A Book Exploring the Beauty of Japanese Gardens


Daikaku-ji, Kyoto, 814, Heian Period. Picture credit: Travellinglight/Alamy Stock Photo (page 83)

British author Sophie Walker, who is also a keen horticulturalist and holds a degree in art history, pays homage to Japanese gardens and their history in a new book, The Japanese Garden. Far from the clean, ruler-straight paths found in French gardens and a million miles away from the more imposing quality to English gardens, Japanese gardens are designed to be spaces for freedom, where nature is studied and guided to then reproduce its wild beauty in miniature, and where symbolic ‘zen’ elements are added in different places.

Sophie Walker’s book offers no practical tips and she does not claim to be a master of gardening: she explores Japan through its most beautiful gardens without giving their address. The book starts from one hundred concrete examples and beautiful images to then reveal, through rich and precise explanations, another dimension of the Japanese garden which was born over 800 years ago: that of a space dedicated less to aestheticism and strolling around than to reflection, philosophy and spirituality.

Kennin-ji, Rinzai Zen Buddhism, Kyoto, 1202, Kamakura Period. Picture credit: Photograph © Sophie Walker (pages 170-171)

Cherry blossom above a wooden bridge at Kōraku-en, Okayama. Picture credit: Photograph © Sophie Walker (page 202)

Adachi Museum Garden, Yasugi, 1970, Shōwa Period, Zenkō Adachi. Picture credit: © Malcolm Raggett (page 133)

Time Garden, Izumi City Plaza, Osaka, 2002, Heisei Period, Tatsuo Miyajima. Picture credit: © SS Osaka. Courtesy Tatsuo Miyajima (page 221)

Kahitsukan Kyoto Museum of Contemporary Art, Kyoto, 1981, Kajikawa Yoshitomo with Akenuki Atsushi. Picture credit: Photograph © Sophie Walker (page 235)

The Japanese Garden, Sophie Walker, Phaidon