Bamboo Fences in Japanese Gardens


Whether used as the garden enclosure, a very important role and one of many choices, or a partition within the garden, bamboo fences offer a decorative enhancement to the garden. In Japan where bamboo and skilled craftsman are readily available, bamboo fences may make more sense. Bamboo also matches the traditional architecture of Japan better than most homes outside of Japan. But when a homeowner does want a decorative element, there are times when a bamboo fence may be appropriate.

One such bamboo fence is called a Yotsume-gaki fence, as shown in the photo here. This fence is useful only as a decorative way of dividing space within the garden. It is common in tea gardens, many times located on the border of the “inner” and “outer” garden.

The practical advantages to this particular fence are that the material is available at bamboo specialty stores, and the fence construction is fairly straightforward. The disadvantage to any bamboo fence is that after three to five years in the elements the fence usually needs to be replaced. The sun seems to age the bamboo the fastest of all elements.

The Yostume-gaki fence is constructed first by setting round wooden posts, approximately four feet high and spaced six to eight feet apart, into the ground. Then horizontal bamboo pieces are drilled to the posts. Next vertical bamboo pieces are fastened on alternating sides to the horizontal pieces. Twine, called some-nawa if dyed black, is then tied around the intersecting points, more decoration then function.

As mentioned above, this fence is useful within the garden. Since architecture outside of Japan often clashes with such bamboo fences, it would be wise to choose a location for this fence where plantings, not the house, serves as a backdrop. It may be most useful in a strolling part of the garden, or at the corner of the house where the main garden is divided from a secondary garden.

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