The elements of design in a traditional Japanese garden are never without their symbolism. No matter what type or the size of the Japanese garden is, it will always attempt to capture the essence of nature of which it is a reflection, using the principles and metaphors prevalent in Buddhism, Zen and Shintoism, the religions embraced by the Japanese people.
Stepping into a Japanese garden is like stepping into another world. The roofed gate through which you must pass before entering the garden marks the border between the world you are entering and the world you are leaving behind. When you step inside a Japanese garden, it would seem to you that yamazato, the feeling of being isolated, of transcending from your present state to another, better one, immediately descends upon you. The effect is often subtle; you will not feel it until the end of your journey through this otherworld and return to everyday living.
The way the Japanese design their gardens has drawn much admiration outside Japan, so much that many landscape architects have imported the principles of Japanese landscaping and have attempted to apply them into their own gardens in their own countries. If you happen to visit the State of New York, make it a point to make a stopover at the John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden.
The John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden is one of the most renowned Japanese gardens in the United States. Located in Mill Neck, New York, it is a four-acre property that is situated in a deeply wooded area and standing next to a wildlife sanctuary. It was built in 1960 by the late Ambassador John P. Humes and his wife in a corner of their estate in Long Island, following an inspiration they received after their stay in Japan.
An Eastern garden would never spread out to its visitor its treasures and wonders in one glance, like food in a feast. Instead, it lures the visitor to discover these treasures as he wanders through the garden. This is most true in a stroll garden, and in the John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden, the stroll will make a visitor go through the illustrated metaphor of the journey to enlightenment.
The stroll is an upward climb, representing the difficulty a person may face in his spiritual journey. The stone steps of the strolling path are wide and very shallow; the width and the shallowness of the steps are meant to make the visitor tread slowly as he makes the journey, and to make him pause to enjoy the vistas that the path offers him little by little, comprised by evergreens, bamboos, shrubs and rock placements. The visitor will not find a lot of flowers in the John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden, and so the views presented are often monochromatic. It is aimed to place the visitor in a meditative mood as he goes along the path.
At the end of the path is an authentic cha-shitsu or teahouse, imported by Ambassador and Mrs. Humes from Japan. From the teahouse, the visitor can look down and see the world he had traveled through on his way to “enlightenment,” so to speak, in its entirety. A wabi-cha or a formal tea ceremony is offered there.
If you are visiting New York, make it a point to make a stopover at the John P. Humes Japanese Stroll Garden. In there you will find not just a journey of the senses, but a journey of the spirit.