This is a short post just to get back on track. Two weeks ago I announced that July would be Kyoto month on this blog. Duh. I forgot that July is one of the busiest and most interesting months in Tokyo, so Kyoto had to take a backseat while I pontificated forth about my beloved shitamachi's charms.
Those selfsame charms are now under assault by summer, and that means I'm less enamoured with life in the concrete jungle. Not that Kyoto is any better; as a matter of fact, I understand it can be even hotter than Tokyo, because it's situated in a valley that traps heat.
Anyway. We continue our Kyoto series with another garden at Ryōgen-in, called Tōtekiko (東滴壺), designed by Nabeshima Gakushō in 1958. It's about four square meters, it has only five rocks and it's said to be the smallest rock garden in Japan. (I assume it's the smallest "official" garden. I've seen plenty that are tinier.)
I've read different explanations of its Zen symbolism: some sources allege that it represents wisdom, which grows like drops in the ocean; a sign at the garden itself says it illustrates a saying that the harder a stone is thrown into water, the bigger the ripples. Whatever it's supposed to mean – does it really matter? – you can certainly stare at it for hours and hours and hours. It's a tsuboniwa, a small enclosed garden, and it's in shade most of the day. However, as the sun moves overhead, the shadows in the raked gravel change until finally, at noon, the garden is briefly illuminated in full.