The Garden of Yoyokaku
t. r. welch
   In the Fall of 1972, on the advice of a friend who knew I was going to  Japan, I found my way to Ryokan Yoyokaku in the seaside town of Karatsu  in northern Kyushu. He told me there was a man named Mr. Okochi, who  spoke English and was friendly towards westerners. I had studied Japanese  at the University of Washington in Seattle and I was looking forward to a  break from academia by taking a year off. My great fortune in finding  Ryokan Yoyokaku and Mr.Okochi and his future wife, Harumi-san, would  change my life forever.

   I lived for three months at Yoyokaku and taught conversational English  to Mr. Okochi's friends. Before long I realized that the ryokan is the  premier setting that unlocks Japan's traditions and spirit. Historically, at  the center of Japan's core is the love of nature. Everywhere one looks in  the Inn is the realization that we are not meant to be separate from  nature. From the very construction of the Inn, which relies heavily on  natural materials, to the composition and presentation of one's meal,  mostly local foods in season that are often metaphorically linked to myth,  literary traditions, or nature, the overriding experience of the ryokan is  the appreciation of beauty. From the thoughtful construction of the  garden, which is usually integrated with access visually and physically from  the room, to the ritual significance of bathing in the ofuro, to the  sacredness of objects presented in the tokonoma , one is never far from  the celebration of being alive and fully conscious.

  From the sleepy fishing village of Hamasaki four miles away to the station  in Higashi-Karatsu where Ryokan Yoyokaku is located, the train runs  parallel to the historically famous pine forest called Niji-no-Matsubara.  When Mr. Okochi's relatives acquired the Inn in the nineteenth century,  they designed their garden as a replica of the pine windbreak that had  characterized the region for several centuries. This decision to construct  a garden that was inspired by a specific topographical reference interested  me. Later that year, while visiting gardens in Kyoto, I found this theme  repeated over and over. For instance, in the great gardens in Katsura  Rikyu in Kyoto, there is an island celebrating Amanohashidate (Bridge of  Heaven). This renowned natural landscape of a pine-clad sandbar is   located in the Japan Sea, in the province of Tango, where the wife of the  garden's designer was born. Not far from Karatsu, in the castle town of  Kumamoto, there is a spectacular garden called Suizenji . The main focus  of this garden is an enormous mountain form, over ten meters high,  leaving no doubt in anyone's mind that it is Mt. Fuji. So one can see how  appropriate it was for Mr. Okochi's relatives to design their garden around  the ancient pine forest that has brought visitors to the region for  centuries.

  Upon entering Ryokan Yoyokaku, one finds on the left a structure  reminiscent of the machiai , or the shelter one waits in prior to the tea  ceremony. This is a reference to the roji or tea garden. Looking towards  the wall one notices a sliding door that represents the entry to the  teahouse. By placing these structures at the entry, one is reminded of  the tea garden and the sacredness that surrounds the love of nature in  the tea ceremony. Passing through the foyer, on the right there is a large  lantern, again referencing the tea garden. Turning left to pass through the  bridge, a glimpse of the "pine" garden is seen in addition to another  ancient lantern. At this point part of the Inn appears to be floating over  water, and multicolored Koi swim from one end of the pond to the other.  In the distance a waterfall seems to be the source for the water. It  provides a tranquil, mood-setting atmosphere not only visual but auditory.  The Inn wraps around the garden on three sides. Many of the rooms,  including the breakfast room look out on the landscape, Ground level  rooms access the garden through sliding doors. Second floor rooms look  down on the garden as well as providing territorial views of the ocean and  the picturesque islands in the sea called Genkai Nada. While dining in the  various rooms at night , the garden is delicately lighted and the pine trees  seem to dance before your eyes. During the day, fitted with geta ( the  traditional wooden sandal) one can walk amidst the pine trees in a  leisurely stroll through the garden.

  I was so deeply moved by Japanese culture during my 1972 visit to  Ryokan Yoyokaku that I returned home to start a landscape company. My  focus was to integrate western and eastern garden aesthetic in the  Pacific Northwest via residential landscape design and in the design of my  town garden located in Woodinville, Washington. For almost thirty years I  have watched Mr. and Mrs. Okochi transform Ryokan Yoyokaku into one of  the premier ryokan experiences in all of Japan. For those who have the  pleasure of staying there, your life will be transformed forever.

t.r.welch & associates inc.
pacific northwest/japanese gardens
phone/fax (425) 788-5028
19011 226th avenue n. e.
woodinville, wa. 98072