G is for 庭

G is for niwa, or the Japanese word for Garden. The only place more ubiquitous to Japan than shrines and temples are gardens, and its not uncommon to see one or two of them inside the former two. In fact, one of the major draws to the lesser-known temples, shrines, estates and palaces in Japan is the quality of their garden. Since Japan is one of the lucky places on Earth that experiences four “true” seasons, this isn’t surprising. Many temples also have tea houses that serve the local specialty (which is usually matcha, or some sort of blossom or fruit tea). I can’t really recommend the pickled plum tea though, even if it does have gold flakes floating in it.

Most gardens have a very traditional feel to them, with stone buddhas, pagodas and boulder-sized decorations used as the center-points, surrounded by moss or some other low-growing shrub, and stone steps leading from one level to the other. Most trees are also carefully pruned, many needing support beams to support their intense upper weight, or cultivated to the point of being practically useless as a fruit (Japanese cherry trees do make cherries, but they’re about the size of a blueberry, and very, very bitter.)

The only time of year I avoid these beautiful respites from daily life is in summer, when the mosquito population rises to its full height. Unfortunately, with most gardens sporting stagnant water ponds, this is the carpe diem for the annoying little critters, and it makes it hard to enjoy it, what with all the humidity making it practically impossible to cover the entirety of your skin comfortably. Between the bites, and the deafening sound of cicada (video below), it’s not all that fun of a trip.

But, spring, fall, winter? Go!

Images hosted on Flickr.

Ohara, Kyoto

Ohara, Kyoto

Biking to Ohara

Genji Monogatari Rally - Uji

https://flic.kr/p/nHA13k

https://flic.kr/p/oAxkBa

https://flic.kr/p/oAwPMG

Tokyo II

Golden Week 2011

https://flic.kr/p/puQarW

Golden Week 2011

https://flic.kr/p/oRGY9N

Winter Wonderland Redux

Ohara, Kyoto

91 thoughts on “G is for 庭

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Hopefully one day you can, Jeno… but I know that the San Francisco Japanese Garden is also a completely faithful representation of what they look like over here (and it may be closer to you! 😉 ) Same with the Japanese garden in Fort Worth, TX.

      Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Thank you, Tasha! The koi are full of character over here. I love when I see them swimming in schools upstream in the river.

      Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      That doesn’t surprise me, even though Tokyo has the LEAST gardens of any city, haha. I guess that’s a good thing. 🙂

      Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      English gardens are pretty amazing, I agree. I haven’t seen any Japanese attempt at them rival the rose gardens I saw casually in the states. But, with the limited land mass, I guess it’s not surprising, haha.

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      Errrr…. imagine a Warhead candy soaked in hot water until it flavors it, with a bit of a strawberry tang to it. Then, add about two tablespoons of salt and stir. That would be pickled plum tea. 😛

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      That’s okay. I think they’re just the kind of thing that needs lots of time to sort of meander and enjoy it. The end of the day would make me feel like I had to get in and out as quick as I could!

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      • Stuff Jeff Reads says:

        I built a lot of stone raised beds, so mainly we grow vegetables, although we have flowers surrounding our back patio that also has a trellis I built which a wisteria is covering. In the veg beds, I am already harvesting asparagus. We have lettuce, sugar snap peas, kohlrabi, carrots, and kale started. Also, the blueberry and blackberry bushes are budding. Finally, we have two strawberry beds, but they have not started flowering yet.

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  1. strangepegs says:

    But I love cicadas and their sounds. That was one of my favorite things in Louisiana.
    Not mosquitoes, though. Kill them all!

    Why are there no gardens with temples or shrines in them? hmm…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I like cicada, too, but they are quite deafening over here…. hundreds all over the place. There have been cases of people going deaf (for real) from their calls.

      Definitely with you on the mosquitos… yuck.

      And there are temples and shrines inside gardens! They’re usually miniature, but they exist. 🙂

      Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I wouldn’t mind them so much if there weren’t quite so many of them. Also, they have no natural predators here, haha. Birds don’t like the taste of them, I guess. 😛

      Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      The tea wasn’t very good, but it’s not uncommon to see gold leaf on things here. The Japanese love it as an aesthetic choice. 🙂

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      Ah, no, not Momotaro-kun or a jizo. This is just a buddha gargoyle. 🙂 They were peppered all around the garden. Quite beautiful. I love his toes, haha.

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      Yeah, the portrait shot of the cobblestone walkway was a garden we quite literally stumbled upon about three minutes from out house in Tokyo. A wonderful stumble, of course. 🙂

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    • Alex Hurst says:

      Thank you, Joe. There’s one thing for sure: Japan’s infected me with the travel bug… I think I’m going to have to visit a ton more places just to be satisfied in life!

      Like

  2. rosie49 says:

    Your pics are exquisite, and I love bug sounds. we are gearing up for the promiscuous spring peeper frogs to start their partying. talk about loud!!

    Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Peeper frogs? I need to know more! We have little nickel-sized frogs in our neighborhood, too, in summer. I wonder if they’re related. 😀

      Like

      • rosie49 says:

        They’re “peepers” for the noise they make — although they aren’t large, they make their throats bulge with song. They hang out low in the trees wooing the females. I’m not very good with the photos — but maybe i can get some audio on here?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeannette says:

    Your blog is spectacular! from the banner to each individual photo. Kyoto is on my bucket list to see. Your post made me feel like I’d had a nano-trip. I love the focus on details in your photos. Gardens are such a challenge to photograph — do you take the big view or the macro view? Well done! Happy A-to-Z blogging from FidoUniverse.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Thank you for visiting, Jeannette! Since the gardens in Japan are usually pretty crowded (or at least crowded enough to not get clean shots of pathways,) I tend to take a macro approach… so much so, in fact, that I plan to upgrade my camera soon so I can get better photos all around! (I’m on a standard digital camera from Sony right now, with no ability to changes lenses.)

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  4. bobleponge216 says:

    I tried the pickled plum tea when I was there and have to agree wholeheartedly with you. The word I used at the time was “disgusting.” I’d banished it from my memory until it snuck back in reading your post. Vile stuff. Great pics as always and a great post.

    Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Yeah, I’d use that word, too. XD I’m sorry to remind you of that awful taste. Someone further up in the comments asked what it tastes like… but it’s a hard flavor to describe. 😛

      Thanks as always for the comment. I’m still pondering your Great Wall photos. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • bobleponge216 says:

        More an impossible flavour to describe I’d say, it didn’t really taste of anything I’d ever had the misfortune to taste before.
        Stunning. The country itself didn’t really “do it for me” but the Wall and the Forbidden City are something I’ll be eternally grateful to have seen.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Atherton says:

    Wow! Lovely! My mom is a fanatic gardener, and I’d love to get her to look at this post… alas, she refuses to use the internet, so… so it probably won’t happen. Why, to get her to read my blog, I have to print the things out and present them to her in a stack, or read it aloud from the screen. Anyway, lovely post, great photos, great info. Love this glimpse of Japan!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      Hahah, I can just imagine…. you’re definitely going the extra mile for her, though, which is very sweet of you. 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed the photos, but it’s got nothing on yours! First prize for dedication and creativity this year, I think. 🙂

      Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I bet a fair number…. it’s a pretty great topic, though. Thanks for doing backlog reading on top of everything else! That’s very kind of you.

      Like

  6. phoenixgrey85 says:

    You really have taken some lovely pictures. Japan is so beautiful. One of the places I want to travel to when I get the opportunity. The cultures and history fascinate me. I’m really liking this series of posts. Looking forward to the next one. ;:)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sue Archer says:

    Turtles! Oh so cute. 🙂 I hadn’t thought about the mosquito thing, but that makes a lot of sense…all that standing water. I’d be staying away from them, too! The only time I see hordes of mosquitos here are in the woods in summer. Fall is much better, because the leaves are gorgeous and insects are gone!

    Liked by 1 person

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