Last week’s article was about Parliamentary Vice Minister Hideyuki Tanaka and his delegation’s visit to Stillwater relative to their project of restoration of overseas Japanese gardens including the International Friendship Garden at the Community Center. This week’s article is about the garden itself. 

The garden is clearly a Japanese landscape garden, but there are a number of different types or styles of Japanese landscape gardens, so what style is ours? 

Gardens are sometimes grouped in different ways, but most group them as stroll gardens, viewing gardens, water gardens, dry gardens, tea gardens and Zen gardens. 

Stroll gardens are larger gardens with paths where one can walk through the garden, enjoying the beauty of the garden as well as the peace and tranquility associated with Japanese gardens. 

Gardens described as viewing gardens are often gardens where there are structures such as a temple or shrine where one can sit and view the garden. Water gardens are usually not what we call water gardens. 

They are more often much like a stroll garden or a viewing garden with a water feature such as a pond, and may actually be called pond gardens. Tea gardens are usually somewhat smaller than stroll gardens, viewing gardens or water gardens, but otherwise similar in design. 

They are called tea gardens because there is almost always a structure in the garden similar to a gazebo where the owner of the garden invites guests to take part in the very elaborate and formal Japanese tea ceremony while enjoying the beauty of the garden. Zen gardens are usually associated with a Buddhist temple. 

They are often, but not always, dry gardens rather plain in their design. Probably the most photographed garden in Japan is Ryoan-ji, a Zen garden bordered on three sides by a stucco-like wall. The garden consists of 15 stones ranging in size from perhaps 20 pounds to about 200 pounds on a bed of pea-size white gravel. 

The garden is famous for its simplicity while at the same time, for its grandeur. It’s a garden for meditation as all Zen gardens are and, like it, many Zen gardens tend toward simplicity in their design. Many also have a number of rocks similar in size to Ryoan-ji, therefore, they’re sometimes called rock gardens or dry gardens. And that brings us to the last of the garden styles mentioned earlier, dry gardens. 

Dry gardens or kara san sei gardens have no actual water feature, but often have elements in the garden that represent water, such as a large boulder which represents a waterfall, river rocks which represent a stream or gravel which may represent a pond or lake. 

These elements are part of the International Friendship Garden at the community center and most would describe the garden as a kara san sei style garden. 

However, I have several books on Japanese landscape gardens in my small library, 

one titled Japanese Gardens in Kyoto , others titled Tea Gardens, Zen Gardens, Japanese Gardens and other titles. 

Several gardens are shown in more than one book, so there’s no hard and fast rule as to how to define a garden by style. But, however each garden is defined, each is beautiful and a place of peace and tranquility.

Larry Jones is a member of the Stillwater Sister Cities Council.