When I think about Japanese gardens, I think about the bonsai trees – tiny trees that dot almost every Japanese garden you’ll find. I personally love them. I also think about Zen Buddhism and the impact it has on these beautiful gardens. Nearly every Japanese garden I’ve ever seen has been done with a Zen or Zen-like theme. The Zen theme in Japanese gardens is everywhere and not just in the garden itself. Homes with Japanese gardens often have a Zen theme as well. It’s easy to feel like you’re in Japan itself when walking through such a garden.
I personally became fascinated with Japanese gardens from the moment I saw one. I remember the event very clearly. It was back when my mother was working in an international language school. A colleague of hers – a Japanese professor – had spent a lot of time in Japan and had picked up many of their customs. One particular custom he developed was that of having and keeping up a wonderful Japanese garden.
My first experience with his Japanese garden was when the Japanese professor had some people over to his home and I was one of the lucky ones he invited. I took one look at his tiny Japanese garden and I was completely hooked. At the time, I really had no idea what it was. I didn’t even know it was an Asian-themed garden. I just liked how neat and delicate it was. The garden was spotlessly clean and I remember being frightened about entering it and not wanting to walk along the stone path through the garden. I was afraid I would disturb the beauty and peacefulness of this amazing garden.
I think the professor must have noticed how enamored I was by his garden. He came up to me and carefully explained to me what the garden was and why it was meant to be so peaceful and tranquil. He told me that I was looking at a Japanese garden and helped me understand that certain characteristics defined what a Japanese garden was all about. He even showed me his precious bonsai trees and explained the features of each one to me. Then he showed me his magnificent pond, complete with Koi fish swimming in it. He explained that Koi fish were actually Chinese fish but that they added to the prosperity of his otherwise completely Japanese-themed garden.
After only a couple of hours, I went from someone who hadn’t even heard about Japanese gardens to someone completely fascinated by how simplistic, beautiful and tranquil they are. I really learned the meaning of Japanese gardens that day. In fact, as you may imagine, I have my very own Japanese garden that I tend to on a daily basis. Without the patience of that kind professor, I wouldn’t have such a beautiful garden today.