There are many books on Japanese gardens, but not many that let you know with clarity what it all means, from the ancient historic gardens throughout the country to the contemporary ones today. In The Japanese Garden (Phaidon, 2017), British garden designer Sophie Walker surveys 92 gardens spanning 1200 years with an emphasis on culture, religion, philosophy, and poetry and the role they play in Japanese garden design.

As she explains in the introduction, "...the Japanese garden resists being reduced to any single reading.  It challenges the visitor to engage in states of transition in which scale, content and meaning shift, giving the garden a profoundly mysterious poetic quality....The enigma of the Japanese garden is a threshold through which we may discover not simply an arrangement of plants and rocks, but a moment of revelation that belongs to a metaphorical world that is profoundly human and subjective." 

The chapters are organized by themes that explore major elements in Japanese garden design, such as "Beauty, Terror and Power," "Time, Space, and the Dry Garden," "The Hidden, Implied and Imagined," and "The Poetry of Plants," just to name a few.

In addition, there are beautiful essays by artists, architects, and cultural experts, including Anish Kapoor, John Pawson, Lee Ufan, Tan Twan Eng and others.

Wait until you see photos of the "Time Garden" of 2002 by Tatsuo Miyajima, where, in a bamboo grove covered by mist, LED lights flash in a changing, unrepeatable numerical sequence of numbers from one to nine.  There's an ancient story that goes along with it, but I won't be a spoiler. 

This is a book that's more than just gorgeous photos of Japanese gardens ... it's a unique take on the meaning behind Japanese design, and you'll come away with a deep appreciation of what goes into the ancient and modern style.