Understanding Japanese Gardens


Japanese gardens mean different things to different people: it is almost impossible to clearly state what defines a Japanese garden. Many Japanese resist classifying and categorizing the various features of Japanese gardens. A reason for this is that beauty that is not explained allows the viewer to remain in a state of wonder. An arrangement of rocks is markedly different from a verdant stroll garden both in structure and function. Still, most visitors can tell when they have entered a garden created and maintained in the Japanese tradition. Perhaps they are sensing the Japanese spirit that informs these spaces.

Garden styles have changed dramatically throughout the course of Japan’s long history.  Japanese culture has been transformed by both internal and external factors such as Shinto beliefs, the Buddhist religion, literature, poetry, and the tea ceremony. No matter the style, there is a distinctiveness to Japanese gardens. Each element, from the largest tree to the smallest pebble, is treated with respect, and gardeners strive to care for the space with both honour and humility. It is our hope that visitors will be able to feel some of this atmosphere as they enjoy Nitobe Memorial Garden.