A great international symposium on the theme “Understanding Japanese Gardens : Spirituality or Science” will be held in Kyoto in this month of October, at University of Art and Design.
Because even if some garden professionals in Japan are willing to use on the Web totally Western inventions such as the terms “Zen garden” or “clouds pruning” for hard cash rather obvious reasons (yes, it exists … even in Japan!), others more serious still stay conscious of their traditions by asking more fundamental questions.
Here is the guideline of this symposium…
“The Japanese garden has become an object of conscious reflection since the end of the nineteenth century. It made Japanese gardens a distinct art expression that could develop with its own spiritual focus in the overwhelming wealth of modern society. It benefited landscape business and research enormously. Huge sums were invested in developing landscapes that were embedded in a context of culture and the humanities.
The meaning of such landscapes and gardens was expanded too, supporting in turn modernizing processes enormously. Recent highbrow projects like Roppongi Hills or Namba Parks, in Tokyo and Osaka, respectively, show the ultimate expression of landscape in post-fordist place making, fully supporting wider cultural notions. But fame makes victims when it seeks to perpetuate its own image, losing sight of the object offame – the Japanese garden is no exception. Most obvious were the obligatory “Japanese gardens” presented at world exhibitions that without much authenticity tried to suggest some kind of standard aesthetic. And books on “How to create your own Japanese garden in half a day” are still offered in multitudes and by a wide array of seeming specialists: Amazon.com offered 13.633 titles last August when requesting ‘Japanese Garden’.
In Japan, in the meantime, first-year college students of horticulture or landscape architecture in Japan struggle with whether they should become a professional in the Western or the Japanese style. Against this reductive view of the Japanese garden, trying to make the case that there is no such recipe for Japanese gardens, is like shouting in the desert against the wind. The history of Japan’ s garden art has in the past century not been able to escape such a loss of intrinsic focus, and it was fueled — not in the least— by landscape businesses and the cultural policies of the Japanese government.
In this flurry of strategic culture politics, kitsch and superficialities the pressing question comes up: How can we understand Japanese Gardens ? Is it a spiritual haven, a tool to personal enlightenment ? Or is it rather an object of research – and if so – what is the point of departure, the paradigms with which it can be tackled ? Or is it not more than what it just is: technical perfection in horticulture with a centuries-old tradition of mutual understanding by gardeners that don’t talk or write but just do their work ?
This symposium hopes to shed light on such themes for consideration by eminent speakers on the subject.”
A great thank you to my garden master SANO San, who gave me this information ! And a great thank you to all these eminent specialists of Japanese garden in JAPAN ! It’s good … because here, in the West, I sometimes feel like preaching in the desert !