The main purpose of a Japanese garden is to bring harmony between our busy daily lives and nature. It is a space that celebrates the natural landscape together with human beings creativity. A great garden may have a calming effect or could be an exhilarating experience. It may seem like a completely natural scene, but nothing happens in a Japanese garden that is unplanned.
Another main purpose is to provide an outlet of creativity and learning and enjoyment for the garden designer and person maintaining it. This also then creates landscape that can be enjoyed by other people.
Depending on the garden style, another purpose may be to extend the interior of the house. Providing a view from the house beyond the exterior walls makes you feel like you have a much bigger space than you actually do. Similarly, you are bringing the outside in by allowing nature to become apart of your daily life. Many Japanese homes are designed with this in mind. Large sliding glass doors or Shoji screens can fully open up a wall and allow you to appreciate the garden from inside, thus blurring the lines between the interior and exterior. it is the architecture of the house that is very connected to allowing us to be able to bring nature into our daily lives.
What is the main purpose of a Zen garden?
As mentioned before there are a variety of different styles of Japanese gardens and a Zen garden is only one type. Often referred to as a Zen Rock Garden, this type of garden serves the purpose of providing a meditative space for someone practicing Zen. Often sitting and contemplating the original Garden designers meaning behind the garden design, which will ideally we need you to a state of emptiness.
It also provides a daily meditation in action for the monks or people who maintain the garden and possibly rake the gravel. Through these repetitive mindful actions it is said that enlightenment may be found.
Sometimes the rock settings are based on ancient Chinese Buddhist tales or legendary places like Mt. Horai, where Taoist Immortals dwell.
What features distinguished Zen gardens from other Japanese gardens?
Zen Gardens can often be distinguished from other Japanese gardens by the mere fact if they are built within the confines of a Zen temple. We often mistakenly call Japanese Rock Gardens, or karesansui, Zen Gardens without taking into account where are they actually are. A Japanese rock garden could be found in a Shinto shrine, pure land Buddhism Paradise Garden, a home Garden, a museum or a prefectural public park. All of these places can highlight a Japanese rock garden without focusing on the religious aspects of a Zen Buddhist Garden. The main purpose for their Japanese rock garden is more likely to create an artistic and intriguing Landscape that still has elements that represent a traditional Japanese garden.
Japanese restaurant for example may have a small area outside the window where are they want to highlight a Japanese rock garden with moss and a limited number of plantings. Their main purpose is to create either a traditional Japanese atmosphere or a modern rustic Japanese garden, which sets the mood for the diners it may be completely devoid of religious undertones. And from a practical standpoint their purpose may have been to create a low maintenance type of garden.
Are Japanese gardens considered religious?
The Japanese garden tradition may be rooted in spirituality but nowadays a Japanese garden is not necessarily related to religion. In the 600s Prince Shotoku sent people to China to study and learn and they brought back ideas for gardens. These were heavily Chinese influenced and built in the Nara area, which was the capital of Japan at the time they often centered on Taoism and Amida Buddhism.
In the Nara period, around 700ad the first authentically Japanese Gardens were found in the capital city of Nara. The Japanese had borrowed from China and the gardens had developed into something uniquely their own, reflecting their own culture and philosophies and having a more naturalistic and lighter feeling to them. The Japanese religion of Shinto also provided a belief that there is a spirit in everything, including the rocks and boulders in the gardens. Check this article out if you'd like to explore more of the differences between Chinese gardens and Japanese gardens.
Again though, it is safe to say that a Japanese garden would be considered religious if it were in a temple Garden. But you have to take the setting into account and should not make the assumption that all Japanese Gardens are religious.
Ornaments and structures will also let you know if a garden is religious or not. Statues of Buddha and other religious items would only be found in a Japanese garden associated with a particular religion. In the West you may see statues of Buddha and various Japanese gardens in North America and Europe but this would be the equivalent to having a statue of Jesus in your garden. It’s not unheard of and of course there is nothing wrong with that but it is fairly uncommon. When it is done it is done purposefully and to make a statement.
Why are Japanese Gardens important?
Japanese Gardens are important for allowing us to discover ourselves in nature. In Japanese this is a term called Kachou Fuugetsu. We can do this in the Japanese garden because these Gardens are meant to be an interpretation of nature and a blend of human beings creativity in the natural realm. They are nature-inspired but are heavily controlled and maintained. What they do teach us though is that no matter how much you try to control something in the end we are at the whim of Mother Nature.
The Japanese garden is a living work of art and is an ongoing process with no final end in sight. Every year the seasons change and the garden changes, as we grow we learn to change with the garden as well. Overall Japanese Gardens are important because they provide a space to allow our minds dressed to another land or another time or be present and mindful in the moment. A creative space that is both calming and exciting at the same time.
The main purpose of Japanese gardens in contemporary Japanese culture may however be changing. I have talked with many Japanese garden designers and they are searching for a balance between the modern Japanese home and the modern Japanese person. Throughout history there has never been only one type of Representative Japanese garden there are many different styles of garden like Japanese Rock Gardens, Japanese Strolling Gardens or Tea Gardens, and they have all changed throughout history.
The current landscape in Japan is also changing and the values of modern Japanese people are changing. With Japanese Gardens being so highly connected to architecture oh, this also plays a significant role in how the Japanese garden is viewed and utilize.
Many modern Japanese gardeners are still studying the traditional ways of garden design and are using that as a base to springboard their own creativity. In a modern Japanese home many families are looking for something that can still be considered Japanese but can also provide a function in the families life. More families are looking for a garden the compliments their home that may also have a deck, for example, or an area that the children are able to play in. But they still would like this space to be aesthetically pleasing often because of the sheer limited amount of space available to modern city dwellers these areas have to be combined. So for that them main purpose of a Japanese garden is a place where they can experience nature as a family in Japan.
It will be interesting to see where this Japanese garden tradition goes in the future. Without knowing the rules of a tradition you cannot really know when you are breaking the rules and stepping into a realm of real creativity.
if you would like to learn more about Japanese gardens and modern rustic home and garden ideas please check us out at ShizenStyle.