Japanese Wisteria Arbor: A Traditional Concept Described

by Karl Bareis (adapted from The Wooden Post, vol. 4, September 2016)

Japanese Wisteria ArborIn 2016 Hakone Garden replaced its 60 year old wisteria azumaya. Described below is the most traditional way for suspending wisteria vines over a viewing platform.

Function and form combined:

It’s only on very close observation that the spanning proportions reveal the logic of this elegant structure, used in holding up the ancient twisted and heavy wisteria vines. The posts are 5.25 inches thick but at any one time only a 3.25 inch facet can be identified when looking directly at them. The same goes for the cross beams, making them look half-as-large as they actually are. This design is traditional for arbor framing and has been constructed in this way since ancient times – a poetic esthetic of floating blossoms first described in the Heian period’s The Tale of Genji.

Simple and elegant in design, the post and beam arbor has evenly spaced axe chops that define it’s rustic outdoor quality. The smooth reflective bamboo brackets the wisteria flowers which hang freely, blending together to make the structure nearly transparent. This allows nature to display itself – without touching the occupants as they admire the view from below.

Japanese Wisteria Arbor CloseupThe wisteria has to be pruned every year, to stimulate the flowers and more heavily pruned every fourth year. This design allows the gardener to move in and out of the maze of branches removing old vines while replacing the bamboo lathwork.

This newly installed arbor, the Kyoto Sento Gosho Wisteria Arbor, shows off the sharp shadows of the hexagonal adzework. Hexagonal horizontal framework lacks large flat surfaces to gather water, and the simple copper “roof” flashing provides a perfect way to keep the structure dry and prevent rot or undue wear from the wire ties.

Note the copper shield covering of the adzed purlins. Posts & purlins are 6 feet on center along the perimeter and made of kuri (Japanese chestnut). Purlin span is 11 feet. The madake bamboo is 2 inch diameter at 12” grid. The bamboo is changed out every three to four years.


Japanese Wisteria Arbor
Japanese Wisteria Arbor