Japanese Stone Basins Are for Hand-Washing : You Can Find Reasonably Priced Concrete Imitations in Los Angeles

At least one of those huge containers being offloaded by giant cranes at the Port of Los Angeles was full of Tsukubai instead of Toyotas.

Tsukubai is the traditional stone basin used to wash one’s hands before a tea ceremony in Japan, or to wash one’s hands while weeding--a more modern use.

You can find reasonably priced concrete imitations in Los Angeles or buy the real rock-solid, granite basins imported by George Yamaguchi. They cost from about $300 for the low kinds that require some stooping (considered humble and worthy) to $1,000 for an extremely handsome tall one that requires no humility at all. Considering what they weight (George is not sure, but they can be put in the trunk of the car), the price per pound is pretty good.

There are basins that look like natural boulders, basins shaped like an old Chinese coin, basins shaped like a chrysanthemum flower and basins that are simply round and elegant.


For those who want to use tsukubai in a traditional Japanese setting, the book, “A Japanese Touch for Your Garden,” by Kiyoshi Seike and Masanobu Kudo (Kodansha International; Tokyo and New York) explains the rules for positioning them next to a “sea” of gravel or small stones, with a large flat stone for standing on and two smaller flat stones to hold other objects while washing. The authors even give the traditionally proper dimensions and spacings.

Yamaguchi has also imported 40,000 pounds worth of solid granite lanterns from the small path-side Oki-gata, to the towering Tachi-gata, for those looking for a traditional Japanese touch in night lighting. All are available at Yamaguchi Bonsai Nursery, 1905 Sawtelle Ave. in West Los Angeles, 213/473-5444.