Japanese people really values aesthetics natural landscape. This is the reason why gardens or parks in Japan are always clean and taken good care of, creating a very beautiful and lively landscape. Therefore, Japanese gardens are well known around the world and become perfect destinations for locals and tourists. There are many different types of Japanese gardens, each of which has its own unique feature yet shares one common thing - the Zen spirit, which makes it close to nature. What is in a Japanese garden?
Stone, gravel and sand
Stone plays an important role in Japanese culture since ancient times. In Shinto village (Japan), big stones are worshiped as gods, while gravels are placed in sacred lands, typically in some ancient temples like Ise Shrine or Kamigamo Shrine in Kyoto.
In many Japanese gardens today, big stones symbolize mountains and hills, which are used for both decoration and construction of bridges and walkways. Small stones and gravels are arranged side by side around ponds and streams. Meanwhile, there are gardens with big stones symbolizing mountains and islands, while stones and gravels symbolizing water.
Ponds, streams and waterfalls
Pond occupies a central position in most gardens, which often represents the actual lake or sea. Sometimes the pond is home for koi fish, making a colorful and lively garden. Even in the rock gardens, ponds, streams and waterfalls are still represented by stones and gravels. It can be said that water is an essential part in all Japanese gardens.
Islands and bridges
Island is another long-standing element of the Japanese garden, which is made up of small to big stones, some of which is even big enough to support a building. They often symbolize real islands or certain religious beliefs, such as stones built to resemble turtles, symbolizing longevity and health or Horai, a sacred mystical mountain in Taoism.
Bridge is also a common element which is often used to connect islands and cross over streams to the shore. Bridges are made from stone or wood or more complicatedly from a natural stone slab on a stream. In some case, it can be a 10 meter wooden bridge.
Trees, shrubs, lawns and flowers are all used in Japanese gardens. Plants, such as maple and cherry trees, often are placed seasonally and intentionally. In contrast, pine, bamboo, and plum trees are placed during the winter months, when other species are sleeping to capture their beauty. Moss is also widely used, with more than one hundred species.
Plants are carefully arranged around the garden to simulate nature along with the great efforts of the gardeners to preserve their beauty. Trees, shrubs and lawns were carefully trimmed, and moss was delicately cut. In winter, straw, burlap and ropes are used to insulate and protect plants from cold snow, while straw is wrapped to resist insect infestation.
The larger gardens, especially the walking gardens in the Edo period, often use large man-made hills. The hills may symbolize real or mythological mountains, some of which have panoramic views of the garden.
Lanterns come in many different shapes and sizes and are quite popular in Japanese garden design. They are usually made of stone and placed in carefully selected positions, such as on islands, at the end of the peninsula or next to important buildings where they provide both light and higher beauty to the garden.
Many gardens have water basin (tsukubai). Water basins are designed diversely, from simple uncut rock slabs to carved stones. Each water basin usually has a bamboo scoop to take water. Water basins are more for decorative purposes than for actual use.
Walkways become an integral part of the Japanese garden with the introduction of tea garden and the habit of walking. The promenade gardens feature arc pathways made of stepping stones, crushed gravel, packed sand or soil, giving visitors the best view of the garden. Winding walkway separate different areas, be it an isolated grove of trees or a hidden pond. Depending on its position, walkways will be designed for different purposes.
9 most beautiful Japanese gardens in the world
1. Hamilton – Waikato, New Zealand
2. Honbo Garden – Osaka, Japan
3. Suizenji-jojuen Garden – Kumamoto, Japan
4. Ritsurin Garden – Takamatsu, Japan
5. Japanese Garden – Buenos Aires, Argentina
6. Rock Garden – Koyasan, Japan
7. Ryoan-Ji Zen Garden – Kyoto, Japan
8. Daizen-Ji Zen Rock Garden – Kyoto, Kyoto, Japan
9. Japanese Garden – Portland, the U.S.A