Listening to your own inner voice in a Zen garden hidden in the middle of Shibuya

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  • Yukiko Ushimaru
  • Toshiyuki Furuya
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  • Spreading out beyond the window of the Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel’s Garden Lounge Zabou is ‘Kanzatei,’ a zen garden composed of seasonal trees, pebbles and stones. It is a landscape that makes you forget you are in a corner of the noisy Shibuya neighborhood.
  • The garden was designed by Shunmyo Masuno, chief priest of the Soto Zen temple Kenko-ji and Japan’s leading garden designer.
  • The name ‘Kanzatei’ comes from the Zen expression ‘kanzashite shoufu wo kiku,’ meaning that if you sit quietly you will attain a calmness that makes you feel as if you can hear the sound of pine leaves.

  • “I want this to be a place where you can be liberated even to a small extent from the complications of daily life and enjoy a feeling of quiet; where in the midst of busy daily life you can reflect once more on your inner self by sitting and facing nature. This the garden’s greatest role,” says Masuno.

  • The theme of the garden is water. The cascade-like aji-ishi gray granite tiers undulate like water over rocks. They seem to break like waves not only in the garden, but into the very lounge. The gentle ripple pattern of the carpet is designed to look like the surface of water; and out to the center of the lobby you’ll find seasonal flowers in water bowls.
  • Says Shunmyo Masuno: “Traditional Japanese spatial design and creation subtly merges the interior with the exterior. For example, with a Japanese house you open shoji paper sliding doors and the space extends out to the open veranda and the garden. I felt the garden should be a space unique to Japan, where we hold the changing seasons in high esteem; something which differs to New York or Paris.”
  • The lounge’s superb views are not achieved through the garden alone, adds Masuno.
  • “It’s about a mixture of the garden, the interior, and the graceful movements and appearance of the people who work there. When all of this is balanced, the world vision of Zabou is complete.”

  • This discriminating approach can also be seen in the finer details of the garden. Despite being in the middle of Shibuya, there is an extensive and historical residential area beyond the garden. The hotel lies in an area connecting noise and silence.
  • “The residential side of Kanzatei has an organic look about it; rocks and stones are natural and unfinished with many trees and plants. Then gradually the stones get more polished and the amount of stone laid down increases, giving the central part of Shibuya a very urban feeling,” says Masuno.
  • You will find the breath of spring in the lovely wild flowers blooming unobtrusively in the garden, and the deep green shades shining in the sun are redolent of summer. The onlooker will be moved by the way the raindrops wet the stones in monochrome, and by the luster of the autumn leaves that leave their mark on the ground each time they fall.
  • “I would like guests to spend time listening to their own inner voice as they quietly contemplate the garden,” says Masuno.
  • If you can surrender yourself to the comfortable seating and service, the garden of Zabou with its many moods and vistas is sure to impart mindfulness like nowhere else.