Sam Clemens/Getty images. Kinkaku-ji, or the Golden Pavilion, is modeled after an impressive two-story building that was part of one of the oldest surviving Paradise gardens in Japan, Saiho-ji.
Simple yet stunning, Japanese gardens come in several varieties. Many people are familiar with the so-called Zen gardens (more accurately called Japanese rock gardens), but less so with other Japanese garden styles. This is unfortunate because Japanese gardens try to inspire serenity and introspection by incorporating symbolic and natural elements. In this article, you’ll learn about five styles of Japanese gardens that may help you achieve a little more inner peace.
Partly due to the civil unrest in Japan at the time, the Japanese eagerly embraced the idea of the Pure Land and tried to emulate it with paradise gardens. The typical paradise garden has an island in the middle of a pond to represent the future salvation and a curved bridge connecting the island to the rest of the garden to represent the path you must travel to reach that salvation. Although few original paradise gardens remain, many present-day Japanese pavilions are modeled after the buildings that once graced their grounds.
Panoramic Images/Getty Images. A path leads to the teahouse on the left in a Japanese tea garden.
The tea gardens of Japan originated when the Zen monks brought the ritual of drinking powdered tea to the country to reduce sleepiness during meditation. The gardens, which are designed to evoke the qualities of solitude and age, are constructed with simple, rustic materials to maintain harmony with the atmosphere and, they center on the ceremonial teahouse. Made from natural materials, teahouses blend into their surroundings and are accessed by a path that symbolizes the journey into a more peaceful state of mind. Guests enter the teahouse through a low door, so built to humble them upon entering.
Martin Ruegner/Getty Images. Natural gardens give the feeling of being deep in the woods.
Natural gardens try to replicate a woodsy scene as closely as possible. Their designers believe that the feeling of being in the woods and the accompanying solitude encourages deep thought and peace of mind.
Strolling Pond Gardens
Glowimages/Getty Images. A curved bridge crosses over the pond in a strolling pond garden.
The strolling pond gardens of Japan are accurately named; they have an ornamental pond as their centerpiece and a path that meanders around the garden’s periphery. The path may branch off in many places to provide spots for contemplation. These side paths may lead up to a grassy overlook or down to the pond’s edge, and their existence allows you to have some control over your experience.
Flat Sea Gardens
Peter Samuels/Getty Images. The gravel around this stone is raked to symbolize waves in the sea in this flat sea garden.
The “sea” here is made of a wide expanse of raked sand or fine gravel. The sea is raked at the edges to suggest the pattern of waves on a shoreline. Unlike raking leaves, where the goal is to collect piles, the point of raking sand or gravel is to comb through it to create the desired pattern. To add to the appearance of a vast sea, the flat sea gardens possess “shorelines” of stones and boulders, as well as “islands” of vegetation. Sometimes the stones in the raked area are placed in a way that suggests a familiar parable, or story.
Note that Flat Sea garden was featured in anime Kuroshitsuji, Episode 1