There are a couple of fixed images I have when I think about Japanese gardens. One is a bonsai tree, and the other is the art of Zen. Bonsai has become to me the definitive idea of Japanese gardening with beautiful images in small spaces. And Zen represents a Japanese garden in my mind because every Japanese garden that I have seen has had a Zen theme to it. Even the homes in Japan have a Zen theme to them, but it is in the garden that you really see the spirit of Zen and Zen design.
The first time I learned anything about Japanese gardens was when my mother, who worked in a language school, introduced me to the Japanese language professor. This gentleman spent many years in Japan studying and learning the Japanese language. In addition to learning the language, he learned a great deal about the culture of Japan, most notably for him, the gardens of Japan. He welcomed the concept of a Japanese garden to his home.
I was able to see a Japanese garden for myself when my mother and I were invited, along with all of the other collections from the language school, to his home to celebrate the birthday of this professor's first grandson. I could not help but notice the garden in the back, and I was immediately stuck by the beauty and simplicity of the miniature Japanese garden he had created. I had no idea at the time that I was staring upon a Japanese garden; I simply enjoyed the clean lines and delicate symmetry of this living work of art. At first, I was afraid to walk around in it, it seemed so delicate and I was afraid to disturb it.
Luckily, our host noticed how awe-stuck I was, and he came to me and explained the entire concept behind the design of a tranquil Japanese garden. He explained that certain design structures are inherent in a Japanese garden, and pointed each one out to me, how rocks, water and plants are used. He had beautiful bonsai, as well as a Koi pond that represented bounty and prosperity.
I could not pull myself away from the beauty of this garden, and the master of the house had, in the space of a few hours, converted me from someone who knew nothing about Japanese gardens to someone who was convinced he had to create the beauty , simplicity and symbolism of a Japanese garden for himself. I now have a tranquil Japanese garden of my own, and am thankful to the professor for introducing me to this lovely art form.