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 five of these traditional visions, complemented by a modern garden and a sculpture garden.
Visit the five gardens
Two neighboring settings in the Gardens are meant to be explored from clay-walled and shingle-roofed viewing shelters called machiai. These courtyard gardens are where visitors can also 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 streambed, 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 streambed 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 streambed 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 streambed. Isolated stones far from the streambed are called “accompanying” stones.
In Japan, a garden can comprise as little as rocks and gravel stones. 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.
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 Japanese Gardens reflects stone lanterns and trees, ripples against half-submerged stones, sparkles with the flash of koi, and whispers as it courses from rock to rock in a small waterfall.
Recent Japanese garden design remains rooted in traditional principles but achieves effects with a distinctively contemporary sensibility, as on view in the modern garden courtyard.