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Burying the Guardian Piece

Photo by Jonathan Ley

This morning, Garden Curator Sadafumi (Sada) Uchiyama placed a shizume mono in the foundation of the Village House slab, under the new Naguri door location. The shizume mono is a sacred piece of stone, given to the Garden by the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine—a Shinto shrine in the city of Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan. Priests from this shrine officiated the August groundbreaking ceremony, when construction began.

The shizume mono is a small piece of stone from the most sacred prefecture in Japan, which only priests can access. Inside the ceramic casing are the stone, pieces of rice, and straw, according to Japanese tradition. The symbols on top indicate different quadrants. Sada used a compass to orient the shizume mono to the cardinal directions, then carefully placed it on the Village House’s foundation. The piece will act as a “guardian,” protecting the construction workers and the building. According to Sada, when a centuries-old building in Japan undergoes a renovation, the shizume mono is carefully removed and then replaced in the new construction.

Once the shizume mono was nestled into the Village House’s foundation, Hoffman Construction carefully poured cement over it, not disturbing the piece’s orientation. This small, but significant act both links the Garden to Japan and strengthens our bond to the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu shrine. It’s also a sign that construction is moving forward. Subscribe to our blog for updates, and check out the webcams for an up-to-the-minute look at what’s happening on site.