I was lucky enough to visit this magnificent country on my three month sabbatical last year. For me, as a young architect building my career in the landscape architecture world, Japan has been on the top of my list of countries to visit. The delicate way the culture has of showing respect in its highest form to any material, plant, nature in general, always fascinated me.
It is noticeable anywhere around the country. From the top architecturally designed buildings and gardens, to the tiniest, humblest streets in a traditional old village. This is what really captured my attention and captivated me - the beauty found in the imperfection, the unfinished, the impermanence. In other words, the concept of Wabi-sabi.
Therefore, this post doesn’t aim to be an accurate and corroborated explanation of Japanese gardens, but more of a visual, personal view of how I, without realising it at the time, captured Japan’s gardens and architecture in a particular way.
Being the country that is home to the most populated city in the World, you would perhaps expect to experience a concrete jungle. Instead, Japan offers moments of nature in the most unexpected places you could imagine, and in the most creative and original ways.
In fact, a lack of space and such high density, is one of the reasons streets have become front yards to many Japanese families and communities. Moments of green that enhance accesses to houses, apartment buildings, restaurants, hotels, museums. They could almost be considered as a gesture of generosity, a gift to any pedestrian walking the streets.
Collections of randomly placed pots, beautiful clipped trees protruding from walls and fences, dark passages leading to secret wet green gardens, mosses and ground covers growing in the cracks, trees in pots, and sophisticated compositions where touches of seasonality and rocks are perfectly placed to create a magical balance.
Not to mention the green walls! There are many types, but I especially enjoyed the organically formed hedge blended with other softer specimens, like hydrangeas. I’ve never seen so many types of hydrangeas in the streets anywhere else. It was really inspiring, and I hope it inspires you too.