Glossary (O-Z)

NOTE: "ô" and "û" denote longer sound of "o" and "u" respectively. These letters sound like oh and ooh. These are used in the Glossary pages only.

NOTE: the plural form of Japanese nouns are same as singular form.


  • ochaya an establishment that provides a place of pleasure for wealthy customers; they support their customers by calling Geiko and Maiko as well as having food delivered from caterer's shop; they also serve alcoholic beverages.
  • okiya - a geisha house; Maiko live here and receive training to become Geiko; they dispatch Geiko and Maiko to ochaya to entertain customers


  • roji - a tea garden; literally, an uncovered land ; see chaniwa
  • roji - an alley


  • sabi - quiet simplicity or weathered beauty
  • sadô - the tea ceremony
  • saiô - an unmarried princess of Imperial family (esp. a daughter of an Emperor) selected to serve the god of Ise-jingu shrine for the Emperor. New saiô was assigned every time an new Emperor acceded to the throne. They were selected by augury. The institution of saiô continued from around 670 to around 1330 and more than 60 saiô were recorded
  • sanmon - the main gate of a Buddhist temple; literally, mountain gate; so called because many temples were built on mountains (or hills); same as the following sanmon (three-gate)
  • sanmon - the main gate of a Buddhist temple; literally, three-gate that comes from three kind of Buddhist deliverance
  • sanzon-ishigumi (-iwagumi) - a large stone and a couple of flanking smaller stones that evoke the image of a Buddhist trinity, e.g., Amida-Nyorai, Kan'non-bosatsu and Seishi-bosatsu, or Fudo-myôô, Seitaka-dôji and Konkyara-dôji, etc.
  • shakkei - borrowed scenery; a technique of Japanese garden design that uses a distant object(s) as a part of the garden; see Shoden-ji page for an example
  • shinden - the main hall of an aristocratic residence
  • shinden-zukuri - architecture of shinden in the Heian period (794-1192)
  • Shintô - polytheism native to Japan
  • shirabyôshi - literally, white rhythm; a dance performed in the twelfth century by a woman in male attire; a shirabyôshi performer; see Giô-ji page for a short story of shirabyôshi called Giô
  • shiro - a castle
  • shôgun - a general; a contracted form of Seii-tai-shogun, the chief of samurai government, who was formally assigned by the Emperor
  • shôheki-ga - paintings on papered sliding doors (fusuma) or screens
  • shûyû-shiki-teien - a boating garden; a garden used for pleasure boating and designed so that the best view are from boats.
  • soba - buckwheat; soba noodle
  • sômon - the main gate (of an estate); the front gate of a Zen temple
  • suikinkutsu - an instrument to make drips of water sound like a small bell; consists of a large earthen pot with a small hole in the bottom, that is buried upside down


  • tacchû - a sub-temple that is usually within a precinct of a large temple; also spelled tatchû
  • Taira - family name of Heike clan
  • tahô-tô - a two storied Buddhist pagoda peculiar to Japan; usually, the first story has a square cross section and the second is circular
  • tatami - a rice straw mat that is covered with tightly woven bulrush sheet; usual size is about 55mm in thickness, 910mm in width, 1820mm in length (about 2in x 3ft x 6ft)
  • teien - a garden
  • tera - a Buddhist temple; see also ji and dera
  • - a tower; a pagoda
  • tôri - a street; also dôri
  • torii - a gateway to a Shintô shrine
  • tsukiyama - a miniature mountain or a hill made in a garden; a primary element of Japanese garden together with a pond; frequently built with the soil from digging a pond; had been used to mean a garden with tsukiyama and pond sometimes
  • tsukubai - a stone basin, esp. that is placed in chaniwa; literally means "crouching"; called so because guests of a tea ceremony has to crouch to wash their hands with water in the basin; see the tsukubai of Ryôan-ji


  • uguisu-bari - wooden floors designed to creak, or chirp, when walked on, thus warning the residents of intruder(s). Nijô-jô and Daikaku-ji have those floors.


  • wabi - frugal and calm taste considered to be ideal in Sadô and Haiku


  • zakan-shiki-teien - viewing garden; a garden that is laid out for viewing from a room of a building; also, kansho-shiki teien