Japanese culture places particular importance on water fountains. There are two main types of Japanese fountains : the Tsukubai fountain and the Shishi-Odoshi fountain. Both types of fountains have a rich cultural history.
Tsukubai is a Japanese term that translates to "squat or cower" in English. The Tsukubai Fountain is a Japanese fountain usually found outside Buddhist temples and Japanese tea gardens. Visitors must “squat or crouch,” that is, bend over, and undergo a purification ritual before entering the temple. This purification ritual is conceptually similar to the ablution ritual practiced in Christian churches. This Tsukubai purification ritual involves hand washing and mouth rinsing. This purification ritual is performed before entering Buddhist temples for tea ceremonies.
A Tsukubai fountain generally consists of a stone basin, called chozubachi. The most important element of the Tsukubai is a bamboo pipe, also called kakei. A small bamboo spoon is placed on top of the basin, ready to be used for the purification ritual. Tsukubai fountains are usually found outside Japanese tea gardens or in Japanese-themed homes.
A stone lantern, also called ishidoro, is placed near the tsukubai to provide light during evening tea ceremonies. The arrangement of the stones around the tsukubai is of capital importance during its design. The green flowers and bamboo plants perfectly complement the area surrounding the Tsukubai.
Simple in design, a tsukubai is a beautiful addition to your garden or tea house to increase its zen appeal and add cultural history to intrigue your guests and visitors.
The Shishi Odoshi Fountains
Shishi Odoshi is another Japanese fountain well known for its distinctive style and ancient beauty. Shishi Odoshi literally translates to “deer hunter”. Japanese farmers used the Shishi Odoshi fountain to scare away deer and pests that were destroying their agriculture.
As Japanese culture progressed, Shishi-Odoshi was used more as a meditative element. Its ability to create a calm serenity in its environment really appealed to Zen monks. Shishi-Odoshi is famous for the swinging movement of the bamboo and its "clacking" sound. The bamboo swings back and forth, with water being filled and emptied through the spout. When the bamboo spout gently hits the surface of the basin, it produces a soft and refreshing clicking sound. People who practice meditation particularly appreciate this gentle clicking sound to help them concentrate.
In recent years, shishi odoshi has become a classic water feature in gardens, due to its cultural history and unparalleled beauty.