Japanese Gardens - A World of Lanterns, Bridges and Bamboo

Japanese Garden - A garden design in Japan so distinctive that this term seems hardly to need definition, however unlike the gardens of the Far East most of the so-called Japanese gardens seen in this country may be. Stone lanterns, half-moon bridges, bamboo retreats and dwarfed trees do not by or in themselves make such a garden, albeit these things are all found in the gardens of Japan. The essential difference between Japanese gardens at home and in other parts of the world lies much deeper.
Japanese Garden
Theory and Purpose
The Japanese ideal of garden making, as expounded to the writer by an eminent Japanese gentleman in the midst of his own garden, is to reproduce for intimate and constant enjoyment the loftiest aspects of Nature - those natural scenes which are not otherwise available for day-by-day contemplation. Scenes of wild and rugged splendor - mountains, forests, cascades, chasms, promontories, abysses - supreme features that stimulate the imagination by bringing the observer an experience of those emotions which such natural scenes arouse - these are the common denominator of Japanese garden design.

Hence for this reason the garden in Japan is much more than a pleasant retreat or an appropriate setting for the dwelling. Rather it is designed to be an enriching experience of things not otherwise comprehended by the untraveled man. Understood in this, its true aspect, the Japanese garden becomes something very different from the playful toy which its space limitations suggest and often make it resemble.

In the U. S. or any other country of vast distances the toy-like appearance remains, to be sure; but in an intelligently, sympathetically made garden it takes on meanings that toys do not possess, and one enters into the spirit of such a garden involuntarily, whether he will or no. In such a garden the sum total of natural beauty pervades the consciousness, even though the surroundings are cramped and the spirit of the individual is beset with the distraction and difficulties of daily round. You can add beautiful flowering plants and ornamental evergreen trees to make your garden more beautiful.

Such is the ideal which inspires even the simplest Japanese garden design. It has become formalized in that school of garden creators which insists upon definite features at fixed points - stones selected for their special forms which signify special things, placed meticulously with reference to each other and to all the rest; trees or a single tree similarly employed; a lantern and a shrine; a little stream (or the dry bed of a stream, where flowing water is not to be had), and so on. These formalities arise as Nature's aspects are, as it were, crystallized into conventionalized expression. They are not universally followed in Japanese gardens but the Nature aspects from which they derive are invariably followed.

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