The garden is of great
historical significance, being the first to have been created by a sculptor
rather than a gardener. In the past, gardens were not created by artists,
and their work in gardens is the sign of a new era which has given rise
to many contemporary Japanese gardens that differ considerably from the
traditional gardens. It therefore represents a new departure.
Isamu Noguchis father was a famous Japanese poet
and his mother an American writer. Although he was born in Los Angeles
he spent his childhood in Japan, spending some time in a Zen temple. At
the age of 14, imbued with Japanese culture, unwittingly for the most
part, he returned to the United States. His creation is perhaps more profoundly
Japanese than anything a Japanese artist who had remained in Japan would
have created, because he was trying to understand the culture of his childhood.
Isamu Noguchi is a deeply Japanese sculptor but ultimately
very international and modern in his assertion of himself as an artist
(a Western concept).
UNESCOs garden, a donation by the japanese government,
is marked throughout by the Japanese spirit and at the same time it expresses
Noguchis individual artistic creativity.
It differs from a traditional Japanese garden in that :
It can be viewed as a whole by visitors
: Noguchi created the platform (butai), or upper garden, in order
to achieve this. Traditionally, however, it is never possible to see a
Japanese garden at a glance : it is a space to be discovered gradually
It has three axes : the axis from the
platform to the place set aside for the open-air tea ceremony, the axis
of the flowery path and the stream, and the
axis from the rounded bridge to the lantern that passes through the place
set aside for the open-air tea ceremony.
The axes of Japanese gardens are traditionally invisible. Their visibility
here is indicative of a clear decision taken by the creator.
In traditional gardens the boundaries between different materials and
spaces are kept deliberately vague, and natural materials are used as
far as possible. UNESCOs garden is characterized by clearly defined
boundaries; consequently, each area is discreet. The garden is, in fact,
a composition of clearly autonomous spaces; and each one of those spaces
is a profound expression of Japanese culture and taste. Their autonomy
makes each space an individual sculpture;
for Japanese people, the use of asphalt
in the garden is highly shocking. It is however a fixed form, that is,
another sculpture ;
the relationship between nature and human
creativity is tilted here in favour of the latter, and it is in fact an
essential feature of contemporary gardens that human creativity takes
precedence over nature ;
the flowery path
and the platform (butai) are not traditional garden features: they
are nonetheless traditional elements borrowed from other areas of Japans
culture : theatre, construction, and so on;
the upkeep of a Japanese garden involves
a creative effort on a daily basis, which is the source of its charm.
Isamu Noguchi has left such a lasting stamp on this garden that its upkeep
does not allow for traditional creative development.
However, the garden is all the more Japanese in that it was made by Mr
Toemon Sano, the sixteenth in a celebrated line of Japanese gardeners.
The way in which the rocks, imported from Japan, are laid out, for instance,
is essentially Japanese. The plants have been selected to resemble as
closely as possible the natural landscapes of Japan, and enable the visitor
to appreciate the passing seasons.