When it comes to tourist attractions in Japan most people think of the amazing, ancient Japanese castles with their unique, multi-tiered architecture and magnificent details. Or perhaps you plan to visit the shinto shrines with their torii. Or perhaps you like the idea of spending some solace within the walls of a Buddhist shrine. However, I’ve found another, quite common, tourist attraction that I like better than any of those: gardens.
Now, in Western culture, garden can be something small and placed in the backyard. It can be a plot of land designated for growing vegetables or perhaps for flowers with pretty colors. Yet, gardens in Japan seem to have a different concept. At least, the touristy ones do. The tourist gardens are sprawling areas with a variety of landscapes that blend seamlessly from one to the other.
Some of the most common landscapes seen within Japanese gardens are ponds and of course these ponds are filled with koi fish. And while they may just be fish, there is something so interesting about koi fish. Perhaps its their coloring. Perhaps its the way they flock around people when they near the water. Whatever it is, they can be found in every Japanese garden and are definitely a highlight for guests to take pictures of and coo over. (I did my own fair share of cooing, too. :p)
Let’s not forget the waterfalls because what koi pond would be complete without a beautiful waterfall? Not only does it add height to the otherwise flat landscape of a pond. It also adds that gentle background noise that has an uncanny ability to drown out the outside noise and be peaceful.
And let’s not forget the traditional Japanese tea house that resides in the middle of these adorable gardens. While not always open, some do offer tea ceremonies for guests to participate in complete with matcha tea (which I’m not really a fan of) and little delicacies (ie dessert :p).
Yet, my favorite part of the garden is not the fancy flowers, the adorable koi fish, or the culture nestled in every curve of the footpath or perfectly placed bush. It’s in the peace and quiet.
I grew up in a suburb with a rather large grass yard to run around barefoot in. I’m used to having lots of nature around me. I’m used to having a buffer between myself and the city. I’m used to being able to go outside without having to worry about being ‘tainted’ by the dirty outside ground. Honestly, I didn’t realize just how much I missed that until I find a secluded spot in Koko-En garden where I couldn’t hear an ounce of the street noise of the city. I could’ve stayed there all day because it was the sweetest music to my ears after being in Japan for two weeks.