One of the primary problems I had when first getting into suiseki was understanding the terms and their intended use. I would often find a Japanese word without any explanation or used in a manner that actually made me more confused. Over time many of the words and their meanings began to clear up (although there are still instances where I see the words used in unusual ways). At that time I thought a glossary would be of use to other suiseki enthusiasts. I hope it does help.
These terms are listed alphabetically. Some Japanese terms will have more than one meaning. Similarly, there will sometimes be more than one Japanese term for an English word or meaning. These have been cross-referenced for ease of use. However, when names use both suffixes for stone or rock (seki or ishi) with no other differences, they are shown together. For use of each term relating to stone classification in classification order, see the Suiseki Classification page.
Abekawa ishi. Stones found in the Abekawa river, Shizuoka city, Shizuoka prefecture. The Abekawa river starts in Suruga and whose mouth is near Shizuoka. Types of rock found include Ferroaxinite, Garnierite, Serpentine, and Diopside.
Aiseki. Stone appreciation.
Aka-ishi. Red stones. One type of Japanese stone classification identifies stones by their color rather than shape. Usually used in conjunction with one or more other type of classification.
Amagata-ishi. Rain-pattern stones.
Amakusa ishi. Stones from the Amakusa Islands.
Amayadori. Rain-shelter stones. Stone with an overhang that would offer a traveler refuge from the rain. (See Yadori).
Ao-ishi. Blue stones. One type of Japanese stone classification identifies stones by their color rather than shape. Usually used in conjunction with one or more other type of classification.
Araiso-ishi. Reef stones. Rough stones suggesting a jagged reef or shoal.
Aware. An intense nostalgic sadness brought on by a situation, memory or feeling. In Japan, aware is connected with autumn and the vanishing of the world.
Baika-seki. Japanese plum-blossom-pattern stones.
Bako. Storage box. Different types of bako are used for specific things. A kiri bako is used to store a suiseki and their daiza. Traditionally made of Paulownia wood due to its lightness and ability to protect against moisture.
Beitenmoyo. Stone surface covered by small bumps the size of rice grains.
Biseki. Beautiful stone. One that has been polished or carved to enhance its natural beauty. Not generally considered to be a true suiseki.
Chusho-seki. Abstract-pattern stones.
Dai. Stand, rack or rest used to display suiseki.
Daiza. Form-fitting stand or base made for the display of a specific suiseki.
Dan-seki/Dan-ishi. Plateau stones. Plateau stones suggest a terraced hillside or a series of flat steps rising toward a cliff. A classical stone would have at least three steps, which would vary in length. The rise between each step should be vertical or nearly vertical.
Doban. Shallow metal tray (usually bronze) without holes in the bottom. Used to display suiseki, and normally filled with sand or water.
Dobutsu-seki. Animal-shaped stones. Any stone which resembles a real or mythical animal would fall into this category.
Doha-seki/Doha-ishi. Slope or plains stones. These stones suggest the rolling hills of a plain or a slope gently rising toward a hill.
Dokutsu-ishi. Cave stones. The hollows and cavities in these stones resemble caves, caverns or grottos. The cave is ideally suggested by a deep and dark cavity, the end of which cannot be seen. The most admired cave stones are those where the cave slants sharply to the left or the right.
Domon-ishi. Tunnel stones. The hole or holes in these stones suggest a pass-through tunnel or natural arch. Traditionally, the tunnel passes completely through the stone and it is prefered that they veer to the left or right rather than simply going straight through the stone.
Enzan-seki. Distant mountain stones. (See Toyama-ishi). Noted more for the silhouette than the details of the stone.
Funagata-ishi. Boat-shaped stones. These stones resemble different types of boats, including wooden sailing ships, rowboats, and houseboats.
Furuya-ishi. Stones found in and around Furuya, Japan.
Ganzan-seki. Mountain stone with strong rock-like or craggy features.
Gensho-seki. Celestial-pattern stones.
Goshiki-ishi/Goshiki-seki. Five-color stones. One type of Japanese stone classification identifies stones by their color rather than shape. Usually used in conjunction with one or more other type of classification.
Hadame. Heavy texture or "skin" of a suiseki; surface eroded by water.
Hagata-ishi. Leaf-pattern stones.
Hanagata-ishi. Flower-pattern stones.
Hashi-ishi. Bridge-shaped stones As the name suggests, these stones resemble a stone or wooden bridge.
Hidari-katte. A left-flowing suiseki. (See Katte).
Higata-ishi. Sun-pattern stones.
Hirasu-ishi. Sandbar stones. Smooth stones suggesting a sandbar or quiet beach.
Hoshigata-ishi. Star-pattern stones.
Hyojun suiseki. A medium suiseki of 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 cm) in size. Considered to be the standard . (See Ogata, Kogata, and Mame).
Ibigawa-ishi. Stones found in and around the Ibigawa river.
Ishi. Stone or rock.
Isogata-ishi. Shore stones. Such stones are usually shallow and suggest a rocky shoreline. There are two primary subcategories.
Itodaki-ishi. Thread-waterfall stones. Suggested by a thin line of quartz-like material running down the front of the stone.
Itogaki-ishi. Tangled-net-pattern stones. Stones with quartz or light mineral inclusions that resemble tangled fishing nets. (See Itomaki and Itokaki-ishi).
Itokaki-ishi. Tangled-net-pattern stones. Stones with quartz or light mineral inclusions that resemble tangled fishing nets. (See Itogaki and Itomaki-ishi).
Itomaki-ishi. Tangled-net-pattern stones. Stones with quartz or light mineral inclusions that resemble tangled fishing nets. (See Itogaki and Itokaki-ishi).
Iwagata-ishi. Coastal rock stones. These stones suggest a high, wind-swept rocky coastline; a tall, roughly shaped offshore rock; or a steep cliff at the end of a peninsula. Stones with white mineral deposits at their base are especially prized, since these markings suggest waves breaking against the cliffs.
Jagure. Snake-pattern stones. Refers to stones that have sinuous paterns or indentations similar to patterns snakes make in sand or soft dirt.
Jiban. A flat board for displaying suiseki (or bonsai). (See jiita).
Jiita. A flat board for displaying suiseki (or bonsai). (See jiban).
Jimbutsu-seki. Human-shaped stones. Most popular subjects for these stones include fishermen, farmers, maidens, Buddha, and Buddhist monks. Stones that suggest parts of the human body are also included in this grouping. (See Sugata-ishi ).
Kaiseki. As used during the Edo Period (1603-1867), referred to stones with strange and dramatic shapes; scholars’ rocks.
Kako-seki. Processed stones with bottoms cut or worked to make them easier to place in a suiban or daiza.
Kamogawa-ishi. Stones found in the Kamogawa river.
Kamuikotan-seki/Kamuikotan-ishi. Stones found in and around Kamuikotan, Japan.
Karedaki-ishi. Dry waterfall stones. These are stones that have definite markings that suggest a waterfall that has dried up.
Kaseki. Fossil stone or petrified rock. Valued for their inclusions or the fact that they were once living and are now stone.
Katte. Implied directional flow of a suiseki as determined by its prominent features. A right-flowing suiseki is called migi-katte; a left-flowing stone is a hidari-katte.
Kawa dojo. The "classroom of the river": studying the riverbed develops the artistic sensitivity and taste that will lead to the discovery of quality stones.
Kawa-ishi. Stones collected in and around rivers.
Kawazure. Smooth texture (as caused by water over time).
Keiryu-seki. Mountain stream suiseki.
Keisho-seki. Object stones. Stones in this category resemble objects closely associated with nature. The finest stones do not exactly copy the object, but suggest it through a few subtle lines and forms. There are eight traditional categories under this heading.
Keiryu-seki. Mountain-stream stones. The suggestion of a mountain stream appears as though running through a gorge or valley. The effect is enhanced if there is a white mineral vein running along where the stream would be. Such stones are most ideal if the stream runs diagonally across the stone, rather than from front to back.
Kibune-ishi. Stones found in and around Kibune, Japan.
Kigata-ishi. Plant-pattern stones.
Kikka-seki. Chrysanthemum-pattern stones. (See Kikumon-seki and Kiku-ishi).
Kikumon-seki. Chrysanthemum-pattern stones. (See Kikka-seki and Kiku-ishi).
Kiku-ishi. Chrysanthemum-pattern stones. (See Kikumon-seki and Kikka-seki).
Kinko-seki. Yellow-red stones. One type of Japanese stone classification identifies stones by their color rather than shape. Usually used in conjunction with one or more other type of classification.
Kinzan-seki. Near-view maintain stones with detailed texture.
Kogata suiseki. A small suiseki of 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm) in size. (See Ogata, Hyojun, and Mame).
Ko-ishi. Arch stone.
Koho-seki. Single-peak mountain stones.
Koshoku. Aged quality of stone’s surface; related to yoseki and mochikomi.
Kotaki-ishi. Small waterfall stone.
Kurama-ishi. Stones found in and around Kurama, Japan.
Kuro-ishi. Black stones. One type of Japanese stone classification identifies stones by their color rather than shape. Usually used in conjunction with one or more other type of classification.
Kusagata-ishi. Grass-pattern stones.
Kuzuya-ishi. Thatched-hut stones Thatched-hut stones form an especially category within this group.
Ideally the stone has an overhanging rounded or triangular roof and an eroded or recessed center. Thatched -hut stones with pillars holding up the roof tend to be highly valued.
Maguro-ishi. Jet-black stones. One type of Japanese stone classification identifies stones by their color rather than shape. Usually used in conjunction with one or more other type of classification. (Also Makuro-ishi).
Mame suiseki. A miniature suiseki of less than 6 inches (15 cm) in size. (See Ogata, Hyojun, and Kogata).
Meiseki. Exceptional suiseki; a masterpiece.
Migata-ishi. Fruit-pattern stones.
Mikaeshi. The back side of a suiseki.
Mikiri. The transition between a high and low point on a suiseki.
Mitsuki. The front of a suiseki.
Mizutamari-ishi. Waterpool or lake stones. These stones have depressions that suggest mountain pools or ponds. Porous stone that do not allow the pool portion of the stone to be filled with water are not prized. The most highly prized pool stones are those with the pool encircled by one or more well-formed mountains.
Mochikomi. The process of aging a stone by letting it weather and watering it on a daily basis. (See Yoseki).
Mon-seki. Pattern stones. (See Monyo-seki).
Monyo-seki. Pattern stones: suiseki having plant, weather and other patterns. Also known as Mon-seki.
Murasaki-ishi. Purple stones. One type of Japanese stone classification identifies stones by their color rather than shape. Usually used in conjunction with one or more other type of classification.
Mushigata-ishi. Insect-shaped stones. Most popular subjects within this category would be butterflies, dragonflies, crickets and grasshoppers.
Nachiguro-ishi. Stones found in and around Nachiguro, Japan.
Nashijihada. Numerous dots or spots on a suiseki’s surface, like those on a Japanese pear.
Nettai-seki. Tropical stones.
Neodani-ishi. Stones found in and around Neodani, Japan.
Nunodaki-ishi. Sheet-waterfall stones. These have broader lines of light-colored material coming down the front side of the stone.
Ogata suiseki. A large suiseki of 24 inches (60 cm) or more in size. (See Hyojun, Kogata, and Mame).
Ogon-seki. Golden-yellow stones. One type of Japanese stone classification identifies stones by their color rather than shape. Usually used in conjunction with one or more other type of classification.
Otaki-ishi. Large waterfall suiseki.
Raiko-seki. Lightening-pattern stones.
Rempo-seki. Multiple peak mountain stones.
Renzan-seki. Mountain range stones.
Ryugan. Dark lines on a light background on a suiseki.
Sabaku-ishi. Desert stones.
Sado akadama-ishi. Distinctive red stones found in and around Sado, Japan.
Sampo-seki. Triple-peak mountain stones.
Sansui kei-seki. Scenic landscape stones. A major category of Suiseki. Stones in this category suggest natural aspects of nature. (See Sansui keijo-seki).
Sansui keijo-seki. Scenic landscape stones. A major category of Suiseki. Stones in this category suggest natural aspects of nature. (See Sansui kei-seki).
Sajigawa-ishi. Stones found in the Sajigawa river.
Seigaku-seki. Stones found in and around Seigaku, Japan.
Setagawa-ishi. Stones found in the Setagawa river.
Shimagata-ishi. Island stones. As the name implies, these stones resemble an island rising out of the water. They are traditionally low in height and ideally have features that suggest coves or inlets. These stones are normally displayed in a suiban or doban filled with sand or water to enhance the island image of the stone.
Shimagata-toyama-ishi. Distant island view stones.
Shin-seki. Newly collected or "young" stones.
Shizen-seki. A natural stone that has not been altered in any way other than cleaning.
Shoku. Small wood table used to display art objects - such as suiseki.
Shun. Heavy wrinkles, creases and furrows on a suiseki.
Soho-seki. Double-peak mountain stones.
Sudachi. Pit-mark-pattern stones.
Sugata-ishi. Human-shaped stones. Most popular subjects for these stones include fishermen, farmers, maidens, Buddha, and Buddhist monks. Stones that suggest parts of the human body are also included in this grouping. (See Jimbutsu-seki).
Suiban. Shallow ceramic tray without holes in the bottom. Used to display suiseki, often filled with sand or water.
Suiseki. Ancient Asian art form consisting of natural rocks and their display stands. Any of a number of stones appreciated for their own beauty and what they suggest to the viewer. Often in the form of a mountain or ancient man-made object or animal. Originally stones unaltered in any way except for cleaning.
Suwari. Stability in a suiseki. How well it fits into its base and includes the "appearance" of being stable and well-balanced.
Taki-ishi. Waterfall stones. Such stones resemble a mountain with one or more waterfalls. The waterfall is suggested by a streak of quartz, calcite or other white mineral emanating from near the top of the stone and coming down the front. If the waterfall appears on both sides of the stone it is usually not considered a good stone.
Taku. A stand for display of a suiseki (or bonsai).
Tencho-seki. Summit suiseki.
Tenko-seki. Weather-pattern stones.
Tennen Kiseki. Classification category from Meiji Period (1868-1912). Stones that resemble natural objects such as mountains, valleys, humans, and animals.
Tenseki. Classification category from Meiji Period (1868-1921). Stones meant to accompany a bonsai arrangement. The stones may represent seasonal themes unique to bonsai; winter, spring, blossoms, and so on.
Tora-ishi. Tiger-stripe-pattern stones.
Torigata-ishi. Bird-shaped stones. This group of stones resemble real and mythcal birds.
Toyama-ishi. Distant mountain stones. (See Enzan-seki). Noted more for the stones suggestive silhouette rather than details.
Tsukigata-ishi. Moon-pattern stones.
Uogata-ishi. Fish-shaped stones. Although all fish belong in this category, koi and goldfish are especially prized by collectors.
Yadori. Shelter stones. The concave shape of these stones suggest a shallow shelter or temporary refuge formed by an overhanging cliff. To be classified as a shelter stone, the floor of the shelter should be at least partly visible. (See Amayadori).
Yagata-ishi. House-shaped stones. These stones suggest various types of rustic houses.
Yamagata-ishi. Mountain stones. These stones resemble a single mountain or several mountains. Although distant and near-view mountain stones are the most important sub classification, mountains may also be identified by the number of peaks.
Yama-ishi. A suiseki collected in the mountains.
Yoseki. Nurturing a stone. Watering and rubbing a stone to give it an aged and appreciated appearance.
Yukigata-ishi. Snow-pattern stones.
Yurai-seki. Historical stones. Stones that have been owned by important people or that have important histories.
Zokei-seki. Modeled stones. Stones that have had certain features worked to enhance their shape. For example, a mountain peak or a thatched hut stone. Not generally considered to be a true suiseki.
Hayes, James, Waiting To Be Discovered, The Newsletter of the North American Viewing Stone Society, 1996-1999
Rivera, Felix G., Suiseki, The Japanese Art of Miniature Landscape Stones, Stone Bridge Press, 1997
Covello, Vincent T. and Yoshimura, Yuji, The Japanese Art of Stone Appreciation, Suiseki and Its Use with Bonsai, Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1984
Tucker, Melba L., Suiseki & Viewing Stones, An American Perspective, Horizons West, 1996
Cheng, Fong-wing and Soo, Ming-wong, Picking Up Stones - Nurturing Stones - Enjoying Stones, Publisher unknown, 1996
Nippon Suiseki Association website, http://www.suiseki-assn.gr.jp/, 2003