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Articles: Doubt

There is nothing in the Japanese garden that you cannot see.

That was not the lesson I expected to learn when I moved to Kyoto in search of an apprenticeship. I intended to pursue a brief period of practical study before entering graduate school to study Japanese history, rounding out the research that I had done for an undergraduate thesis on symbolism and literary aesthetics in the gardens of the Heian period. While researching that paper, I had become focused on understanding exactly how master Japanese gardeners imbued a garden with the symbolism and imagery that are so often discussed. I harbored an instinctive feeling that the true nature of these sophisticated gardens lay in learning to understand the language of stones. Had I known how many years would pass before I would feel I had grasped the garden, it’s unlikely that I would have continued. It’s tempting to say that my apprenticeship was the most horrible experience I have ever had, but such a simple statement avoids the complexity of that time, and the insights into the garden that I continue to draw from the experience. I have no doubt that my view of the Japanese garden is profoundly different from any underst...


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