Amazing culture and fun in the heart of San Diego.
Photo tour of Japanese Friendship Garden upper level.
I recently went on a docent-led tour of the Japanese Friendship Garden in Balboa Park. I took photos and jotted down a few quick notes about the many things I learned. We first strolled through the upper level, then ventured down into the more recently opened canyon expansion.
In this blog post I’ll relate a little about what our group saw in the upper level. I’ll provide a very small taste of the beauty, history and meaning of the wonderful sights in this gem of a garden. But, of course, to truly absorb the quiet beauty, you must visit the Japanese Friendship Garden yourself. Even better, become a member!
Before entering the garden, the docent explained some differences between traditional European and Japanese gardens.
Formal European gardens originated as demonstrations of a person’s wealth–think of the wide, lavish gardens beside the palaces and chateaus of Europe. They show man’s ability to master and order nature, with symmetrically arranged rows of flowers and grandiose columns and gravity-defying fountains.
Traditional Japanese gardens, however, are quite different. Inviting meditation and abstraction, they emphasize what is natural. They simulate a winding, personal walk through an idealized, beautiful wilderness. Rugged stones, dripping water, asymmetrical trees bent by the elements–one encounters scenes found in nature that might represent a growing human life and the experiences that shape who we become.
The Dry Stone Garden, in Japanese called karesansui, contains a numerologically auspicious odd number of stones. The stones all seem to bow to a vertical master stone, the first to be placed. The stones float like islands, and the raked ridges around them appear like choppy waves in Japan’s Inland Sea. Shrubs behind the rock garden simulate wooded hillsides. The extended roof and garden’s nearness draw the observer into the calm scene. Zen meditation and mental abstraction is sought.
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