the Tale of Genji, but also relies on similar literary tropes in illustrating the climate of Suma. The play opens during an “autumn afternoon”, with a wandering priest who after praying for the souls of two ama, takes shelter in a “salt house” or shioya. The motifs in this introduction set the tone for the rest of the play, which focuses on the story of these two sisters, who lament the departure and eventual death of Yukihira, their former lover. Though this Noh play was inspired by Tale of Genji in certain ways, the “Suma” arc of Tale of Genji is actually based on the historical Yukihira’s exile.The account of Yukihira’s exile is itself mentioned in the Kokinshū, where he sends the following poem while in exile: “Should one perchance ask after me, say that, on Suma shore, salt, sea-tangle drops are falling as I grieve.” This is one of the first (if not the first) instance in which the themes of yearning and separation are expressed in the likeness of seawater to tears.


There are numerous references to Suma in waka poetry, Noh theatre, and travel literature, which like the examples above, allude to other major works in Japanese literature. For example, Yasuhara Teishitsu composed this poem in reference Yukihira’s story during his mid-autumn stay at Suma: “From under the shade of the Pine trees / I gaze at the beautiful moon of the fifteenth, / remembering the story of Middle Councillor Yukihira.” The fifteenth night of the eighth month is associated with the story of Yukihira’s exile, and coincidentally, is referenced in Tale of Genji in the “Suma” chapter(Tyler, 377). In this sense, the associations with Suma throughout literature and arts create a wide web of references not only to the location but to other works, characteristic of uta-makura.






Bundy, Roselee. “Santai Waka: Six Poems in Three Modes Part 2”. Monumenta Nipponica 49.3 (1994): 261–286.


Plutschow, Herbert Eugen. “Japanese Travel Diaries of the Middle Ages”. Oriens Extremus 29.1/2 (1982): 1–136. 250px-Suma-ku_in_Kobe_City.svg


Rei, Kubukihara, and Edith Sarra. “Various Aspects of Diary and Travel Literature”. Review of Japanese Culture and Society 19 (2007): 30–56.


Sugimoto, Michael. “”western” Lyricism and the Uses of Theory in Premodern Japanese Literature”. Comparative Literature Studies 39.4 (2002): 386–408.


Tyler, Royall. Tale of Genji. Vol. 1. New York: Viking, 2001.


Tyler, Royall. “The No Play Matsukaze as a Transformation of Genji Monogatari”. Journal of Japanese Studies 20.2 (1994): 377–422.



One of the most significant sites in the “Diary of the Sixteenth Night Moon” is the city that is located close to Tokyo and near the East Coast of Japan, Kamakura.




“In 1279, the Nun-Abutsu undertook a five-hundred-kilometer, fourteen-day trip from her home in the capital to the eastern center of Kamakura.” (Laffin 71) Abutsu is a famous poet and essayist who had a wish to protect her husband’s legacy and the future of her sons. Abutsu then went through this journey with a selfless motivation because she wanted to complete the wish of her deceased husband, which was to “educate their sons and maintain his poetic legacy.” For instance, Kamakura was the final destination of Abutsu’s travel route in the diary. The two maps below can show the route of Abutsu in “Diary of the Sixteenth Night Moon” from Kyōto to Kamakura in sixteen nights.

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As time passes by, Kamakura had become a larger and more developed city because it merged with Fukasawa-mura and Ofuna-machi in 1948. It’s population and residential development both kept growing since then. However, the development of the city eventually had a negative impact on the environment and the natural sceneries. To solve the problem, laws and plans were enacted to “set out the basic principles of the administration: to build a peaceful, culture-oriented city that was blessed with a rich cultural legacy and natural scenic environment.”

Nowadays, Kamakura has close relationships with other neighborhood cities “that share [similar] characteristics in one way or another.” They are Nice, Hagi, Ashikaga, and Ueda in Nagano Prefecture, which is “a city that has historical sites related to Kamakura period culture.


Eventually, Kamakura is now famous for its many Buddhist statues and wall paintings. It then slowly became a tourist destination. Moreover, one of the most famous and tallest Buddhist statues is The Great Buddha of Kamakura, “Kamakura Daibutsu”. It is a bronze statue of Amida Buddha located at the Kotokuin Temple at Kamakura.

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The other famous tourist attraction in Kamakura nowadays is the largest Ji sect temple, Kosokuji. It was found and built by Priest Ippen (1239-1289), who is known as a “wayfaring saint” because of “his extensive travels for missionary work,” as “he was one of the most active and influential priests during the Kamakura Period.” He built the Ji sect on the idea of “Pure Land Buddhism”. In recent years, Kamakura also started to have a close tie with Dunhuang in China and brought many Chinese elements into the city.


“Azuma Kagami” is definitely another remarkable historical literary work from the Kamakura of the Kamakura period (1192-1333). According to the translation of “The Azuma Kagami Account of the Shōkyū War” by William McCullough, “Azuma Kagami is a chronologically arranged record of political, economic, and religious events connected with the Kamakura bakufu and its leaders.” It was originally complied after 1266 by Hōjō shikken to record all the important events that happened in Japan during that time also in the format of a diary.


Laffin, Christina. “Sources and Conventions II: Travel Accounts(A Tosa JournalsndDiary            of the Sixteenth Night).” Lecture ASIA453, from University of British Columbia,        Vancouver, BC, 2016.

Laffin, Christina. “Travel as Sacrifice: Abutsu’s Poetic Journey in Diary of the         Sixteenth Night Moon”. Review of Japanese Culture and Society 19. [Josai     University Educational Corporation, University of Hawai’i Press]: 71–86., 2007

McCullough, William. “The Azuma Kagami Account of the Shōokyū War”. Monumenta Nipponica 23 (1/2). Sophia University: 102–55.     doi:10.2307/2383110, 1968

Tatsuro, Gotoh. “Kamakura: From the Edo to the Present.” (accessed December 28, 2012).

Unknown. “Kamakura Today: Kosokuji.” Kamakura Today.    (accessed 2002)


Bridges in Japanese Gardens

Traditional Japanese gardens, like the Nitobe Garden at UBC, are very different than traditional Western Gardens. According to Polat and Kaklik, “the role of the visitors in Japanese garden is important. The paths in gardens should provide wide sceneries to the visitors. Because of this, creation of scenery in the gardens its the first aim of its design” (441).

The Nitobe Garden is the Chisen kaiyu style which means that it is a stroll garden featuring a path around a pond. Objects are one of the four elements in a traditional Japanese garden. Objects, such as a bridge, provide a scenery characteristic. Bridges can be made out of stone, mud, and wood. “Bridges are elements, which both provide the facility of passing the water and watching the landscape in the gardens” (444).

As you enter the Nitobe Garden you can immediately see the bridge that allows you to walk from the pagoda to the other side of the pond. Made from wood and covered by gravel it blends in with the path depending on the position of the visitor. In Japanese gardens “various shapes of bridges make the garden gain a picturesque character”. Nitobe’s bridge has a steep arc that makes it a statement, but also doesn’t disrupt the flow of the path or garden. Many bridges are designed in the shape of arcs in Japanese gardens according to Polat and Kaklik are to,  “form a complete circle by reflecting on the water” (444). 

Nitobe has a beautiful representation of example of the bridge convention in traditional Japanese gardens.



Works cited:

Polat, A. T., Güngör, S., & Kaklik, N. (2010). KYOTO JAPANESE GARDEN IN KONYA, TURKEY THE DESIGN PRINCIPLES OF JAPANESE GARDENS. Prostor, 18(2), 438-451.

Nitobe Memorial Garden (Tea House)


Nitobe Memorial Garden

As a student at the University of British Columbia, it is definitely a treasure to have Nitobe Memorial Garden, one of the most authentic Japanese gardens in North America here in our university. According to Mr. Ryo Sugiyama, the Japanese garden is “a symbol of Japanese spirit, harmonious beauty to have perfect balance between art and nature.” We are able to get a better understanding of the Japanese culture by visiting the garden. The garden acts as a significant bridge to connect between Canada and Japan, to the extent that Akihito, the Emperor of Japan once said “I am in Japan,” when he visited the garden. In Mr. Sugiyama’s presentation, he mentioned to us that there are different styles of Japanese gardens. One type is a tea garden, which is based on practical and aesthetic simplicity; visitors are recommended to slow down their tours and view it with their hearts. When I first walked by the tea garden in Nitobe Garden, it reminded me of the movies that took place in ancient Japan; it gave me a classic feeling from the structure and design. It also attracted me to want to learn more about chadō (the way of tea). Within the tea garden, there are few divided elements or sections: the waiting room, the outer garden, the waiting bench, the middle gate, the inner garden, the preparation room, and the tea room. Just by walking through the garden, I was not able to get a full understanding of what each room, or section did, however I can see the high standards Japanese must have for their tea gatherings. In addition, these parts of the tea garden are designed to improve the interaction between host and guests at tea ceremonies. Nevertheless, Sugiyama also told us that one of the four elements of Japanese gardens is “objects.” A tea house fulfills the role of this element because it is the centerpiece of the entire garden that allows us to “enjoy the garden view with the tea garden.” I must agree with Sugiyama that with the support of the comfortable environment, I was able to calm down and think within myself.



Huang, Vicky. “The Japanese tea ceremony: an interactive cultural experience at UBC.”

Lindberg, Kari. “Our Campus: Ryo Sugiyama curates the Nitobe Garden: UBC’s cultural bridge.”

Sugiyama, Ryo. “Nitobe Memorial Garden.” Lecture Presentation, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada, February 24, 2016.