Japanese Gardens: The significance of aesthetics

Japanese gardens are often affiliated with the natural and botanical culture that the Japanese embrace. Japanese gardens are made to reflect a small landscape with its basic principle being to create harmony and balance. The oldest Japanese text based on Japanese gardens is Sakuteiki (Records of Garden Making) the work of which was based on verbal traditions which were published for the first time in the 11th century.

Types of garden

There are many different types of Japanese gardens that can be explored. There are the contemplation or thinking styles of Japanese gardens, also known as kanshō, which are designed to be studied and enjoyed from one specific place. The stroll or walking styles of Japanese gardens, known as shūyū, are intended to be looked at from a path. The boating or pleasure-boat styles of Japanese gardens, or funasobi, are centred on a large pond and, lastly, the many-pleasure style of Japanese gardens, or kaiyū, which have a central pond and many paths, combining aspects of kanshō, shūyū and funasobi gardens.

Favoured features

Water

Japanese gardens always incorporate water into their landscapes, whether it be a pond or a stream. Water has the ability to capture the essence of nature which is what makes  Japanese gardens so distinctive and appealing to observers. In traditional gardens, the ponds and streams are carefully placed according to Buddhist geomancy, the art and science of putting things in the place most likely to attract good fortune. It is believed that the water of gardens will allow the owner of the garden to have a healthy and long life if the flow goes from the east to west, where evil is carried away. Another favourable arrangement of water flow in Japanese gardens is from the north, which represents water, to south which represents fire, both of which are opposites, or yin and yang, which are said to bring good luck.

Rocks and Sand

Rock, sand and gravel are an essential feature of Japanese gardens. The specific placement of stones in the gardens are designed to symbolise and represent islands and mountains, as well as be an aesthetically pleasing property of traditional gardens. Rock placement is generally used to portray nature in its essential characteristics, which is the essential goal of all Japanese gardens.

Garden Bridges

Bridges first appeared in Japanese gardens during the Heian period with the bridge symbolizing the path to paradise and immortality. Bridges are usually, made from, stone, wood or logs that have been covered with moss to create wither an arched or flat structure. During the Edo period, when large promenade Japanese gardens became popular, streams and winding paths were constructed alongside a series of bridges, to take visitors on a tour of the scenic views of the garden.

Stone Lanterns ans Water Basins

Japanese stone lanterns date back to the Nara period and the Heian period. Originally they were located only at Buddhist temples, where they lined the paths and approaches to the temple. According to tradition, they were introduced to the tea garden by the first great tea masters, and in later gardens, they were used purely for decoration. Stone water basins, also known as tsukubai were originally placed in Japanese gardens for visitors to wash their hands and mouth before the tea ceremony.

Trees and Flowers

Nothing in Japanese gardens is natural or left to chance; each plant is chosen according to their aesthetic principles, either to hide undesirable sights or to serve as a backdrop to certain garden features to create a picturesque scene. Trees are selected and arranged by their autumn colours, moss is used to give Japanese gardens their ancient feel and flowers are carefully selected by there season of flowering. Some complimenting plants are chosen for their religious symbolism, such as the lotus, sacred in Buddhist teachings, or the pine, which represents longevity.

Fish

Fish, particularly nishiki-goi, also known as coloured carp, or goldfish are used as a decorative element in gardens, an influence borrowed from that of the Chinese garden. Goldfish were developed in China more than a thousand years ago by selectively breeding Prussian carp for colour mutations. By the Song dynasty, many colourations had been developed. These newly bred goldfish were then introduced to Japan in the 16th century where they were popularly used in Japanese gardens amongst other breeds of fish, such as koi and carp.

 

At Atelier Japan, we understand the true importance of traditional Japanese aesthetics, that’s why all of our collections are handcrafted by master artisans to create pieces that are time honoured and reflective of Japan’s cultural design. Explore our collections to browse more of our bespoke collections of fans, tea, silverware, jewellery and pottery.