Japanese Gardens express both Japan’s philosophy and history. These gardens – on private property, in public parks, or surrounding temples and shrines and old castles – exude a mysterious atmosphere of peace and beauty.
The gardens are well organized up to the finest detail and have an asymmetric, non-central concept. Often they harmoniously integrate the surrounding landscape into the whole image of the garden – this is referred to as “the borrowed landscape”.
In Zen gardens, a special type of Japanese Gardens, the four elements stone, water, moss and tree are particularly frequent. They build up a symbolic miniature landscape, in which stones may, for example, symbolize mountains or animals, water stands for lakes or oceans. Moss keeps the soil humid and at the same time is a symbol of age and venerability. Trees stand for both life itself and humans, as they are both individuals and a part of a whole at the same time.
In connection with the tea ceremony, specific tea gardens were developed as well. Due to their wild and natural character they surround the tea house with an atmosphere of seclusion from the outside world. On passing through the gates of a tea garden, you will leave all things worldly behind.
Gardens of the so-called kare-san-sui-style are designed without any water or trees whatsoever. They use granite gravel to represent water and rakes are used to draw waves in it. Famous examples for this kind of meditative garden are Daisen-ji with its dry watercourse and sand cones and, especially, the thousand year old Ryoan-ji with its carefully composed islands of stone set in raked gravel. By radically cutting out the green – except a little moss around the stones – they convey an abstract timelessness. Another remarkable feature of Ryoan-ji is its Shoin-architecture, which allows the garden to be viewed only from specific angles, without ever affording a view of the garden as a whole.