Japanese gardening is much different from the Western style garden. Most would say that a Japanese garden is far more soul soothing and inspires meditation. Japanese gardening is a cultural form of gardening that is meant to produce a scene that mimics nature as much as possible. Using trees, shrubs, rocks, sand, artificial hills, ponds, and flowing water the garden becomes an art form. The Zen and Shinto traditions are both a large part of Japanese gardening and, because of this; the gardens have a contemplative and reflective state of mind.
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The basic methods of scenery are a reduced scale, symbolization, and borrowed views. The reduced scale is the art of taking an actual scene from nature, mountains, rivers, trees, and reproducing it on a smaller scale. Symbolization involves generalization and abstraction. An example of this would be using white sand to suggest the ocean. Borrowed views refer to artists that would use something like an ocean or a forest as a background, but it would end up becoming an important part of the scene.
There are two types of Japanese gardening. The tsukiyami garden is a hill garden and mainly composed of hills and ponds. The hiraniwa, which is the exact opposite of the tsukiyami garden, is a flat without any hills or ponds.
The basic elements used in Japanese gardening include rocks, gravel, water, moss, stones, fences, and hedges. Rocks are used as centerpieces and bring a presence of spirituality to the garden. According to the Shinto tradition, rocks embody the spirits of nature. Gravel defines surface and is used to imitate the flow of water when arranged properly. Stones create a boundary and are sculpted into the form of lanterns. Water; whether it is in the form of a pond, stream, or waterfall, is an essential part of a Japanese garden. It can be in the actual form of water or portrayed by gravel, but no matter what, it is crucial to a Japanese gardens balance.
There are several forms and types of plants that are signature of Japanese gardening, the main one being Bonsai. Bonsai is the art of training everyday, average plants, such as Pine, Cypress, Holly, Cedar, Cherry, Maple, and Beech, to look like large, old trees just in miniature form. These trees range from five centimeters to one meter and are kept small by pruning, re-potting, pinching of growth, and wiring the branches.
A garden is a wonderful place to relax and meditate. Whether it is a Japanese garden or Western world garden, designing, building, and planting is a great family event.