Justyna and Juan look at Tenryu-ji

For our next student presentation, Justyna and Juan examined Tenryu-ji.

Madolin and Shaina look at the Huffman garden through the eyes of a Heian period gardener

For the second week, Madolin and Shaina tried to imagine what a Heian period gardener would think of the Huffman garden.


Before considering Huffman Garden with a Heian period perspective in mind, one must first be aware of the general aesthetic values of the Heian period. Of these, one of the more key properties is that of naturalistic simplicity. While a desire for relatively simplistic, naturally appearing environments was strong, there was a very ornamental quality to the attire of people in the Heian period. The vibrant dyes, elaborate materials, and heavily layered clothing would seem to go against the idea of simplicity, but the people of the Heian period found a way to make both concepts work harmoniously. The preferred appearance for the wood in the house of a noble or member of the imperial family was untreated, going along with the nature driven aesthetic of the time. The same is basically true of gardens at the time, except they were worked and landscaped to the point of looking natural.

This extreme landscaping involved creating false bodies of water, including ponds and streams, transporting large rocks to create formations mimicking those found in nature or for bridges, creating islands in the ponds, planting various types of large trees that range from evergreen to deciduous, transplanting flowers and smaller trees found in the mountains and elsewhere, and creating multiple scenes that together create a smaller scale version of what one might expect Japan to look like. Along with this aspect of gardening there is that which is tied into geomancy and superstitions, creating taboos if stones are placed incorrectly. Everything in the garden must adhere to an extensive list of set rules, which together create a garden that is free of bad spirits, bad luck, and contains a geomantic presence that keeps the household safe and in better fortune.

It is not always apparent to those who look at it at first, but the Huffman garden does incorporate some Heian aspects. Firstly, the rocks that have been placed in our garden are very much angular, like those that were used in ancient gardens. They appear natural, and although most of them are not the metamorphic rocks that we might find in Japan, they seem like limestone embedded with fossils that we typically find in Indiana and this area in general. Also, the weathered walkways and “benches” project the naturalistic sensation that we could expect to find in Heian buildings and courtyards. There are also several types of trees present in our garden, in the spirit of the Heian style gardens that celebrated a variety of plants.

That being said, if the Huffman garden wanted to present an overall feeling of a Heian garden, it would need a lot of work. Generally, our garden probably does not follow the taboo protocol presented in the Sakuteiki, which outlines things to avoid while placing rocks and things of that nature. Our garden also needs heavy maintenance and a renovation to remove the symmetrical layout that it currently exhibits.

Asa and Emma’s Presentation

The first week, Asa and Emma looked into the geology of Indiana and Japan. Here’s what they had to say.


“Biomes are units of ecology that are united by climate. Examples include tropical rain forests, deserts, and tundra. Most of Indiana and Japan both share the same biome: the temperate deciduous forest.

Further, Richmond, Indiana is at approximately 40° latitude and Japan is, on average, around 35° latitude. This means that, while far apart on the globe, the two areas still feature roughly similar climate conditions, such as air currents.

However, air currents affect the two areas differently. For instance, three-fourths of Japan is mountainous. Indiana, on the other hand, is relatively quite flat. Compare Hoosier Hill, the highest point in Indiana, at 383 meters with Mt. Fuji, the highest point in Japan, at 3,776 meters. In other words, the highest point in Indiana is roughly one-tenth of the highest point in Japan.

Such landscapes greatly influence the atmospheric circulation of the areas. The flat land of Indiana does not interfere with air and moisture patterns. The mountains of Japan, however, do influence the atmospheric circulation.

In any given environment, hot air rises. When air rises, it expands and thus cools. At the same time, hot air holds more moisture than cool air – so when the air cools, it releases moisture. This is what we have come to call “rain.”

Since Richmond and Japan are at similar latitudes, they share similar wind patterns – generally, west to east (known as the “Westerlies”). However, as I said before, the mountains of Japan interfere with the wind patterns. Wind cannot travel through the mountain; instead, the wind must travel up (in altitude) a mountain range. However, as I said before, air expands and cools when it rises. Thus, one side of a given mountain will receive an unequal amount of rain before the air can travel over the mountain. When the air reaches the other side of the mountain, it no longer holds excess moisture, and so that side of the mountain is relatively more arid. Such a product is known as the “rain shadow effect.”

The rain shadow effect produces changes in mountainous flora (and fauna), but so does the mountain itself. That is, different plants thrive at different altitudes on the mountain. For instance, conifers more readily succeed at higher altitudes than deciduous trees, which flourish just below the conifers.

Thus, the flora of Japan will vary widely based upon altitude and atmospheric circulation. However, climate does not only pertain to statewide or national scales; microclimates must also be taken into consideration. Even the location and size of a building can have considerable impact on the climate that a given plant experiences. Temperature, moisture, and wind are all examples of factors that can drastically change within a few meters based upon the land features of an area. As such, both macroclimate and microclimate factors should be considered when planning a garden of any sort.”




Welcome to the Earlham College Japanese Garden class’s webpage!

This blog will include student’s presentations, photos of student projects, and will document the the work we do on the Huffman garden, as well as our new garden.