Traditional Japanese houses had courtyards or gardens that brought nature into homes. Today, most temples and shrines have grand beautiful gardens. These Japanese gardens are kept simple but are very artistic. They represent a smaller version of the vast natural landscapes that you see in Japan. Japan has beautiful oceans and lakes, with mountains going down all through the country. Creating gardens that showed the great nature for temples, shrines, and homes of royal people, was the perfect way to incorporate the beauty of the countryside into everyday life. Gardens that temples own are also used for meditation. The stillness and silence of the garden creates the perfect atmosphere for a relaxing meditation session.
Large scale Japanese gardens usually have ponds in the middle, with many catfish swimming in it. If the shape of the pond is complicated, sometimes you will find small bridges that connect the land. The pond is surrounded with neatly cut trees and bushes, rocks, and moss. Sometimes there is a path made with gravel that goes around the garden. When you take a walk in the garden, make sure you do not scatter the gravel. The garden is for observing rather than playing in. Japanese gardens have other rules and principles, such as the correct way to arrange rocks or the appropriate depth of the pond. Trees are trimmed by professional gardeners. The tree grows naturally on its own, while the gardener shapes the branches and leaves to make it fit and blend with the garden. It is more of an art piece than an ordinary tree planted to fill in an empty space in the garden.
Ryouan temple, built in 1450 in Kyoto, has a famous courtyard designed with only gravel and 15 rocks. However, once you look into the courtyard and try to count the 15 rocks, you can only find 14. The rocks are placed carefully so that no matter where you are standing, one rock is always hiding behind another. The use of different sized rocks and the use of perspective view is outstanding and is definitely worth experiencing.