Friday, 7 October 2011

The Serenity of Japanese Gardens

"The tranquillity of a classic Japanese garden invites the viewer to come in and enjoy the beauty"

I have always liked Japanese gardens. They are tranquil and beautiful places created with an artistic sensibility in mind where one can spend hours relaxing and contemplating the finer things in life. To visit a garden in Japan is to take a step away from reality for a moment and step back in time. 

To the Japanese people, gardens have for centuries played an important role in the country’s culture and development. Historically speaking Japanese gardens where created to represent a utopian land for the Japanese. 

The three main elements of the Japanese garden are the use of rocks, trees and water. Ancient Japanese believed that a place surrounded by rocks was inhabited by gods and named it amatsu iwasaka (heavenly barrier) or amatsu iwakura (heavenly seat). A dense cluster of trees is known as himorogi (divine hedge) and moats and streams were thought to enclose sacred ground and were referred to mizuguchi (water fences). 

There are three different categories of gardens as follows: 

Tsukiyama Gardens - Ponds, streams, hills, stones, trees, flowers, bridges and paths are used to create a miniature reproduction of natural scenery, which is often a famous landscape in China or Japan. The name Tsukiyama refers to the creation of artificial hills. 

Karesansui Gardens: reproduce natural landscapes in a more abstract way by using stones, gravel, sand and sometimes a few patches of moss for representing mountains, islands, boats, seas and rivers. Karesansui gardens are strongly influenced by Zen Buddhism and used for meditation. 

Chaniwa Gardens are built for the tea ceremony. They contain a tea house where the actual ceremony is held and are designed in aesthetic simplicity according to the concepts of sado (tea ceremony). Chaniwa gardens typically feature stepping stones that lead towards the tea house, stone lanterns and a stone basin (tsukubai), where guests purify themselves before participating in the ceremony.

These green spaces are common all over Japan and can be found in such places as public parks, Buddhist temples and also many private residences. Also, it is something not just limited to Japan. Japanese gardens have popped up the world over, with breathtaking examples in even just the United States. 

As gardens around the world evolve the traditional Japanese garden has become a popular style of garden for enthusiasts to emulate in their own backyards. By applying a modern twist on the traditional themes the modern Japanese garden has become a thing of great beauty combining history with modern style. 

Authentic Japanese gardens seek to re-create the massive scale of nature into a more compact garden scene. Japanese gardens generally incorporate Shinto or Zen elements to create a sense of tranquillity as well as being artistic and spiritual they bring us closer to nature.  

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