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‘Japanese Garden Notes’: An informative photo book

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Special To The Japan Times

“Japanese Garden Notes” is a gorgeous photo book that introduces aspects of traditional Japanese garden design. It walks the reader through the philosophy of “space and passage,” “function and art” and “intent and time,” explaining why certain details recur and the emotions they are meant to inspire.

Japanese Garden Notes, by Marc Peter Keane.
296 pages
STONE BRIDGE PRESS, Nonfiction.

If you’ve ever wondered why paths unfold in a particularly meandering way or what a stone knotted with black string symbolizes (no entry), this is the book for you.

Drawn from the author’s two decades of experience as a garden designer and builder in Kyoto, and put together with the delicacy of a haiku collection, this is the kind of book that you dip in and out of, luxuriating in the vivid, high-quality pictures from gardens across Japan — some of them private, others belonging to temples.

Keane’s prose is brief and poetic, often taking up only a sparse corner of each two-page spread, presented more like the label next to a gallery exhibit, leaving maximum space for indulging the image.

My only criticism, as a gardener myself, is that there is no “how to” section. There is much in this book that inspires, but I fear little beyond a few randomly placed mitate-mono (rediscovered thing — an old object put to new ornamental use) and fallen autumn leaves will find their way from this volume to my garden.

Like the gardens themselves, every corner of “Japanese Garden Notes” has been carefully considered, making for a delightful, nourishing coffee-table book.