Japanese Gardens are an interesting amalgamation of nature, spirituality and art. These gardens are meant to suggest harmony and create tranquility in your surroundings. Aiming to capture nature in the most innate way, these gardens are unique because they have been influenced by various chapters of Japanese history and also Shinto, Buddhist and Taoist philosophies.
Originally, Japanese Gardens represented a utopian land for the Japanese. Philosophies influencing creation of Japanese Gardens bring a sense of spirituality to the gardens. In the past, Japanese gardens were cut off from the masses, since the ruling elite and the religious classes used it as a place of peace and meditation. A Japanese emperor specifically built a garden in Kyoto so that he could spend his years in peace there. The Garden of the Silver Pavilion was another famous landmark used by a renowned soldier as a shelter from violence. The Buddhist influence makes the garden a paradise for peace and quietude, giving people the privilege to ponder and reflect upon their lives, or meditate.
The Essential Elements
The presence of a few elements is mandatory for a Japanese garden, and water is the most important amongst them. Water, in Japanese culture, symbolizes purity. Since Japan is made up of a group of islands, the Japanese had to cross water most of the time to go from one place to another. This has led to the presence of water in most Japanese gardens. In the absence of real water, you can use a symbolic representation, which is usually gray gravel or sand. The sand in the garden is often raked in patterns to represent the waves of the ocean.
The other essential elements in a Japanese garden are stones, garden plants, waterfalls, trees, and bridges. In their natural state, stones have an ancient, spiritual quality and also impart strength and endurance to a garden. They may also sometimes symbolize mountains and islands. Garden plants are generally chosen to fit a human scale, often evoking familiar landscapes. Some gardens owners also construct water features like waterfalls, streams, or ponds. Other features that are generally considered include fences, walls and gates, paths, steps, and bridges, water basins, lanterns, the deer chaser and koi fish. There are five different styles of Japanese gardens, namely, Strolling Gardens, Natural Gardens, Sand and Stone Gardens, Tea Gardens and Flat Gardens.
An Artist Expression
There is a common misconception that Japanese gardens always follow certain ground rules with respect to content and arrangement. Since the Japanese are highly individualistic, the look of the Japanese garden mostly depends on the person who plants and tends the garden. Though some rules are followed, the rest depends on how the gardener wants to express his or her creativity through the garden.
How They Are Different
Japanese gardens are different from Western gardens in terms of their religious and philosophical elements. Japanese gardens are an expression of art, and a symbolic representation of the gardeners view of the universe. On the other hand, westerners do not see gardens as expressions of religious or philosophical beliefs since most Western gardens are essentially smaller versions of a farm. Traditional Japanese gardens emphasize natural, abstract beauty and minimize signage on plants.
There are nearly 60 public Japanese gardens in the United States. So if you want your garden to look different from the regular ones, be innovative, have an interesting ambience around your house and inculcate spiritual solace in your life – opt for Japanese Gardens.