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Of Arcs and Circles

Of Arcs and Circles

Insights from Japan on Gardens, Nature, and Art

A renowned designer of Japanese gardens contemplates wildness, humanity, beauty, the liquid state of the world.

From his vantage point as a garden designer and writer based in Kyoto, Marc Peter Keane examines the world around him and delivers astonishing insights through an array of narratives. 

How the names of gardens reveal their essential meaning. A new definition of what art is. What trees are really made of. The true meaning of the enigmatic torii gate found at Shinto shrines. Why we give flowers as gifts. The essential, underlying unity of the world.















6 x 8.5"












"With every phrase, Keane invites us to look at the world around us, and to look better at it."

Katie Croft, The Japan Society UK Review

"Pulsing with wisdom. Marc Keane's meandering insights inspire frequent reading breaks for further contemplation, provoking an experience similar to walking around the “off-balance balance” designs of his Japanese gardens."

Kris Kosaka, The Japan Times

"This isn’t a book to be devoured as one does a bag of potato chips. Each essay requires time and peace, and rereading, to connect with its essential views, which may hide lessons of a very surprising sort."

Rebecca Otowa, Writers in Kyoto

"For a thoughtful romp through Kyoto’s aesthetic delights—from the utterly mundane to the exquisitely ineffable—I can’t think of a better guide than Marc Peter Keane. I highly recommend his newest volume, Of Arcs and Circles."

Leonard Koren, author of Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

"Maybe it comes from years of working with gardens, paying attention to the twist of one branch, the spread of a patch of moss. Marc Keane notices things. He really looks. It might be a wasp nest, an old machiya being torn down, the wind in the trees, a dragonfly that landed on his finger. He looks, and his thoughts begin to swim, then fly, then swoop back down again, in cycle upon cycle, always returning to the inter-connectedness and impermanence — the wonder — of things."

Alex Kerr, author of Finding the Heart Sutra

Reviews for Japanese Garden Notes

"An elegantly soulful interpretation of the essential elements of Japanese garden design."

The New York Times

"An inspirational source for any individual interested in Japanese gardens and their design."

Choice Reviews

"Gorgeous... Like the gardens themselves, every corner of Japanese Garden Notes has been carefully considered, making for a delightful, nourishing coffee-table book."

The Japan Times

"This is a useful book for the layman as well as those more knowledgeable if Japanese gardens. It is also a valuable resource for designers both for the design insights and the ample photographic examples."

The Journal of the North American Japanese Garden Association

"It’s hard to think of a better person to serve as a personal guide through 100 of Japan’s finest gardens."

Spoon & Tamago

"As evidenced through this selection of photographs, the garden design ideas vary in their composition and execution. Some include luscious and open green spaces, while others are more contained and have meticulous arrangements. Each will make you want to go and connect with nature."

My Modern MET

"Keane is the perfect person to expound on the finer aspects of the Japanese garden. [Japanese Garden Notes] captures the elegance of such a calming place."

JQ magazine

"A true work of art... that all who are interested in Japanese gardens should have on their bookshelf."

Shakkei: The Journal of the Japanese Garden Society

"There is not a gardener, of any kind, anywhere that would not benefit from owning this book"

The Botanical Gardening Group

"A jumping-off point for audiences interested in learning more about Japanese gardens, and offers inspiration for casual observers, garden design students, and aficionados."

Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia

“In this thoughtful, marvelous book, Marc Keane distills over three decades experience observing, sketching, photographing, researching, and building Japanese gardens. The result is a series of compelling verbal and visual reflections on the design principles and philosophical values of Japanese gardens. These concise insights—some familiar, others fresh—are relevant to anyone who cares about how places of beauty are created and why they are meaningful. In the crowded field of books on Japanese gardens, Marc Keane has produced a classic.”

Kendall H. Brown, author of Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Gardens of North America

“More than any other book on Japanese Gardens, Marc Keane’s book sheds light on the intricate and often overlooked details and important nuances of the Japanese garden with the insight of an experienced designer and practitioner and the eloquence of a scholar, of which Keane is both. A must-have volume for anyone seriously interested in understanding the spirit and attention to subtle detail that make Japanese gardens places of tranquility and refuge wherever they exist in the world.”

Diane Durston, (Arlene Schnitzer Curator of Culture, Art, and Education) and Sadafumi Uchiyama (Garden Curator), Portland Japanese Garden

Japanese Garden Notes may be one of the most exquisitely photographed books on Japanese gardens ever published. Keane picks up on the fine details that real lovers of Japanese gardens savor, but which rarely get commented on or illustrated. Organized by theme, this book gives the reader a rich overview of Japanese garden art, while pleasing the eye with surprising, intimate, even intense, photographs."

Alex Kerr, author of Lost Japan

Japanese Garden Notes captures the beauty and intelligence of Japanese gardens better than any book I know of. It is a remarkable document."

Leonard Koren, author of Wabi-Sabi: for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers


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About the Author(s)

Marc Peter Keane

Marc Peter Keane

Lived in Japan for 20 years, designing gardens for individuals, companies, and temples. Author of The Japanese Tea Garden, The Art of Setting Stones and Japanese Garden Design (Tuttle Publishing, 2000). He is co-author (with Jiro Takei) of Sakuteiki: Visions of the Japanese Garden, (Tuttle, 2001).

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