Enso by Sengai

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by Harumi Okochi.
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January, 2005

Invitation to an Enso

Enso is a Japanese word meaning "circle". Enso is perhaps the most common subject of Japanese calligraphy. Enso symbolizes enlightenment, strength, and the universe, and is an "expression of the moment".
It is believed by many that the character of the artist is fully exposed in how he draws Enso, and that only one who is mentally and spiritually whole can draw a true Enso. Some artists will draw Enso daily, as a kind of spiritual diary.
Some artists draw Enso with an opening in the circle, while others complete the circle. For the former, the opening symbolizes that the Enso is not separate, but is part of something greater.
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enso"

Happy new year, friends !
My first prayer of this year is to wish you an 'Enso' , because I think the world needs it more than any time in the past.
I asked my friend Mr. Terry Welch to write an article about his Sanctuary.
He lives in Woodinville, Washington. His garden there is world-famous. Enjoy his Sanctuary, and pass through his Moon Gate. Then, I believe, you will feel you are purified and you are in the heart of an Enso.

                                        by     t.r. welch

 I lived at Ryokan Yoyokaku in 1971, teaching conversational English to some of Mr. O’Kochi’s friends. While there, I became interested in Japanese culture with a particular fascination in Japanese gardens. Upon returning home in 1972 I began a business devoted to Japanese garden esthetic. I started a bonsai collection that now numbers to over one hundred specimens. With my father in 1975, I purchased a thirty acre parcel of land in the country with the express purpose of fusing 18th Century English “naturalistic” garden design with Japanese elements. Sometime later, in 1993, while completing a tsukimi (moon-viewing temple) I made the discovery that the name of the local indigenous people who had lived in the region for several thousand years: the Snoqualmie, means “children of the moon.” After that point, I began to fuse Snoqualmie mythology into the garden as well. The garden is located in the center of 24 acres of mixed woodland within  an inventoried class II wetland. There are two ponds created by beavers, which happen to be the totem of the Snoqualmie people. The garden contains a Zen garden; Moon viewing temple, Beaver gate involving two house posts carved of cedar, a walk through the forest, An alpine garden devoted to the memory of the Snoqualmie approached through a Moon gate; and a walled garden housing the bonsai collection.

Terry Welch


 When I stayed at Yoyokaku over thirty years ago I was struck by the beauty of its garden. I love pines and I watched gardeners taking exquisite care of the grove. Little did I know at the time the garden used as its inspiration the Niji-no-Matsubara pine forest which runs for several kilometers between the fishing village of Hamasaki and Higashi-Karatsu. Many Zen gardens in Japan have specific geographic connections. So when I laid my rock garden out, I wanted to single out the two mountain ranges of Western Washington, The Cascades and the Olympics. The flat gravel area signifying water was meant to symbolize Puget Sound. In the larger sense, the scene is meant to capture the reality of the planet Earth seen from outer space: We are a planet, with an outer core made up of mountains and water: yin and yang, the classic polarity.

Zen Garden

 TSUKIMI (moon-viewing temple)

 In selecting a structure to use as a moon-viewing temple, I found an elaborate wooden altar in the town of Kudus in eastern Java. Over one hundred years old and made of teak, we had to engineer a roof and verandas in order to make it useful. It is located deep within the wetland, and besides using it for moon viewing it is the perfect place to experience wildlife. From its vantage point we are able to see beavers, bull frogs, muskrats, otters, Great Blue herons, Eagles, Owls, Osprey, Dragonflies and many species of duck and song birds. The approach to the structure uses the roji as its inspiration. The roji is the garden associated with the teahouse. Generally comprised of stepstones approximating a mountain path. Moving slowly along the path, the overriding feeling is one of tranquility, putting the mind and spirit at rest before arriving at the structure.

Roji and Tsukimi


 Beavers were the totem selected by the Snoqualmie people. Sometime after the last clearcut on the land in the 1940’s the beavers dammed up two small lakes. The Snoqualmie felt that the beavers were the most human-like of all animals since they did three things the same as humans. First, they used water as a means of getting around, just as the Snoqualmie used cedar dugout canoes to go back and forth on the Snoqualmie River. Second, they lived in lodges. And thirdly, they harvested wood as building materials. In respect to the spirit of the beaver, who still live in the garden, we erected a “Beaver Gate” using two house posts carved by the well-known non-Native American carver, Duane Pasco.

Beaver Gate

 THE PLUNGE POOL: Tribute to the Snoqualmie people.

 I designed a garden as a tribute to the Snoqualmie people. They are known for a world-class waterfall twenty miles from the Sanctuary. In this metaphor, I designed a Moon gate (representing China) that one passes through on their way to the waterfall. Just off to the right is a large lace-leaf Japanese maple that my grandfather originally gave my aunt on her wedding day in 1946. When she died, her children gave it to me. It represents Japan. Soon one comes upon the pool (representing the Pacific Ocean), and in the distance we see the waterfall, the home of the Snoqualmie. A bird’s eye view of this garden suggests that the Snoqualmie people are looking across the ocean at their “roots” or ancestors in Asia, and that everyone is unified in the appreciation of the “moon,” not only through passing through the moon gate but in it’s parallel interpretation as the enso, signifying cosmic unity.

Plunge Pool

Moon Gate


 The walled garden near the house contains the bonsai collection of over one hundred trees. I entered horticulture over thirty years ago by developing a collection of bonsai. By having them near me, I learned how to care for them. I arranged them on the benches in pleasing patterns that I later transferred to landscape plans in the gardens we designed. They are my children, and just like children they will survive me. I am already carrying for over thirty trees that were started by people who are no longer with us. Just as I have discovered through living in the Sanctuary: it is not about owning things; it is all about stewardship. Nothing truly belongs to us. It is upon all of us to be the very best caregivers  we can be!!!! 

Bonsai Garden

Please enjoy more photos of Terry's Sanctuary.

t. r. welch's essay on Yoyokaku Garden

Thank you very much for visiting this page.
I hope you will return next month.
Yours, Harumi Okochi

Proprietress of Ryokan Yoyokaku

  Mail to Harumi Okochi