Have you ever seen an authentic Japanese garden? Well, I had the chance of seeing the one in Monaco and was really impressed too. Wanna taste a little Japanese culture? Stepping on this ground is escaping from the real world into a fantasy land. You suddenly find yourself in a typical Japanese natural setting like the ones you see in marvelous paintings. The only thing that's missing is the fog. Instead, the Mediterranean sun reveals all minute details in a warm light.
With Japanese gardens, what you see is not all; the surface of things is the mere reflection of the psyche of an ancient culture. One really needs to be literally "cultured" in this direction to best appreciate the value of this art. (which I myself was not at the time of my visit! And it was a pity as I did not know what to look for and what to analyze better!) One can speak of a philosophy of gardening coming from the ancient Japan. Japanese gardening is an art fetched beyond the arrangements of vegetation, water and stone but is full of symbols:
* Koko – the veneration of timeless age;
* Shizen – the avoidance of the artificial;
* Yugen, or darkness – imply the mysterious or subtle;
* Miegakure – the avoidance of full expression
The perception of nature is different in the Japanese culture from that of the European one. Instead of viewing nature only as something to be subjugated and transformed according to man-made ideal of beauty, Japanese developed a close connection to nature, considering it sacred, an ally in putting food on the table and an ideal of beauty in itself. That is why the Japanese gardens are the synthesis of nature in miniature instead of correction of nature as with European gardens.
Actually, the design of Japanese gardens come from the Chinese model. The history goes back in time, around year 100BC when the emperor of China, Wu Di of the Han Dynasty established a garden that contained three small islands, mimicking the Isles of the Immortals, who were the main Taoist deities. An envoy of Japan saw it and took the idea to Japan, improving the existing Japanese practices.
The Japanese Garden of Monaco was designed at the request of Prince Rainier who thus fulfilled a desire Princess Grace had expressed during her life-time. The garden was designed by the landscape-architect Yasuo Beppu, has 7,000 square meters, its construction took 3 years and it was inaugurated in 1994.
* The wall (Heï) with an intermediary bamboo fencing (Takégaki) that stands for fragility and simplicity.
* The main gate (Shô-mon)
* The stone lanterns (Tôrô) – each having special different characteristics;
* The lake (Iké) with large swishing gold fish.
* The stone fountain (Fusen-Ishi)
* The covered terrace (Kyukeïjo)
* The islands (Shima) – represent two long-living animals – the tortoise and the crane, symbols of complementarity expressed
* The Tea house (Chatshitsu) – named the Garden of Grace (Ga-en)
* The dry landscape (Karésansui) – quintessence of Cosmos
* The Belvedere (Azumaya) – a house on a hill allowing view in all four corners
* The waterfall (Taki) – symbolizes the strength of Man and Nature, contrasting to the horizontality of the lake.
* The arched red bridge (Taïkobashi) – is red, the color of happiness and is narrow so as to make access to the divine island more difficult.
There are olive trees, cherry trees, conifers, azaleas, rhododendrons and camellias, a varied, rich vegetation of Mediterranean, South American, Australia, African and Asian origin, pruned according to the Japanese tradition.
Walking in the crowded Monaco, with all its stone, steel and glass, you can find in the Japanese Garden a peaceful, green oasis where even the great number of tourists pass unnoticed, wandering on the winding paths, through the thicket of the garden.