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JAPAN [four]: TEMPLE GARDENS…

In this reality the sacred is close… inviting, yet.. elusive. One feels invitation… permission to taste & sample. Heaven seems to exist first in life on this earth… reality as abstract gardens.
While I can claim no real knowledge about theology or religion in Japan, architecturally at least, they present themselves quite often at street level. Never so grandiose as European cathedrals, they seem to support everyday life in their presence… or to offer a deep sense of remove behind gated walls.

I often felt a bit intrusive as we explored… Yet each accommodates stocking-footed visitors along the verandas circumambulating the temples while coming to awareness that these garden are many centuries alive… even those made only of sere stone. A difficult concept even to this organic gardener remembering the natural temples in the Red Rocks of Sedona.

Thus the gardens, which have long been part of the meditational practice of the temple devotees, proving a literally living faith. While there is resonance between them, there does not seem to be any formula. Each presents an individual history of story & style.

This is the most famous of the raked gravel type:

We were nearly always accompanied by groups of youngsters on school outings…

I was enthralled by the wooden walkways, protected by the eaves, with deliciously comfortable flooring made with extravagantly wide polished boards. They buffered the building from the garden, while offering possibility of opening the shoji to marry interior with the exterior spaces.

Another was a study in moss…

Details I liked included interactive margins & the surprize of these red buckets, both just over the edges of the walkways. I must presume the buckets are part of fire protection…

Compositions could be severely geometric or quite amorphic. All were poetic dialogues & dramatic conversations between rocks & plants inside constucted controlled space surrounding a wooden space built as “nature” by & for humans… becoming rather an elaborately organic theatre.

I caught Stephen in a sweet reverie at sunset in this rich Zen environment…

The meditation rooms of the zendos were serene, with lively painting on the shoji.

Skillful craftsmanship in wood abounds in Japan, of course.

There is a pair of famous temples on the eastern & western sides of Kyoto, close to the bordering mountains…  one Silver & the other Golden… both having large gardens… in opposing styles. The Silver Temple never got its metallic treatment… the dark two-story building just to the right of sand cone is the temple. It’s gardens are the attraction, beginning with this sand garden featuring a blunt conical shape representing Mount Fuji… seemingly as symbolic volcano.

This was the largest… & tallest! of this kind of sculptural construct in nature we saw.
The shogun who built this garden lived his retirement in the larger villa near the temple.

The severity of the geometric sand evolves as the path turns into more verdant planting while the mountain receeds into the distance.

A waterfall is another typical feature of Kyoto’s gardens… as are the props used to shape the trees… I may need to make a separate post of the many images I made of such devices & other tools which caught this gardener’s eyes…

 The path climbs quite high up the steep hillside to a viewpoint of the temple complex before relaxing down through green glades.

One last glyphic sand garden…
Plus a glimpse I made into a gardener’s toy box…
For the record, I must explain that both Stephen & I were making photographs with our cameras & phones. We do not always know which of us took these images, so I give equal credit to him…