The Japanese “Garden of merging waters”

The design idea of the Japanese “Garden of merging waters” is based on a symbolic concept of past and future that uses water as guiding principle to illustrate true harmony among people.

The Japanese “Garden of merging waters” project arose out of the twinning of Berlin and Tokyo. Its theme, “Find harmony in union, like merging waters” expresses a hope for peaceful coexistence among all people. From the outset, Berlin received unqualified support for implementing this project from the Japanese embassy, which promoted a vote for Berlin as the recipient of grant funds from the Japan World Exposition 1970 Commemorative Fund (JEC). The Fund provided Berlin with the generous financial support that made it possible to build the pavilion (Chaya), which is indispensable in a Japanese garden.

The garden consists of three gardens linked by paths, with the Nyosuitei pavilion at their centre. To the north is the front water garden and on the south side the main garden, “Kare Sansui”, a stone garden designed as a Zen garden. To the East is the tea garden, whose main feature is its smooth lawn. All three sections have very different characters that unite to form a whole, connected by a line like a timeline.

The waterfall in the garden’s south-eastern corner represents the origins of German history and the water bubbling out of it symbolises its past course. Water flows down through luxuriant lawns to the front garden, where it forms a small pond, which mirrors recent history, to which we are still close. Next to it is the pavilion (Chaya), symbolising the present we live in now. From here, visitors can contemplate the main garden, which symbolises the future. It was created in the style of a dry landscape garden (“Kare Sansui”) and is a typical Japanese contemplation garden that does not use a drop of water and is closely related to Zen philosophy.

The arrangement of stones in the middle of the dried waterfall represents a carp that a climbs a waterfall against the current and refers to Zen teaching. Zen Buddhism teaches that when a carp has climbed a waterfall it is transformed into a dragon. This allegory on overcoming a major hurdle is part of the garden’s symbolic concept and refers to the future. A stone bridge, symbolising friendship and harmony between Germany and the world, spans a “sea” of white gravel carefully raked into waves.

Dates & Facts

Style Garden in the Zen tradition
Size ca. 2,700 square metres
Planning Prof. Shunmyo Masuno, Landscape Consultants Ltd., Yokohama, Japan
Opened  30th of April 2003