Book Review – The Art of the Japanese Garden

Art of the Japanese GardenA few weeks back I reviewed David and Michiko Young’s book on Japanese architecture, and now I’m covering the companion book on gardens. As with the architecture book, it’s published by Tuttle and is copiously illustrated with colour photos taken by the authors. I have to admit, when it arrived the first thing I did was check to see whether my favourite gardens were included. Some were, and some, to my surprise, hadn’t made the cut.

The two best gardens I’ve seen in Japan were there; the Korakuen in Okayama and the Kenrokuen in Kanazawa. I was a bit disappointed not to see more pictures of the Korakuen, which I would rate as my top Japanese garden, but the Kenrokuen is comprehensively covered with a wealth of pictures.

Kenrokuen GardenI visited Kenrokuen in December, which is admittedly not the best time to see a garden, so it was lovely to see pictures of it in summer and autumn. Illustrated maps of the gardens help you understand the layout.

Kenrokuen GardenI was thrilled to see pictures of the Sazenin. This temple garden in the mountains outside Osaka was the first garden I ever visited in Japan. We went there in the depths of winter, on a day when snow fell gently in big soft flakes and the bushes were covered in a white frosting, through which streams gurgled and sang. It was unforgettable, and quite different to the pictures of it in the book, taken in high summer.

Sanzenin Temple GardenThe season in which you visit a garden is crucial your impression of it, especially so in Japan where they put so much store by the different seasons with their characteristic flowers. Many gardens have iris beds, and irises are well represented in the book.

IrisesCherry blossom,too, makes a good showing, but it’s the russet and gold maple leaves of autumn which take pride of place.

Cherry Blossom

MaplesThe book includes a through analysis of the basic elements and principles of Japanese gardens, including dry gardens with their focus on raked gravel. The illustrations, by Tan Hong Yew, are copious and clear.

Raked gravel

Raked gravelSo what was the garden that I expected to see and didn’t? The Shinjuku Gyoen Botanical Gardens, one of my favourite places in Tokyo, which I’ve written about before, most recently when I visited it in May this year.

There’s a tiny section at the end of the book on Japanese gardens outside of Japan but sadly the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park isn‘t included.

If you love gardens and want to learn more about Japanese gardens, this book will suit you down to the ground. It’s available on Amazon UK at £23.38 and Amazon USA at $22.47. I received a copy of the book for review but my opinions are my own.

2 thoughts on “Book Review – The Art of the Japanese Garden

  1. I am knocked out by the maple garden in autumn. I have inadvertently grown a whole lot of maple seedlings, maybe one day a corner of my garden will look like that. The raked gravel, at first sight, reminded me of Britain’s era of crop circles.


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