Book review: Stone arrangement in the Japanese garden

By | November 3, 2017

The other day, I made a post about how I turned my backyard into a Japanese karesansui rock garden and included some hints on how to make your own. I received a comment on that post from someone working for Real Japanese Gardens, a website that has some useful information about Japanese gardens (some posted directly on the site and some sold in the form of E-books they author). This person told me that they were working on a new E-book about stone arrangement so I asked if I could preview it.

The book is titled “Stone arrangement in the Japanese garden” and goes into detail about various rock formations used in traditional Japanese gardens, including some historical notes as well as suggestions for rock placement in your own garden. While it is only 12 pages, it is packed with over 40 photographs and hand-drawn illustrations to help explain the various formations. They’ve managed to squeeze a great deal of content into a handful of pages.

The book is in English, so don’t worry if you don’t know Japanese. However, many of the key terms are also given in Japanese which is good kanji practice for those studying Japanese. Just keep in mind that many of the terms explained are not used commonly in everyday life.

The best thing about this book is that most of its content is pretty technical (it’s part of their series on Elements  & Explanations), information you are not likely to find doing random web researches about Japanese gardens, at least not in English. If you are serious about learning about rock formations typically employed in Japanese gardens, it’s a valuable resource. On the other hand, if you are just looking to get an introduction to Japanese rock gardens, you may want to look elsewhere. This book also has some interesting historical information in it (including some content taken from a classic  ‘manual of gardening’), and some references to famous Japanese gardens with photographs of some of them.

On the website you can find a sample of the book (direct link) to give you a good idea of what to expect.

In their Elements & Explanations series you can find books on other technical topics, like bamboo fences and garden paths. I think it would be nice if Real Japanese Gardens could bundle these books into a single purchase with a discounted price. That might be a win-win situation if enough people purchase the bundle instead of the individual ones.

When I received an initial preview copy of the book, let’s just say I wasn’t exactly satisfied with the quality of the English text, so I offered to proofread and make a bunch of corrections. Having said that, it was unpaid work and I am not receiving money from the sales (though they were nice enough to credit me on the last page). A few of my modification suggestions were declined, especially those related to layout and visuals since they wanted to keep things consistent with other books in the series.







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