Water Basins

Japanese Water Basins as Water Features

The Water Basin is found in all Japanese gardens , situated in close proximity to a building, but forming a part of the garden composition. Its purpose is to provide water for rinsing the hands, and it is therefore placed so as to be reached with a ladle. As a screen between it and the wall of the neighboring lavatory, a low ornamental fence of bamboo or rush work is placed on one side, also a stone lantern half hidden by shrubs, all of which are kept scrupulously clean. The size of the Japanese Water Basin should, be proportionate to the character of the building, and its distance from the verandah should also accord with the general landscape.

As the ordinary distance of a Basin from the outer gallery of a small residence is about 18 inches, and its height from the ground about three or four feet, it follows that, in front of a building of large proportions, the Basin becomes at least four or five feet removed, and its height seven or eight feet from the soil. It is consequently out of reach for practical purposes.In small town buildings the lavatory may be found disconnected from the dwelling and placed in the garden or yard, in which case the Water Basin stands near it, removed from the house, and approached by stepping stones.

Certain kinds of basins of very low form cannot be used in an erect position, and employed mostly in Tea - Gardens are called " Crouching Water Basins " (Tsukubai - chozubachi ). Their original purpose was for collecting spring water, and they had no connection with outer - buildings. In the gardens of modern Tea Rooms they are placed in front of the lavatory, detached, and filled with perfectly clean water, when introduced into a larger grounds they occupy quite a secondary position.

Some of the principal kinds of Japanese Water Basins are as follows

NATSUME - gata ( Date - shaped Basin ) is of simple oval form , made of granite , with a shallow hollow above for holding water.

TETSUBACHI - gata ( Iron - Basin ) a somewhat more flattened shape, to imitate the metal bowl used by mendicant priests.

GINKAKUJI - gata All four sides of this bowl are carved with various lattice patterns. The original chozubachi still exists in Ginkakuji temple, Kyoto.

ISHIUSU - gata translates as either stone mortars or millstones, were widely used in every day life in former times, and later started to be used as washing basins. This is also an example of a reformed basin.

ZENI - gata another of the original type of basin shaped to resemble zeni, or old coin with a hollow square centre surrounded by carved genji.