In Japan, the paradise garden developed from about the 12th century out of a newly acquired faith in Amida Nyorai, the Buddha who presides over a heaven-like realm beyond the western horizon called the Pure Land (Jodo). The shared notion guiding the design of all such gardens was that they were to provide solace and hope for people jeopardized by uncertainty in their everyday lives.

Such gardens were not built for the lifestyle of the nobility but for the men and women of the newly arisen samurai class whose manner of attire allowed them greater freedom out-of-doors. As in the earlier shinden landscaping, plantings in paradise gardens usually were not trained or trimmed to specific shapes but were allowed to grow naturally. Similarly, the use of garden accents such as stone lanterns and stepping stones were not yet a part of garden design (though you will see them in our designer’s layout), although the ponds of such gardens were sometimes laid out in the shape of the written character kokoro, meaning “heart” or “soul”.

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