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In Japan, gardening isn’t just a hobby – it’s an art form with spiritual significance.
But while gardens across the country get lots of love on social media, many Japanese will swear their fealty to one that’s off the beaten track – the garden at the Adachi Museum of Art in bucolic Shimane prefecture, a three-hour train trip from Osaka.
The US-based Sukiya Living magazine (formerly Journal of Japanese Gardening) has awarded the Adachi Museum its highest honor – most beautiful traditional garden – for more than 20 years running.
Despite accolades coming from outside of Japan, the museum and gardens remain relatively unknown compared to those in Kyoto and Tokyo.
Many Western visitors to Japan are confused when they visit a Japanese garden, only to not see a single flower. Japanese gardens place emphasis on different kinds of plants, like moss or trees, or may just consist of rocks in a finely manicured bed of sand. They’re not just about big, colorful blooms – there’s a more subtle dynamic at play.
“Gardens in Japan do aspire to high art in a way that they don’t in the West,” explains Sophie Walker, author of the book “The Japanese Garden.”
“Mitate is the idea that the imagination can leap. You can see a rock, know that it’s a human-scale rock, but in that moment you can come to it and see it as a mountain. So I think that’s why the garden is so powerful, because it depends on the viewer. What you bring to it matters the