Gardening in Japan follows completely different methods and practices compared to other countries. For example, whereas our perception of gardening is very closely linked to the taking care of plants resulting in beautiful blossoms, the Japanese understanding of gardening is not necessarily connected to such perception. Gardens in Japan are more about arrangement or the layout of trees, plants, gravel, moss, bushes and stones.
The famous stone garden at Riwanji temple in Kyoto simply has gravel and stones laid out in a rectangular yard adjacent to the main prayer hall in such a way that it creates a soothing atmosphere for anyone admiring its simple beauty. The garden has seventeen stones covered in moss at their bases and are laid out in a gravel-filled ground in such a way that all seventeen stones can never be seen by human eyes from any angle, irrespective of where a person stands. Moreover, the gravels on the ground are also carefully arranged in circular patterns to give the feeling of waves and thus giving the whole setting of the garden a charming mysticism. A leading cultural figure of Japan and a former Commissioner of Culture, Late Hayao Kawaii, once accompanied us to the temple and explained the mystery behind that astonishing layout of stones. “Human life”, he explained, “is incomplete, and that essence is beautifully depicted by the famous gardener. Its only the entity dwelling high above who can claim to be in full view of everything.”