In spring, the Japanese Garden at the Huntington Botanical Gardens shows off wisteria and flowering trees near the Moon Bridge.
Reverence for nature pervades Japanese gardens, tranquil retreats designed as a series of idealized landscapes. Overlooks such as footbridges and pavilions are interspersed with trees, shrubs, rocks, and watercourses, all artfully placed to prompt visitors to pause and contemplate. Here are some of the West's best.
A stone "double moon" bridge (with twin semicircular arches) is a highlight of Shinzen Friendship Garden in Fresno's Woodward Regional Park. The garden's four sections pay homage to the seasons. Overlooking the lake is an authentic thatched-roof teahouse reassembled here by Japanese master builders. (559) 621-2900, shinzenjapanesegarden.org.
Distinguished by a 19th-century shoin-style home and a genuine temple bell, the Japanese garden in Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino is renowned for its collection of bamboo species and rare tea plants. Visitors can judge students' skills at ikebana, the art of flower arranging. (626) 405-2100, huntington.org.
The populous koi pond at the 3.5-acre Ro Ho En Japanese garden covers five-eighths of an acre—far more than most—while the garden's waterfall, tumbling over shapely boulders, lofts refreshing mist into the air. (602) 256-3204, japanesefriendshipgarden.org.
Islands of stones dot a "sea" of sand raked to suggest rippling water in one of the five distinct subgardens that make up this 5.5-acre park, Portland Japanese Garden, in southwest Portland. In the nearby Stroll Garden, real water winds through a streambed bordered by lush vegetation, with a new vista at each twist of the path. (503) 223-1321, japanesegarden.com.
Golden Gate Park's Japanese Tea Garden, famed for its landmark 1894 drum bridge, also has a hedge sculpted to resemble Mount Fuji and wooden gates crafted without nails or screws. (415) 819-0963, www.japaneseteagardensf.com.
Tradition holds that malign spirits travel only in a straight line. That's why a zigzag bridge in Nitobe Memorial Garden at the University of British Columbia is called "devil-losing." Other bridges in the garden have their own symbolic meanings. (604) 822-9666, nitobe.org.
Photography courtesy of Plane777/Wikipedia
This article was first published in November 2013. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.