The Daily MuseA Tribute to

Japan and Japanese Gardens
Welcome to the Soul of the
Garden tribute to Japan and Japanese gardens. The inspiration for these pages
stretches back approximately thirty-five years when, as a high school student,
one of my teachers suggested that I read a book about haiku poetry. That book
touched off a lifetime of exploration about Japanese literature, culture,
religion, and of course, gardening. Several years into that journey I discovered
R.H. Blyth’s  book on the spiritual and cultural roots roots of haiku where
I found the following Zen koan:
The plum tree, dwindling,
contains less of the spring; But the garden is wider, and holds more of the
(from Haiku Volume 1 – Eastern
Culture, R. H. Blyth)
A koan is a story or riddle that 
was used as a teaching tool in the Zen tradition of Buddhism. Koans are, by
intent, difficult to follow with our normal rational way of thinking and yet
they are accessible to our intuitions, sometimes immediately so. That was
certainly the case with me. The “Way” of the garden, of nature, and of life
itself seemed bound up in this short little verse that felt so poignant,
yet hopeful and wise.  I didn’t know how to interpret my experience, except to
say that it touched my heart and reminded me of what we call the “spiritual”
dimension of life. Without that gentle image of the plum tree in autumn, this
website probably would never have seen its first spring. I have felt indebted to
Japan ever since that day.
In April of 2007 I had the good
fortune to realize a thirty-five year long  dream of visiting Japan and
touring some of the exquisite temples and gardens of that most gracious country.
My partner, Victor, and I spent ten days in the ancient capitals of Nara and 
Kyoto and the incredible metropolis of Tokyo (with a lovely side trip to the
Kamakura area.) What follows is a photographic record of our pilgrimage, I hope
that you enjoy this abbreviated tour and feel a little of the peace that
welcomed us in so many of these lovely sites.
Namaste, Tom Spencer
The “gateless” gate of Nanzen-ji.
A monk told Joshu, “I have just entered this
monastery. I beg you to teach me.” Joshu asked, “Have you eaten your rice
porridge?” The monk replied, “I have.” “Then,” said Joshu, “Go and wash your
bowl.” At that moment the monk was enlightened. – from The
Gateless Gate – a famous collection of Zen koans and commentaries.
Kyoto – City of Fabled Temples, Gardens, and Castles