History and Types of Japanese Gardens

Japanese gardens are representative compositions of natural landscapes with a distinctive style, and their history dates back to the 7th century. A large-scale garden was created when the capital Heijo-kyo was built in 710. This botanical masterpiece was the prototype of today's Japanese gardens, with a beautiful representation of rivers, waterfalls, islets, and coves centered around a pond to imitate natural forms. Japanese gardens are characterized by the beauty of curved forms and asymmetrical construction, which is a major difference from Western gardens which pursue symmetrical beauty.

In the Heian Period (794- ), it became fashionable for aristocrats to have large gardens. A garden with a pond at its center is called a chisen-tei'en garden, and aristocrats used the graceful setting for social gatherings including boats floating on the water, perfectly utilizing the natural landscape.

Around 1200, the philosophy of garden creation changed because of samurai, when gardens influenced by Zen philosophy began to emerge. The style of "karesansui," Japanese dry rock garden landscape, which expresses the flow of water with stones and sand, is a change from the elegant gardens of the past, which used a lot of water. The gardens, with their unique world view, calm the hearts of all who see them.

In the late 1500s, during the reign of Sen no Rikyu, a particular garden style for enjoying tea ceremonies appeared. In this open-air garden, guests invited to a tea ceremony proceed from the waiting area along stepping stones and pavers to the tea room. Along the way, stone lanterns and waterpots for purification are placed, fully integrating the garden with the tea house.

In 1600, during the Edo Period, the feudal lords began to create gardens that blended the styles that had been popular up to that time in locations that could be viewed from inside the palace. The basic style of the daimyo garden, "Chisen Kaiyu-shiki Teien" (pond promenade) is designed with trees, stones, bridges, waterfalls, and artificial hills around a pond, so that visitors can walk around the pond in the vast garden and enjoy the changing scenery. The daimyo garden is also characterized by having tea rooms and pavilions, as well as horse stables, archery ranges, and other places vital for samurai.
The most famous such gardens in Japan are Kenrokuen in Kanazawa City (Ishikawa), Korakuen in Okayama City (Okayama), and Kairakuen in Mito City (Ibaraki), which are known as Japan's three great gardens.

In 1868, the gardens were transformed into villas for the nobility in the Meiji Era.

How to Enjoy Japanese Gardens

Enjoying a pond garden
Chisen gardens are the most common in Japan, with a pond at the center of the garden. The method of garden enjoyment has changed over the years, from the floating boat style, in which visitors could enjoy the scenery from the pond, to the vista style, where visitors could view the scenery from places like the drawing room inside buildings, to the pond promenade style, where visitors can walk through the garden and enjoy the evolving scenery. A pond represents the ocean or a river, a rock in the pond evokes a mountain, or if it is at the water's edge, it creates a rocky shore. Enjoy experiencing nature expressed in this way.

How to enjoy karesansui
Japanese dry gardens express the flow of water with stones and sand in place of liquid. The style was created in connection with the philosophy of Zen and is designed to resemble a Zen meditation retreat deep in the mountains. The idea is to find beauty in the humble and simple, and to approach enlightenment in tranquility. Unlike pond gardens, these gardens do not require a large plot of land or cost a large amount of money, so they gradually began to be built not only in Zen temples but also in the gardens of samurai families and merchants. In karesansui gardens, where sand is used to represent the movement of water, sand patterns made with special rakes are used to represent ocean waves, whirlpools, and flowing rivers, while stones are used to create islands, stone masonry to represent waterfalls. Spend a perfectly peaceful time in tranquility and let your imagination breathe.

How to enjoy the open-air teahouse garden
Chaniwa or Roji teien (open-air teahouse garden) is a garden built for the enjoyment of the tea ceremony, the garden that one passes through while moving from the residence to the teahouse. The necessary elements are in place before entering the tearoom: walk along the stepping stones, cleanse yourself at the tsukubai ceremonial washbasin, and enter the tea room through the small entrance. There are many detailed rules, but even if you are not familiar with the Japanese tea ceremony, you can fully enjoy the beauty of the tea garden, which looks as if you are gradually entering the depths of a mountain as you walk through the open space.


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