Garden Talk


Stoned and Rocked

in Japanese Gardens

Posted by Catharine on October 25th 0023

Stoned and Rocked  in Japanese Gardens


1000 rocks from the coast were chosen.  Each one individually wrapped in silk for protection and taken to a Zen garden in Kyoto.


This  town, the former capital and home to more than a thousand Shinto shrines and buddhist temples is the place to imbibe and nibble away at  what you think of gardens.   For all the temples and shrines,   large and small,  have them.    Various idiosyncrasies  distinguish them.  Raked sand, waterfall, lake, trees with top knots tweaked or a vertiginous drop over a cliff.  With a visit to a few you can start to challenge your own perception of things horticultural.


 Visiting japanese gardens is about appreciation, having time and to be ready to take in - without analysis - what you see. Joan Miro defined art - (for art read Japanese gardens) “to give the viewer that smack in the face that must happen before reflection intervenes”.


The palette of materials  is narrow.  Moss, paths, trees shaped to order, sand,  roots and above all the rocks.    They may be individual smooth stones,  jagged sculpture or hollowed to hold water or form part of a path.  A fleeting look through the holiday snaps shows a detailed study of various pathways with tempo change made by  slight changes of material.


The rock thing is striking,  The best known is the raked gravel round the 17 rocks of the Zen garden of Ryokan. The visitor sits on wide cedar planks - we are at the theatre contemplating complete stillness.  The meaning, if you are looking for it, is enigmatic.  The experience of sitting is profound.


Lafcadio Hearn, an Anglo Greek who embraced all things Japanese said it as I wish I could:

“In order to contemplate the beauty of a Japanese garden, it is necessary to understand the beauty of stones.  Until you feel, and keenly feel that stones have character, that stones have tones and values, the whole artistic meaning  cannot be revealed to you “.

It is that simple.  



Stoned and Rocked