Japanese Gardens have always been a source of inner peace and serenity. Their symbolism and tranquility leave their visitors in awe of the beauty and power of nature.
Here is a brief overview of the fundamentals of Japanese Gardens.
Overview of Oriental Gardens
These gardens become an idealization of nature. In the Oriental garden you can discover something of the soul of nature. The visitor can feel as if they are a
part of nature itself.
A good japanese style garden takes you on a journey of thought in mind, body and spirit. It radiates human warmth, naturalness, strength, simplicity and sometimes humor.
Use the KISS (Keep It Simple) principle
when completing your garden design concept.
Japanese gardens please their visitors.
They have a feeling of space that lends itself to a feeling of absolute freedom. Even small garden designs should be moulded in such a way as to create this feeling of space.
An enclosure of some sort in the garden will result in a feeling of privacy. This is important for a
meditation garden design.
In your Oriental garden design you must use old things
, or things that have the appearance of being old. For example, a moss covered lantern gives the impression that it has
weathered the storms of time. Use many things that have an aged look of antiquity. This is part of the Oriental tradition.
By linking the past to the future, a sort of nostalgia is sensed.
The seasons are celebrated in the Japanese garden.
Design your garden
to include the changes of season
from winter into spring. The change symbolizes a new birth, or perhaps a new day of life for you.
Much interest, even curiosity is stimulated because not everything is revealed to the viewer in one instance.
Surprises lie behind the hedge. The astute Japanese garden designer will hide things in the garden
in strategic places.
The objects will only come to view as a visitor progresses through the garden.
Principles of human need and comfort come across quite strongly in Japanese Gardens.
Design the garden to create unity and harmony. This is accomplished by linking aspects of the house style and design to the garden.
This has the effect of linking spiritual unity with nature.
Oriental gardens contain much logic. Things in them must lead us to truth, reflect our daily lives, and also contain the realities of our environment in them.
The atmosphere of stillness and serenity endears much interest. The deep symbolism and developed artistry, stirs an implanted reverence for nature in the Japanese garden.
Design your garden so that it is shielded from noise and outside disturbance
. This creates an ideal environment for relaxation and meditation.
Symbolism in Japanese Gardens
Gardens trigger peoples’ senses, whether good or bad. Beautiful gardens strike psychological and emotional responses within us.
Some Orientals believe that by going to nature, they link their subconscious being, unknowingly, to their evolutionary past.
Thus their gardens are used as a form of worship.
Sometimes the Japanese garden design
takes its symbolism and ideas from the metaphysical and not from nature.
The garden is then abstract and minimal. The reason for this is to take the viewer directly to the truth.
View our brief overview of Japanese Symbolism
for a description of symbols and their meaning (a new browser window will open).
Ponds containing lotus flowers are an example of japanese symbolism. Lotus flowers are the symbol of enlightenment.
The roots are embedded in mud, which represents passions. The flowers and leaves are open to the sun (and purity).
Developing a Sensitivity
Here is the story of Sen no Rikyu, the great tea master:
“A stone water basin stood in a garden near Osaka with a fine view of the inland sea. Rikyu planted two hedges, one outside the other.
They were planted in such a way that they completely obscured the beautiful view of the inland sea.
"Only when the guest bent over the water basin to dip for water with his hands, could he see through a break between the hedges.
It was deliberately done in the hope that the guest would see his reflection in the water basin.
Then when the guest looked up to see the infinite ocean, he would realize that the water and the ocean are one.
In the same way he would realize that the mind and universe are one.”
Traditional garden designers studied natural landscapes and also those landscapes painted by artists.
They therefore developed an artistic eye for garden design. They strive to recreate the natural scene
in a garden in its simplified form.
Orientals have developed a much sought-after sensitivity to nature. This is reflected in Japanese landscape designs.
This sensitivity also contributes to the effectiveness of these designs as
Climate and Topography for Japanese Gardens
Only 20% of the islands in Japan are fit for cultivation. The fields are a mosaic of dykes.
The Japanese were thus forced to master the skills of water manipulation.
The much prized moss found in Japan relies on the humid growing conditions.
In the Japanese garden design, lanterns must be covered in moss to attain that aged look. The lantern must be placed in a humid, shady area.
TIP: Paint the lantern with natural yoghurt or spray it with a plant food mixture to encourage moss growth. Use the same treatment for rocks if required.
All Oriental gardens will have water in them.
Where water is impractical a river of pebbles symbolizing a natural river is used.
Water is a commodity of this world and fresh water is regarded as sacred. Hide the source of a waterfall, if your garden design includes a waterfall.
Cover the water source using a plant with large overhanging leaves, or let the water come from somewhere else.
The Japanese are well known for their profiency in the concept of creating unity in the home and garden.
A good design will link your home to the Japanese garden. Design the garden to merge with the home into one visual room.
The picture of the bonsai tree and bamboo backdrop is an example of this concept. A
gazebo may also be used in some gardens to create a smiliar effect.
Orientals believe that when their ancestors die, they go to the mountains. They sometimes have a rock or stone symbolizing a mountain in their oriental garden.
Designs also include trees and unusually shaped rocks with ropes wrapped around them. They are used as a form of worship.
They also wash their hands and rinse their mouths before worshipping. Include a hand basin and a suitable rock in your design concept,
if you would like to emphasize the religious aspects of a Japanese Garden.
A Japanese garden is not only very beautiful, but can be made into a
Meditation Retreat where you can enjoy relaxation.
Paying attention to the detail and mystique of your design will add to the meditation experience.