Japan

japan-pavement-gardens

Pavement-gardens

The crammed grid of houses in the middle of Kyoto left no space for gardens. But there were plants – in pots. They stood in front of nearly every house, usually in groups by the front door. Some houses were almost surrounded by a collection of containers, all tightly packed with plants.

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Plants against walls

Before our trip to Japan I had not expected urban streets to hold particular horticultural interest. After we arrived I was immediately fascinated by the interplay of tight control and wild exuberance. – This is the first of a two-part photo essay on urban planting in Japan.

Ryoan-ji

Early morning at Ryoan-ji

It is very quiet. Nothing moves. The precision of this highly fragile arrangement is breathtaking. It is the expression of a simple idea full of infinite variation. This is the most famous Zen garden in the world – Ryoan-ji.

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Travelling to the gardens of Japan

I had been fascinated – and mystified – by Japanese gardens for as long as I could remember. Seeing them in person was going to be so exciting, but would I be able to comprehend them? My interest in the history of European gardens had taught me that cultural context was essential to their understanding. Japanese culture being so very different from European, I tried to acquire as much knowledge about it as possible prior to your trip.