Did you know I have a love for all things Japanese-ey? What’s not to love?! The food! Kimonos! Cherry blossoms! Japanese flute! The temples! Tea ceremonies! The contrast between ancient culture and fast high-tech! But of course I especially love zen gardens and traditional Japanese architecture!
I think my interest started as a child when we had visits from Japanese exchange-teachers in primary school and we learnt basic japanese. I went on to learn the Japanese language throughout most of secondary school. When I headed off to live and work in the UK (halfway through my Architecture degree) I made sure my return flight included stopovers in Japan on the way there and back. My short visit back in 1999 was a fabulous immersion in a rich culture – and I absorbed every moment. I spent time in Tokyo, Mt Fuji, Kyoto, and Nara before London called. However I ended up staying in the UK longer than initially expected, and forfeited my return flight home which expired after 12months, so I never did end up going back to Japan again …. but I will one day!
However I’ve found a little part of Japan not very far from here – at the gorgeous Shizuka Ryokan retreat in Hepburn – and a relaxing weekend there satiated my appetite for all things Japanese! I couldn’t help but share some of the images I took during my stay. On arrival, as you walk through the archway and along the stepping stones of the manicured Japanese gardens, you really sense that you’ve arrived in a different place, away from the busy-ness of every day life.
The sounds of water trickling, the shadows of the bamboo leaves, the vistas beyond your immediate surroundings, and crunch of the stones under foot are all part of the sensory experience that is key to Japanese design. The relaxing tones of the Shakuhachi (Japanese flute) floated through the air and gave a real sense of peace and tranquility once inside the building.
In fact the word Shizuka means tranquility!
There was a place to swap your shoes for slippers adjacent to the reception desk. The large common space was light and welcoming, with exposed timber beams, paper lantern light shades, and views to the beautiful Hepburn Springs bushland beyond. There was a selection of inspiring books on Japanese design that guests could read in on the cushy Couches in front of open fire. Traditional ‘Ikebana’ (flower arrangements) were placed on each table, where you could also dine on delicious Japanese cuisine (I highly recommend the Japanese breakfast!).
A raked-pebble zen garden off to one side with a boardwalk around each side led to each of the guest quarters. Each room honoured simplicity and minimalism of Japanese design. As you entered there was a traditional genkan entry – where you took your slippers off and then stepped up onto the tatami mats.
A traditional futon bed was made up in the centre of the room. A stunning antique kimono adorned a wall, opposite a tokonama altar space with an ikebana display to change with seasons. The wardrobe and tea-facilities were concealed behind a traditional Japanese fabric sliding screen wardrobe.
And of course there were beautiful paper shoji screens which slid open to reveal the private courtyard garden with lush planting and a trickling bamboo water feature. This was a perfect spot to sit and have a relaxing cup of Japanese green tea to further engage all your senses. Being a country spa and wellness retreat, you could also indulge in a pampering massage during your stay.
It truly was a very zen experience.
Japanese design is very deliberate in ensuring that these little moments are treasured, that all your your senses are engaged, and that you feel closer to nature, getting you to slow down, and feel less stressed.
I think we could all incorporate a bit more of this into our daily lives, don’t you?!
Want to know more about Shizuka Ryokan and Japanese Architecture? Check out their website to learn more. Or check out this gorgeous little film made by local talent Michelle Dunn Photography, which really showcases the little gem that this place is, in a way that my little snapshots can’t!
Are you a fan of Japanese Design/Art/Food too? Do you need to plan a little getaway? Are there elements of Japanese Architecture you’d like incorporated in your home too? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!
Talina Edwards Architecture is a Ballarat-based studio, with a passion for sustainable design, green buildings and healthy homes. Click here to ensure you won’t miss out on our news!