I am often asked about Japanese Tea Gardens and the Japanese Tea Garden ceremony. Both are steeped in traditions that go back hundreds of years and are not quite as complicated as you may imagine.
Japanese gardens in their most popular form originated in China and as time went by they developed in style and substance without ever losing their meaning and spiritual traditions. Tea wasn’t even grown in Japan until the early 8th century and was consumed mainly for medicinal reasons. Chinese Buddhist priests described their tea making in a book called ‘Cha Ching’ and the contents of this book form the basis for the tea ceremony in a Japanese Tea garden today.
Hundreds of years ago monks and priests were largely responsible for designing and building Japanese gardens and the importance of religion and meditation within these gardens was very important. Priests would take tea to aid their meditation and so was born the Japanese Tea garden and eventually the Japanese Tea garden ceremony.
As a consequence Japanese Tea gardens are very much spiritual havens for the creators and visitors alike. The ceremony is strictly adhered to and is a forerunner of the Tea garden itself. Japanese Tea gardens never appear artificial, a golden rule of Japanese gardens, and must have a natural appearance. This is achieved by careful design and highly skilled construction.
The natural appearance of the Japanese Tea garden it intended to be enjoyed from the gardens entrance which is usually through a gate, along a carefully laid stone path which in turn leads to the Tea house or a small gazebo in some cases. Common ingredients in Japanese Tea gardens are stepping stones, small clusters of trees and stone lanterns.
It is essential due to it’s layout that a Japanese Tea garden is viewed from the path leads to the Tea house, the construction has been done in a way that this gives the best view of the garden.
Tea in Japan in the Heian period was a rare commodity and this dictated the Japanese attitude to tea and its drinking. Formalities were drawn up and the ceremony itself was based on its scarcity. I am sure that if tea had been cultivated in Japan and drunk by many more people than it actually was that the Japanese tea ceremony would not have been part of the country’s history and Japanese garden culture.
There are many fine examples of Japanese Tea gardens around the world. Outside of Japan a couple of notable ones can be found in Golden Gate park in San Fransisco, California and there is a beautiful example as part of the ‘Sunken gardens’ in San Antonio in Texas,USA.
If you would like to know more information about Japanese gardens please take a look at my FREE Japanese garden video you can see it by visiting: www.makingajapanesegarden.com or you can read all about my Japanese garden ‘blueprint manual’ at : www.japzengardens.org