This is one of the oldest gardens known in Japan. It was excavated in the 1980's when it was discovered on the site of proposed post office buildings. Excavation revealed a pond in the shape of an 'S' lined with a layer of fist-sized stones. This pond was known as a 'kyuseki' or 'gyuseki' and was approximately 50ft (15m) across and 175ft (55m) in length. Some distance away, a small reservoir feeds the pond through a system of wooden conduits and locks. This reservoir is, in turn, fed by the Kamogawa. Several wooden, box-like containers were found in the pond. These were probably aquatic planters of some type (Kuitert). On the west site of the pond was a Chinese-style pavilion. A fence surrounded both the pond and the building with some buildings outside it for preparation of food and drinks.
Near the piles of the building were found roof tiles that are identical to those used on the Nara Imperial Palace. It is therefore likely that this was a type of informal detached palace or retreat, though it is not mentioned in any of the known written materials.
This site was most likely used for holding banquets in which guests sat on along the banks. Each guest was required to compose a poem before a floating cup of wine reached them from across the pond. This type of event is thought to have been inspired by the Chinese calligrapher Wang Xi Zhi (303-379) when he held a banquet such as this. A very famous anthology of poetry resulted from the Chinese event (held in 353) and this is likely to have inspired later imitations in Korea and Japan.
After the excavation was completed, this site was restored to its former state, including a pond with a couple of feet of water. The post office was located elsewhere.
Kuitert, Wybe. "Two Early Gardens". The Aesthetic Garden: A Symposium on Gardens. edited by L. Tjon Sie Fat and Eric de Jong. Project #128 of World Decade for Cultural Development of the United Nations
I had thought there was
but a single chrysanthemum here.
Who could have planted
the other one made, there in the
depths of Osawa pond?
hito moto ga
omoishi kiku wo
ike no soko
dare ga uheken