Japanese gardens have been around for centuries. They have been, and continue to be the source of inspiration for poets, writers, painters, sculptors and the general public. The Japanese garden is closely linked to the Japanese tea ceremony. Their idea is to awaken the spirit to the realization of our humility in our relationship with the world and the universe around us. It emphasizes the connection between the body’s movements and the mind. It was during the Heian period (794-1185) that gardens came to be viewed in this way. They separated from a solely religious purpose and began to include more secular motives such as the tea ceremony, amusement, contemplation and recreation.
The Japanese garden takes several forms. The one most recognizable to me is the one which includes guided paths and water features that serve to guide a visitor. There are also dry gardens, where racked sand is used to represent ripples on the surface of water. A typical garden has a center, or viewing point. This is usually a home or a place where tea ceremonies are held with a purposeful view of the garden.
A typical list of some possible features in a Japanese garden might contain:
Water, whether real or symbolized.
A bridge spanning the water or stepping stones to allow crossing the water feature.
A hedge, fence or a wall.
A central viewing point or pavilion.
The hedge feature is used to block out an unwanted view or to use some distant feature, such as a mountain, visible above the hedge, implying it is part of the garden by design. This adds to the sense of enclosure and vastness at the same time.
I visited the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden located at Cal State Long Beach. This public garden, unlike private ones, includes a wide variety of environments. The most obvious is the pond you come upon when you enter. It contains islands, water plants and rock features. It is crossed by an arching bridge and Koy, orange and white in an almost Pinto pattern, swim in large schools. The paths winds in and out of several different settings, each designed to set a different mood. A one point the path was broken and I had to look down and watch my footing. When I looked up again I saw a stand of bamboo partially concealing a small waterfall. I later learned the broken path was intended by design to take my eyes off the surroundings so that I could be rewarded by the water feature when I looked up again. It worked, I felt rewarded. Maybe not in that exact wording but I did feel suddenly glad I was there.
Joseph Valentinetti is an author of novels: fiction and fiction based on fact. He writes articles on a variety of subjects, from impressions of travel spots to speculating about the name of the moon, but his focus is on his writing and author interviews. Get better acquainted at http://www.valentinetti.com. Join his site, pick up his feed and become part of the dialog. Read A Book.