February 22, 2015

1467 JAPAN (Shikoku) - Koi in Ritsurin Garden

In Japanese culture, garden-making is a high art, equal to the arts of calligraphy and ink painting. Gardens are considered three-dimensional textbooks of Daoism and Zen Buddhism, and that's why they are very different in style from occidental gardens. They were developed under the influences of the Chinese gardens, but gradually Japanese garden designers began to develop their own aesthetics, based on Japanese materials and Japanese culture. The ability to capture the essence of nature makes the Japanese gardens distinctive and appealing to observers. They can be categorized into three types: tsukiyama (hill gardens), karesansui (dry gardens) and chaniwa gardens (tea gardens).

Japanese gardens always have water, either a pond or stream, or, in the dry rock garden, represented by white sand. In Buddhist symbolism, water and stone are the ying-yang, two opposites that complement and complete each other. The ponds and streams are carefully placed according to Buddhist geomancy, the art and science of putting things in the place most likely to attract good fortune. The rules for the placement of water were laid out in the first manual of Japanese gardens, the Sakuteiki, or "The Creation of Gardens", in the 11th century. Bridges, symbolizing the path to paradise and immortality, first appeared in the Japanese garden during the Heian Period. They could be made of stone (ishibashi), or of wood, or made of logs with earth on top, covered with moss (dobashi); they could be either arched (soribashi) or flat (hirabashi).

The use of fish, particularly nishiki-goi (colored carp, named also koi), or goldfish as a decorative element in gardens was also borrowed from the Chinese garden, being introduced to Japan in the 16th century. Koi were developed from common carp in Japan in the 1820s. They are domesticated common carp (Cyprinus carpio) that are selected or culled for color; they aren't a different species, and will revert to the original coloration within a few generations if allowed to breed freely. Koi varieties are distinguished by coloration, patterning, and scalation. While the possible colors are virtually limitless, breeders have identified and named a number of specific categories. New koi varieties are still being actively developed.

Ritsurin Garden (Ritsurin Kōen, literally "Chestnut grove garden"), situated in the city of Takamatsu, on the island of Shikoku, is one of the most famous historical gardens in Japan. There are various bridges, footpaths and small hills which offer a beautiful view of the garden and the surrounding scenery, most notably Mt. Shiun at the western border of the garden. The buildings in the Garden date back to the early 17th century. The many ponds and streams are full of koi and the pond at the Tea House has benches where visitors may sit and feed the fish from breadsticks purchased at the Tea House. In postcard is Engetsukyu, the biggest bridge in the garden, named after its beautiful curve, as if a crescent moon is reflected on the surface of the pond.

About the stamps
The first stamp, depicting tempura, is part of the series Japanese Gastronomy, about which I wrote here.

The second stamp is part of the series of two issued to celebrate the Year of the Goat:
• 52 JPY - It's on the postcard
• 82 JPY - It's on other postcard

This is a post for Sunday Stamps II-10, run by Violet Sky from See It On A Postcard. The theme of this week is: Lunar New Year: sheep (or any older 'Year Of' stamps, or just sheep/goats). Click here to visit Violet’s blog and all the other participants.

Japanese garden - Wikipedia
Ritsurin Garden - Wikipedia
Ritsurin Garden - Official website

Sender: Akiko Watanabe (direct swap)
Sent from Kitakyūshū (Kyūshū / Japan), on 06.02.2015


  1. That is an absolutely stunning postcard. Those koi don't seem to mind the cold conditions at all.

  2. Great stamps, beautiful cards, and excellent information about traditional Japanese gardens. They are always places of inner peace wherever they are found around the world.