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Residential architects who specialize in the hot, humid, southern climate

Lessons from Japan

Most of the roofs we saw in the Kansai region of Japan were either clay tile or cypress. The Buddhist temple above is constructed out of the traditional cypress slivers. The cypress bark is removed in strips from a living tree and stacked  for the roof as shown above.

This is a section through a roof showing the stacked cypress and how it is thickened on the edge to create the flair. The cypress roofs are usually replaced every 30 years.

The fences and garden walls were wonderful. They were made of all sorts of materials. Many were made of bamboo and grasses combined in interesting patterns. The stucco walls had clay tile caps. The wall on the lower left was made with recycled clay tiles that protruded  and created a nice pattern. The wood wall on the upper right is the list of donors who contributed for the restoration of a temple. The path on the bottom right depicts the Japanese aesthetic  of asymmetry. 

The garden Isui-en in Nara illustrates the concept of shakkei or borrowed scenery. The garden is designed and the trees  trimmed to capture the view of the gate house at Todai-ji and the mountains beyond. You wouldn't know that there are hordes of tourists passing through the gate to visit the world heritage site Todai-ji.

The Japanese attention to detail can be seen in the path details above. Our guide Yuko, explained that the Japanese aesthetic finds the following pleasing, irregularity (Fukinsei), simplicity (Kanso), weathered (Koko), and natural (Shizen).

The Shishi-odoshi or "Scare the Deer" is something we all might want to add to our lowcountry gardens. The bamboo fountain is on an off center pivot. The open end of the bamboo fills with water. When full it tilts to empty the water and make a loud thud against the rock when it returns to it's original position. Then it repeats about every five minutes. It must work because there were no deer in the garden!