When a region’s title includes “Handmaiden” (albeit without the apostrophe and ess), one might be forgiven if the mind jumps immediately to speculation on whether it might have something to do with Margaret Atwood‘s dystopian novel or the television that arose from it.
However, The Handmaiden Estate, designed by StephiDreamEverMore Doune (stephidreamevermore.doune) and Bella Cavanaugh (Bellacatorina McKeenan) on behalf of region holder Takao Kishijoten (Takao Kiyori), looks a lot further east the the totalitarian state of Gilead, drawing as it does primarily on Japan and other Asian elements for its inspiration.
The region’s description notes that it is a place for “both lust and relaxation”, with the region rating further hinting that it can be a place where adult activities might be found – as does some of the décor with the main houses. However, to classify The Handmaiden Estate as being solely about adult pursuits would be unfair and inaccurate.
The landing point sits within the gardens of the main houses, both of which are imposing wood and slate structures of neo-classical Japanese design. One has a more direct reference to adult – or more precisely, BDSM – pursuits, whilst the other has furniture – including modern hot tubs – that perhaps leans more towards the occidental than oriental, making for an interesting mix.
The gardens between the houses sits as a continuation of the landscape the beyond the houses and their walls, featuring grass and free-growing flowers and blossoms, which is again a step away from the more stereotypical representation of an oriental environment, where gardens can so often be more formally laid out.
Beyond the main houses the landscape is a further interesting mix. To one side, a canal-like channel splits the landscape, a bath house occupying the far bank. This looks like it could be the home of an onsen, but within, the bath room is more mundane. A large pools sits behind the bathhouse, its unheated water fed by four carved koi, towels and oils neatly laid out along one side for the use of patrons. Shaded by blossoms and lit by paper lamps, I found this pool to be perhaps the most enticing location within the setting in which to spend time.
Outside of the bath house’s walls to the west, sits a natural pool fed by water tumbling from a rocky hill. It is the home to pedestal Shoji lanterns and water lilies, a stone bench under a Torii gate presenting it as a place to sit and perhaps meditate. A short walk away, stone steps rise to a higher peak, one topped by a further house. Guarded by a Buddha at the foot of the steps and stone lions at the top, I’m not entirely sure if this house is intended to be for public use or not, although there were no overt signs that it is reserved as a private setting or residence.
East of the bathhouse lies a small grassy bay, home to a pagoda style pavilion where tea might be taken and offering a view across the bay to where a small island is occupied by an Indonesian statue protected by the dome of a smaller pavilion whilst watched over by a sampan styled boat.
With hints of formal gardens that never quite mature along a north-south path running beside the walls of the large houses, a statue of an emperor that perhaps leans more towards Sino origins than Japanese, and the aforementioned occidental furnishings, the Handmaiden Estate offers and interesting fusion of ideas and elements that, whilst perhaps eclectic, actually come together very well to present an interesting setting.
There are definitely some particular gems to be found when exploring. The aforementioned outdoor pool, for example, and / or the circular pond to the south-west, home to heron and guarding a further pavilion that looks in part to be a sitting area and in part a small shrine. However, I confess I did find the region to be a little let down by the default environment settings, which tender to render it a little flat. As such, I’d recommend dialling the environment over to one of your preferred environments for better ambient lighting. I found doing so really mad aspects of the region really pop, as I hope the images here demonstrate, making it ideal for photography and appreciation.
With thanks to Morganacarter for the note card and LM.
- The Handmaiden Estate (BASED, rated Adult)