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How To Build A Shishi Odoshi Japanese Bamboo Fountain
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How To Build A Shishi Odoshi Japanese Bamboo Fountain

Shishi Odoshi

Last winter, my family traveled to Japan. As a lover of Japanese gardens, I went home with lots of inspiration. One garden element that really spoke to me was the Shishi Odoshi fountain. We saw that water features were standard in the Japanese garden. So I decided to make one! Are you ready to make your own bamboo water fountain?

This zen bamboo water feature is both beautiful and creates a soothing sound. Growing up, my father also had a love for everything Japanese and he had stunning Japanese gardens in his backyard (see photo below). While his landscape was better suited for Japanese tea gardens and zen gardens, I decided I could add a small fountain to my outdoor space. The bamboo tube fountains in Japan are called, “Shishi-Odoshi” fountains. 

The history of Shishi Odoshi fountains is simple yet interesting. They are popular in Japan because people use them for meditation. Zen monks find them calming and they bring peace and serenity to any environment. The soft sound that the shishi odoshi fountain creates is calming and helps people focus and meditate. However, the term “shishi odoshi” translates to “deer frightening” or “deer scarer” and was originally created to scare away animals similar to a scarecrow.

Originating from Japanese gardens, the Shishi Odoshi serves not only as a functional water feature but also as a symbolic representation of harmony, balance, and the passage of time. Crafting one requires attention to detail, an appreciation for the natural materials involved, and an understanding of the cultural significance behind this timeless piece of art. Since my dad was visiting, we decided to hit Lowes for our supplies and materials. And guess what?! The whole project took under two hours to make once we purchased the fountain pump and all of the other elements.

Materials needed to create a Shishi odoshi fountain:

Crafting a Shishi Odoshi requires minimalistic yet sturdy materials, emphasizing the beauty of simplicity. The following are essential components:

  1. Bamboo: The primary material for constructing a Shishi Odoshi is bamboo, chosen for its flexibility, durability, and aesthetic appeal. Selecting high-quality bamboo poles of varying lengths and diameters is crucial to achieving the desired sound and movement. While you can certainly build your own spout using a large piece of bamboo, I found this one with great reviews on Amazon and it came with the pump. Additionally, there are many bamboo water fountains available online.
  2. Water Source: A steady water source is necessary to provide the flowing element of the fountain. This can be a simple pump system connected to a reservoir or a natural water feature such as a pond or stream.
  3. Weight: Stones or other heavy objects are employed to counterbalance the movement of the bamboo arm, ensuring a rhythmic and consistent motion.
  4. Support Structure: Depending on the chosen design, a stable support structure may be required to anchor the Shishi Odoshi securely in place.
  5. Level
  6. ​Shovel
  7. Nylon screening
  8. Rebar
  9. Scissors
  10. Pond Rocks
  11. Pond liner
  12. Timer (optional)

Crafting a Shishi Odoshi involves a series of deliberate steps, each contributing to the functionality and aesthetic appeal of the final piece. Here’s a comprehensive guide to creating your own Japanese bamboo fountain:

  1. Selecting Bamboo: Choose bamboo poles of appropriate length and thickness, considering both the aesthetic and functional aspects of each piece. Thicker bamboo poles are typically used for the main body of the Shishi Odoshi, while thinner ones are suitable for the water spout. I found one online that already had the pump and the pivot point. I am glad I didn’t have to create the bamboo frame from scratch.
  2. Cutting and Shaping: If you end up creating your fountain from scratch, use a saw to cut the bamboo poles to the desired lengths, keeping in mind the proportions and dimensions of each component. Smooth out any rough edges or splinters to ensure a clean finish.
  3. Creating the Base: Construct a sturdy base or platform to support the Shishi Odoshi. This can be made of wood, stone, or any other durable material capable of withstanding the weight and movement of the fountain. There are several ways to create the base, but I decided to use a round barbeque grate and it worked perfectly.
  4. Assembling the Framework: Arrange the bamboo poles to form the framework of the Shishi Odoshi, with the larger poles serving as the main body and the smaller ones as the water spout. Secure the poles in place using traditional joinery techniques such as lashing or mortise and tenon joints. Again, I skipped this step and purchased mine ready-made.
  5. Installing the Water Mechanism: Integrate a water pump system into the design to provide a continuous flow of water to the bamboo fountain. Position the pump discreetly within the base or reservoir, ensuring that it remains hidden from view.
  6. Balancing the Bamboo Arm: Attach a weight, such as a stone or counterweight, to one end of the bamboo arm to create a balanced and stable structure. This will enable the bamboo arm to pivot smoothly and rhythmically as water fills and empties from the spout.
  7. Fine-tuning and Adjustments: Test the functionality of the Shishi Odoshi by adjusting the flow rate of the water pump and fine-tuning the positioning of the bamboo components. Make any necessary adjustments to achieve the desired sound and movement of the fountain.
  8. Enhancements and Customization: Personalize your Shishi Odoshi with additional decorative elements, such as engraved patterns or embellishments, to reflect your unique style and artistic vision. Experiment with different configurations and materials to create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

Step by step instructions to build a Shishi Odoshi Tsukubai garden fountain

Instructions to build a Shishi Odoshi Tsukubai garden fountain
  1. Dig a large hole (should be the size of whichever basin or pond liner you add to the hole. My hole had to be a minimum of 23 inches in diameter. This was the most challenging part and I purchased an excellent shovel at the Lowes Home Centers which made the digging much easier.

2. Place the clean basin inside the hole and make sure it is level.

3. Add the pond liner and make sure it covers the entire basin. Add some rocks to weigh it down.

4. Add some water, and place the pump inside just to make sure the pump works. Be sure to leave the cord outside of the basin and make sure to keep the area clean and tidy. It is important to keep the water tube clean – you might want to make a small hole for the tubing to exit the basin. I didn’t do this, but it would be an extra step to keeping the plastic tube clean.

5. Now that you’ve added the basin, place the bamboo where you want it to go. Dig a hole and place the rebar into the hole and fill it with dirt. This will keep the bamboo fountain upright. Place the bamboo fountain on top of the rebar. Be sure that the front end of the bamboo is pointed towards the top of the fountain basin. If the upright pieces cause the water to land outside of the basin, you might have to dig a hole and move it over a bit.

6. Place the nylon screening across the top. This will prevent dirt from getting in and clogging the pump. Use rocks to weigh down the screening so that it doesn’t lift.

7. Place a metal grate on top of the screen.

8. Cover with decorative rocks so that you can’t see the metal or the basin.

9. Add more water. Be sure the entire basin is full so that the water pours seamlessly. Having the right amount of water will keep the pump working for years to come.

10. Turn on your fountain and enjoy the relaxing, soothing sounds. If the sound isn’t soothing enough, check the water flow and also check to see if the length of the spout looks balanced. You might need to bury it deeper or use a taller basin. You can also add rocks to the basin to change the sounds. I used a timer with a remote to easily turn my fountain on or off.

11. Add landscaping. The world is your oyster – add water plants, make it into a water garden or study Japanese garden designs to see what works best for you. Enjoy your fountain and also enjoy making your very own garden with your special touches.

Beyond its practical function as a water feature, the Shishi Odoshi holds profound cultural significance within the context of Japanese aesthetics and philosophy. Its rhythmic and meditative qualities evoke a sense of tranquility and contemplation, inviting viewers to pause and reflect on the fleeting nature of time. The sound of water cascading through the bamboo spout symbolizes the passage of time, echoing the cyclical rhythms of nature and the impermanence of existence.

In Japanese gardens, the presence of a Shishi Odoshi is believed to create a harmonious balance between man-made structures and the surrounding environment, fostering a sense of serenity and connection to the natural world.

Conclusion:

Crafting a Shishi Odoshi is more than just a creative endeavor; it is a journey into the heart of Japanese culture and craftsmanship. Through careful selection of materials, meticulous craftsmanship, and an appreciation for the underlying symbolism, one can create a timeless masterpiece that transcends mere functionality to become a symbol of harmony, balance, and the enduring beauty of nature. So, embrace the spirit of Zen simplicity and embark on the journey of creating your own Japanese bamboo fountain, and let its soothing sounds and graceful movements transport you to a place of tranquility and contemplation.