ROJI 露地, a path through the garden.

Perhaps derived from tsubo niwa of kyo-machiya

In the “Metsugo” section of the Nanporoku, Rikyu says, “Day and night, with the monastic rules of the Zen temples as my basis… I unfolded the world of the Pure Land in the locus of the roji…”

The “dewy path” or “dewy ground” (translated “open ground; open air” in Sanskrit; Chinese translators used RO 露”dew” to mean “exposed to the dew”) found in the third chapter (“Simile and Parable”) of the Lotus Sutra, was translated by Rikyu into the transition space between the outside, the floating world of dust, and the Wabi Soan teahut, which was a mandala of the Buddha world. It became the place to escape- fly away from and cast off, stepping stone by stepping stone, the dust and defilement of the outside world.

Although small and limited, each component and especially the effects of light, reflection of Mizumaki, the splashing of water on stones and plant and of shadows, are given special attention. There is no feeling of miniaturization, no distractions like bridges, water, etc.

Ro, as mentioned, also means “exposed” as to the dew; unprotected by anything such as family, wealth, status, etc. Thus we leave all such symbols of wealth, status and social standing as jewelry, swords or their equivalent, outside. Paradoxically, it is the hidden and concealed which give the illusion of, perhaps non-existant, depths.

At first roji were composed of only the chozu 手水, stone hand washing basin with “no plants, no sand, no rocks” to distract Guests, the true “open ground” of the Sutra. Now the roji is planted mostly with broad leaf evergreens (that bear at most, small flowers), ferns and moss, with a few rocks and stone lanterns.


Some Exemplary Stories

The famous “Clean the roji !” story involving Rikyu and either Jo-o, his teacher or Sho’an, his son-in-law Visiting Sho’an – one stone was taller than the rest – Sho’an fixed it before Nakadachi Autumn morning- many fallen leaves; Rikyu said, “These are nice but I’ll bet they are gone at Nakadachi”- they were.
Rikyu in the mud puddle (that was outside the house)

Spider web story. “We were so fascinated by watching the spider build its web”
Assasin in the setchin


In ro, start covering moss with Shiki Matsuba (敷松葉 pine needle covering); start in centers, around stones, under trees and bushes, and work out to edges during coldest times, then reverse- take up from edges and finish up at middle; take away in or before April.

Sometimes momiji (any colored-leafed tree are allowed to stay but only as long as they look nice; make a mulch pile in back or if it is visible, have it smoldering.

In winter be sure to stay on path, don’t tread in the snow; if it seems that it is going to snow for Chaji, put covers over the tobiishi; sweep before hand; Do not sweep the stones after the snow has fallen.

It is not a good idea to try to melt the snow off if it is an especially cold day as the melt water will refreeze on the stones and make them slippery.

If the snow gets thin and ugly, best melt it all away, especially because inner roji represents perpetual sameness, outside bonds of time.

In summer, for Asacha, water very heavily, even the undersides of the leaves. Do it night before and again early next morning so the water is still cool; waiting to water a hot path or street in front will only evaporate into warm steam

In summer, do as much as you can the night before then as early as possible the next morning; water well the night before but don’t flood the ground.
Dip Sudare reed screens in or sprinkle with water before hanging up.

Shake trees in all seasons.

Knock down, pluck out dead leaves, twigs, whatever.

Do gutters and drains.

Check for spider webs; “relocate” spiders.

Go thru the Roji with clippers and clip anything that hangs over the path, lest it wet the hems and sides of Kimono / Hakama

Sweep moss carefully with soft broom.

Scrub all stones – Tobi Ishi, Tsukubai area, depending upon moss and its desirability

May use salt to clean out Chozubachi but be very carful with the salt water it is poison to the plants.

Make a cover for the Tsukubai and use it whenever Tsukubai is unused to keep out dirt and organic particles. Check occasionally, especially after rain to dry out, prevent mosquito larvae, ants, etc. For long periods of inactivity- fill Tsukubai with pebbles and lid.

Never put hot water into Tsukubai, much less ice; however, if you do not have a Yuoke and it is very cold- well water is always a constant pleasant cool so modify for best results.

In real cold weather, prepare a Yuoke 湯桶, hot water bucket.

A new Tsukubai-bishaku is always nice.

Wet the roji thoroughly one hour before the Guests are due to arrive; then again lightly 15 mins before the enter it.

Take Zokin thruout roji to absorb any puddles.

On a cold and windy day, or hot and breezy day, the sprinkled water will quickly dry.

don’t forget to water again before Guests leave the tearoom- after main sweet and after usucha.

Do not use hose after guests have arrived. Use a bucket and Tsukubai-bishaku or Joro- 如露 sprinkler

Keep constant watch and check the roji yourself just in case something happened -ie. dead birds or animals; live animals snakes; trash thrown over fence; assassin, etc.

In autumn, leave only the nice leaves freshly fallen after the main sweeping
Roji Dogu

Prepare Guests number plus one for Teishu (One more needed for Hanto but not seen by Guests) of the following things:

Rojizori 露地草履, straw sandals
Rojigeta 露地下駄, wooden “sandals” for rainy, snowy weather
Rojigasa 露地笠, hand-held umbrella
Roji Tsue 露地 杖, bamboo staff
Sekimori Ishi 関守石- one for every place the path could be mistaken
Nakamon – depending on roji, green bamboo, replaced yearly
Outside the Seki

Katana-kake 刀掛- simple hanging “shelves” usually just honegumi, frame for sword pairs; dai-sho (swords) originally just propped up but fell over; pegs in wall or in bamboo pole- still damaged; at one time even fans were left out but too extreme now- watches, rings, perfume, cameras act as separators, protectors

Chiriana 塵穴-under eaves; place for last bit of dust; square [0.9.0(27cm) x 1.1(33)] for large room-hiroma, round for small room (4 1/2 mats and smaller) -D. 21-24 cm, deep-27<; in orig. roji less well defined; now kept very close, very clean; green leaves put in to cover anyway

Soto 外 roji- outer dewy path

The stones not too large, not too small and set natural distance apart, for “easy” walking and looking around. Soto roji stones are more like paving- in numbers and straightness. The tops should be easy to walk on with Roji Zori and Geta smooth and fairly flat, with few holes or depressions to catch water. These puddles must be wiped up before the Guests pass over them. The perfect condition is that found just after a light rain has started. The wetter the better is NOT true. Plants sticking over the path must be cut back to prevent ruin of silk.

The inner roji path itself is marked out by flat stones, tobi-ishi (飛石 “flying stones”) carefully laid to give the impression of a mountain road but also to force the Guest to slow down and carefully observe the pilgrim’s progress and their surroundings. Traditional JPN gardens start to the left or to the west; stones are laid to be easy but not too easy to walk on.

For Rikyu, function was 60% of a roji, looks 40%. As we might expect, with Oribe it was 40/60.

Nanporoku (Dennis Hirota translation) 2. Whenever I go to have tea with Rikyu, he unfailingly brings water to fill the stone basin (Chozubachi) and pours it in himself. I asked him once about the meaning behind this. He answered, “In the roji, the Teishu’s first act is to bring water; the Guest’s first act is to use this water to rinse his hands. Herein lies the great foundation of the roji and thatched hut. ..

5. You must have more than a merely indifferent grasp of watering the roji. The key to hosting a gathering lies in the three layings of the charcoal and the three waterings of the roji..

中門 CHUMON-middle gate

The gate which stands between inner and outer roji, further separating the tea house from the outside. It may be covered, uncovered, simple or elaborate, but wabi chajin prefer the minimum. If it is made of bamboo, it and its fence should be replaced with new, green bamboo at least once, if not twice a year. If it has no roof, the large stone in center of monÅF tosuri ishi. Types include

shiori do -bent bamboo
saru do -boards and bamboo, hinged
push up from crossbar; propped on long pole hajitomi
Baiken mon – at Omote; “plum view” hard to see thru
Amigasa mon -at Mushakoji; made like a big rainhat
Ancient style still used at Omote is kuguri 潜, a free standing wall with Nijiriguchi; therefore other Nijiriguchi unnecessary.
Rikyu (Nampo?) – shouldn’t use an ancient gate from an old mountain temple because it is not appropriate for a wabi, city dwelling. At any seki-iri, it is unlocked by Teishu, relocked by Tsume; after the chaji is over, it is unlocked by Tsume; relocked by Shokyaku.

Uchiroji-inner roji

These should be less “interesting” than outer roji, more spiritual, more pure. There will be more ferns and moss but fewer stones, with nothing purely “decorative.” They may be more open or trees may half hide the teahouse.

Lanterns are not considered decorative since they serve both for lighting and as landscape elements, focus points. One is always at Tsukubai; others depending on layout of roji. The oldest known ones are dated from Kamakura era. There are many shapes and konomi; many stolen from Korea and, having no base, were sunk directly into the ground.

Especially in the inner roji, the stones should be smaller, less “convenient” and less contrived in feeling. The ideal is said to be like a stone path through the mountains. Sotan was in such a quandary that he scattered beans to keep from having to decide where to place smaller stones just at Nijiriguchi.

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