I’m a little embarrased to say the first time I became aware of what a Shishi-odoshi is was back when I first watched Tarantinos film Kill Bill – there is a fight scene between Uma Thurman and Lucy Lieu in a snow covered garden and the tense battle of wills & swords is punctuated by the presence of a Shishi-odoshi in the garden…
Shishi-odoshi literally means “scare the deer” and it “consists of a segmented tube, usually of bamboo, pivoted to one side of its balance point. At rest, its heavier end is down and resting against a rock. A trickle of water into the upper end of the tube accumulates and eventually moves the tube’s centre of gravity past the pivot, causing the tube to rotate and dump out the water. The heavier end then falls back against the rock, making a sharp sound, and the cycle repeats. This noise is intended to startle any deer which may be grazing on the plants in the garden.” If you’d like to make one, details & plans are available here
Before my trip I had done a bit of research as to where I might find one to record, but most of the locations I found online were in cities and accordingly I was keeping an ear out for one when travelling in some of the more remote and smaller towns that we stayed in. But it was on my second last day in Japan that I found one, when staying in the mountains of Nikko….
This was actually not in a temple or near a tea house, which is where you would usually find one – it was in a sort of living museum which had lots of examples of traditional buildings… We also came across what looked like an Uber-Shishi-odoshi! According to the info guide, this was actually used for pounding grains….
Another very interesting water feature found in Japanese gardens is the Suikinkutsu – I never managed to record one, but this video explains what they are and how to make one…. persevere to 0.45″ to hear what an incredibly beautiful, evocative sound they create!!