Stepping stones are called “tobi-ishi“ (飛石) in Japanese. The literal translation is "Flying stones" or "Skipping stones". Walking on a stepping stone path requires much more attention than walking on a paved surface - the visitor has to make tiny jumps to get from one stone to another. This influences the way a visitor experiences the garden. While it is possible for two or more people to comfortably walk next to each other on neatly laid out paths and maybe have a conversation, a stepping stone path forces the visitors to go in line, one after the other. This is one reason why tea gardens often have stepping stones. While walking down the path to the tea house, the guests have time to "arrive" in the garden, leave their everyday life behind and prepare mentally for the tea ceremony to come.
Tea master Sen no Rikyu (千利休) is said to have introduced the tobi-ishi path – he did not like that sandals and shoes became dirty when walking on the bare soil. He also recommended that the stepping stones are 6cm higher than the ground. Other tea masters after him preferred them to be 5cm (Furuta Oribe) and 3cm (Kobori Enshu).
The first part of this eBook describes different path patterns, the second part will deal with Trump Stones (Yaku-ishi) – stones that have a specific role in the garden. The last part will introduce four Japanese gardens with beautiful stepping stones.
Choku-uchi paths (直打)
Gan-uchi, Gankake (雁打、雁掛)
Extra pages for these gardens:
13 pages filled with information about Japanese garden paths
53 beautiful pictures of tobi-ishi and Japanese karesansui gardens