My Favorite Places of Japan: Gardens

Classical Japanese gardens

By Elena Lisina    - 3 min read

Japanese style gardens are famous across the world and are often seen as an art form. These gardens have some unique traditions and secrets that may be hard to comprehend for a non-Japanese, but this emphasizes the admiration felt when enjoying these displays of nature and culture.

Rinnoji Temple, Sendai
Rinnoji Temple, Sendai

Traditional Japanese gardens can be encountered everywhere, either on special grounds or as parts of temples and shrines. There are many beautiful old gardens in the center of Tokyo, but you can find many gardens in smaller towns that are just as wonderful. The first garden I ever visited was located on the grounds of Hasedera Temple in Kamakura. It wasn’t big, but I found it charming, with a lot of greenery, traditional decorative lanterns, stones, a bridge, and a small pond. Later I learned that those are elements commonly found in every garden, but each garden is made unique by the arrangements of those traditional elements. Unlike Western traditions, in Japanese gardens there are no sculptures; instead, natural stones of various sizes, colors and textures are used. Garden bridges have special roles and symbols, too.

Hasedera
Hasedera

I found wonderful gardens visiting temples such as Ginkakuji in Kyoto and Rinnoji in Sendai, and also Shiogama Shrine and Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha. Among them, my favorite is the spacious garden of the Rinnoji Temple. It features a big pond in the center with water lilies and a stone bridge. A walk along the path around the pond offers different and unique views to visitors. The grounds here also feature three ‘stone gardens’ – another kind of traditional garden. In those gardens, water is imitated by fine gravel, often taking wave or circle shapes. Isuien of Nara is considered to be one of the best stone gardens in Japan.

Isuien Garden, Nara
Isuien Garden, Nara

The most significant part is that a Japanese garden allows visitors to stop, to enjoy the natural beauty, and to feel at peace. The harmony of gardens indicates they are created by people who understand and appreciate nature. When visiting a Japanese garden, I always take my time and relax, so the visit to a garden is never just a brief look. Exploring them on a deeper level offers a better understanding of Japan.

Stone garden of Zuiganji Temple, Matsushima
Stone garden of Zuiganji Temple, Matsushima

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Elena Lisina

Elena Lisina @shiroi.tenshi

I love Japan very much! I like small towns of Japan where I can watch people doing their business and talk to them carefully. They're always friendly. I like Japanese gardens where I can just sit or walk and take my time. Also I like Shinto Jinja as being there I feel in peace. I like to watch sunsets and then to dine in some small local places. I like to soak into onsen after a long day of wandering. I like Japanese crafts very much as all items are made with great taste and skill. Nihon wo daisuki desuyo! My photos from Japan I also place here: https://gurushots.com/f10384/photos Matane!

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Elizabeth S 5 days ago
The more you view Japanese gardens, the more you notice the conventions and subtleties of the designs.

On a trip to the UK, I also sought out Japanese gardens to see how they translated. Exquisite.