Japanese gardens attract and intrigue us because they are so different from Western gardens in their design, elements, and purpose.
A garden may be constructed around a single view, or built to encompass numerous shifting focal points. It may be a compact private niche off the open-sided room of a residence, or it may cover acres, with hillocks, paths, and expansive vistas. It may be meant for seated viewing, a setting for the tea ceremony, or for strolling. Japanese gardeners were drawing on textbooks of garden design as early as the 11th century, and garden styles have evolved as their creators have fashioned different theaters for metaphor, meditation, pleasure, and enrichment.
Yume Japanese Gardens expresses a variety of these traditional visions, complemented by a modern garden for outdoor displays of such artistic creations as oversize sculpture and flower arrangements.
Two neighboring settings with tranquil water basins are meant to be experienced from clay-walled and shingle-roofed viewing shelters called machiai, opening upon the scene as you would see it through the sliding shoji doors of a private home. These courtyard gardens are where visitors can explore their own emotional responses to beauty.
Japanese gardens make heavy use of symbolic representation and the dry landscape garden is the most widely known and most celebrated of Japan’s gardening styles. In the case of our Dry River Garden, rocks of various sizes and kinds have been carefully positioned to create the illusion of flowing water.
At the upper end of the stream bed, sago palms neighbor several large vertical rocks that represent the high point at the head of the stream from which the waterway springs. As the stream bed meanders downward in gentle curves, it widens in the bends, as it would in nature. A mix of real river rocks has been judiciously arranged in and along the stream bed to mimic the rock-moving abilities of an actual waterway: small tumbled gray river rocks of uniform size pave the bottom of the stream bed, and boulders that are too large for the “current” to move remain in the middle of the stream. Similarly, smaller stones are washed to the center and to the end of the stream bed. Isolated stones far from the stream bed are called “accompanying” stones.
In Japan, a garden can comprise as little as rocks and gravel. Simple as these elements are, they are powerfully figurative in their frugal plainness and sculptural simplicity and often abstractly depict allegories based in Zen Buddhism. In our garden, the stones recall islands and the raked gravel stands for the seas around them.
This flat, rectangular expanse of raked white gravel is enclosed by simple granite edging and a border of water-worn dark gray cobbles at the foot of unadorned walls on three sides. Spare and elegant, it is representative of Zen gardens used as a focal point for meditation.
Water is an essential element in the Japanese garden. The water of the pond at Yume reflects stone lanterns and trees, ripples against half-submerged stones, sparkles with the flash of Japanese carp, or koi, and whispers as it courses from rock to rock in a small waterfall. The veranda of a pond-side pavilion offers a panoramic view, and a path beside the pond provides yet other perspectives.
Recent Japanese garden design remains rooted in traditional principles but achieves effects with a distinctively contemporary sensibility. The Modern Garden is used for displays of large traditional Japanese flower arrangements known as Ikebana, shows of oversize folded-paper creations called origami representing such animals as flying cranes, and exhibitions of wood and metal sculptures.