The suikinkutsu project

Of the five elements — and note that the Five Elements in Chinese and Japanese philosophies differ — it is water that I associate with the feeling of relaxation. Wind is exhilarating, fire is exciting, earth is nurturing, Ku is… I don’t associate it with anything because I don’t know exactly what it is. Of all the five elements, it is water and wind that I love best. The wind makes me feel alive. When I was in college, I would often turn off the car aircon and drive with the windows open so I could feel the wind on my face. Of course, that was 20 years ago. No sane person, if he had a choice, will choose to drive with the aircon off these days. The level of pollution on the streets and the amount of heat generated by vehicles that have quadrupled since my college days make city driving a slow moving hell.

But it is water that soothes my ruffled nerves; it is water that inspires my soul. My most creative thoughts were hatched in the shower and the most relaxing moments I experienced in the bath tub. I love watching the raindrops, I even like watching the washing machine tub as it fills with water. And I like the sound that water makes — when it rushes or even when it trickles.

Water has a rhythm that is impossible to miss yet exact regularity is not really a part of the rhythm. Listen to the waves as they lap on the shore — no two waves are of the same size, they don’t move with the exact same velocity and, ergo, they never make the same exact sound. Listen to the cadence of the raindrops when they fall. No two raindrops are the same; some make loud sounds while others make hardly a whisper.

The curious thing is that I am not alone in this fixation with the sounds that water makes. For the longest time, Speedy has been bent on creating a suikinkutsu in our garden. Suikinkutsu? Yes, that contraption with the upside down clay jar buried in the ground. Water drips from a hole at the tip and lands on a shallow pool underneath. The process creates tinkling echoes on the walls of the jar to produce a quaint irregular music. He saw it in a Japanese TV documentary and declared it was easy enough to create one.

Well, I’ve been reading about suikinkutsu and it seems it’s anything but simple. See an illustration of the construction details. Does that look simple? Japanese engineering professor Yoshio Watanabe conducted an experiment that elevated the level of complications even more. It appears that several factors can affect the pleasant quality of the sound that the water droplets make.

…under what conditions does a drop generate a good original sound? Is the barrel shape appropriate for the suikinkutsu to generate a good sound? What is the relationship between the natural elastic frequencies of the body of the suikinkutsu and the tonal quality of the reverberant sound of the suikinkutsu?

Now, I don’t know when Speedy’s suikinkutsu project will ever get finished or whether he will feel daunted once he realizes it’s not as easy as the TV documentary made it appear. Perhaps, he won’t feel daunted. He is an engineer after all and things may seem only complicated when viewed from the perspective of a lawyer and writer who is practically clueless in everything engineering. When will the suikinkutsu project come to life? Hopefully, before we become grandparents I will get to hear the the music of the suikinkutsu in our garden.


    • says

      parang mahirap nga, hahaha. anyway, mas gusto ko yung ganitong style: deer chaser

      “Deer chasers were later used in japanese gardens as its fountain movement provided an element of change. As the water flows from the bamboo fountain spout, the knocking portion fills and spills the water creating a rhythmic knocking sound as it hits a rock.”

      madalas ako makakita ng mga ganyang sa mga japanese-inspired movies. if you’ve watched the first kill bill, i think there’s one during BB’s fight with Oren Ishii.

          • says

            Hay naku, have I ever mentioned the story of the capiz lamps on the mango tree? How it took 6 months to put them up? If it weren’t going to be New Year and his entire family was coming over, the lights might have waited another year.

        • says

          Ok din yun ah! At the start we were just talking about a small fountain. Inside the house pa nga just so we can have the sound of trickling water to relax us. Now, it’s getting ambitious. Dunno what the final outcome will be.

        • says

          pero check mo din mabuti dahil other people take the sound of bamboo hitting the rock annoying. pero ako, gusto ko nun. tibong bang may lalabas na ninja sa likod mo, anytime. ;-)

          • emyM says

            This is a beautiful and interesting post.I love the rain.People
            think I’m crazy because I enjoy driving in the rain.Your
            description of water,waves and raindrops with magnificent
            photography made my day.
            I hope Speedy’s suikinkutsus’ project will be a success.

          • ariel says

            Connie I’m glad that you and Speedy find interest in suikinkutsu. I have also seen that documentary on tv where suikinkutsu were built or rather buried underground. I have built suikinkutsu that is not buried but placed on a shallow cement “kawa” which i bought in a quezon city garden along commonwealth av. in fairvew. I wanted an indoor suikinkutsu to be placed near our dining room so i bought one not so large kawa , one submersible sea quest waterpump and three level waterfall that would cascade down the kawa and with a little adjustment by placing pebbles on top of the inverted jar i would be able to adjust the right amount of water that would flow thru the hole and the rest of the cascading water would just flow off the side of the jar. At first I could barely hear the sound of the suikinkutsu as my hearing is not accustomed to or rather since i have not heard the sound of koto i was expecting an easily audible sound . Almost frustrated at the result of my work, I sat and just watched the water flowing from one level to the next until i almost forgot my frustration where i was completely relaxed by the soothing sound of cascading water and then distinctly i heard the sound distinguishable from water dropping on its way down. Exhilarating experience indeed all one need is to relax your senses to be able to hear this quaint water koto sound. Incidentally I have built one here in the House of Representatives where I work as a museum guide and a rchivist.. You may want to have a look and hear at this suikinkutsu here at the entrance of the archives of the HOUSE. Thought this might help , and you and speedy dont have to be that old to have your own suikinkutsu. Ariel


  1. lemon says

    Ms. Connie,how did you that, capture the droplets while they separate? Obvious ba, walang alam sa photography, hehe.

    • says

      That’s a faucet, actually, The bamboo was attached to the spout. We regulated the flow of water so that only droplets came out (irregularly, actually). Then, while squatting and focusing a bit below the tip of the bamboo spout, hayun, I waited. The droplets didn’t “separate”. They trickled one after the other. The shutter speed was adjusted to capture the fast action. Maybe I’ll post something about the shutter speed. hehehe

  2. lemon says

    Thanks Ms. Connie, I really am hopeless with all things techie, at point and shoot pa lang ang ginagamit ko nyan ha, hehe.

  3. says

    Goodluck on this project. Sana Sir Speedy can make this soon. Will love another picture of your garden :-D

    • says

      These are very poetic photographs! I’m just waiting for the sound of the water drops to fill my ears.