By guest author Jacob Knapp, Horticulturist
Bamboo fences, or Takegaki, are beautifully designed partitions that serve to encapsulate and enliven garden space. Since the origin of Takegaki, hundreds of construction styles have emerged. The diversification in Takegaki style is directly linked with Japan’s Momoyama period (1573-1603) in which the tea ceremony was developed and the tea gardens followed. Takegaki became popularized in its use in Buddhist Temple tea gardens, where visitors adored the bamboo partitions and brought the techniques home with them. Thus, many Takegaki styles are named after Buddhist temples such as Kenninji Fence, GinkaKuji fence, and Ryoanji fence. The overall availability of madake bamboo in Japan allowed these styles to spread rapidly all over Japan, and with that came many more styles and sub-styles of Takegaki building.
The Japanese admire the aesthetic of fresh, new, green bamboo. Until recently, it was tradition to replace bamboo annual in accordance with the new year preparations. But as the tradition continues to evolve, the culture now appreciated the nature of the aged and dried, brown bamboo. This was a necessary adaptation to tradition, in my opinion, as it better reflects the element of time in the garden. However, when ringing in the new year, freshly cut, green bamboo used in Kadomatsu decorations better symbolizes the regeneration of a year.
At the Richard & Helen DeVos Japanese Garden, we employ a few different styles of Takegaki. At the West Gate of our garden, we craft a Teppo style fence flanked by Yotsumi-Gaki. The Teppo style, or riffle barrel style, is marked by having alternate arrangements of bamboo both on the fronts and backs of the horizontal supports. They alternation from front to back are usually in groups rather than alternating one by one. This style fence is typically considered a screening fence rather than a see-through fence. At the West Gate, we use this non-transparent barrier on both sides of the formal gate. The other style of fence used at the West Gate is the Yotsumi-Gaki fence, or Four Eyed Fence. The four eyed fence is a transparent sub-style of the Teppo fence. Four Eyed Fence style uses large gaps between alternating bamboo pickets in front of and behind the horizontal braces, one by one. This style can also be seen surrounding our tea garden.
Other styles seen in our garden include the Yorai-Gaki (Stockade Fence) and the Kinkakuji Fence. The Yorai-Gaki can be found alongside our natural garden. This style is marked as having sharp pickets of bamboo that cross diagonally. The Kinkakuji Fence style can be seen partitioning our Bonsai garden from the main path. The Kinkakuji Fence is characterized by having a split bamboo beading across the top of the fencing. These fence styles are typically low-lying fences, referred to as foot level fences.
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Source: Bamboo Fences, Isao Yoshikawa, and Osamu Suzuki, 2009.