Panoramic View of Suizenji, Kumamoto (1632)
I'm a guy who loves a debate, but I won't entertain any disagreements about the next sentence.
Japan has the best gardens in the world.
There are stroll gardens, viewing gardens, tabletop gardens, dry gardens, and wet gardens.
Also, sand gardens, rock gardens, and moss gardens.
They are beautiful at all times of year, in all weather conditions.
They are places of retreat, physically and mentally.
Kokedera, the Moss Temple, in Kyoto (1339)
I've been in four places, in my life, that felt spiritual. Not angels and gods spiritual. Not crystal gazing, energy flow spiritual. Just 'wow, I'm only a small part of this great big thing' spiritual.
One was Ayers Rock, Australia at sunset.
One was Yosemite NP, California, on a frosty morning, looking up from the Merced River, at Yosemite Falls.
The third was in the Redwood Forests of Northern California, surrounded by trees that have existed for a millennia.
The fourth was Kokedera, the Moss Temple.
Kokedera is remarkable, I think, largely because the moss that it takes its' name from appears to have been an unplanned piece of fortune. The garden was designed and built, then the moss just grew.
Without the moss, it would be a wonderful place of retreat.
With the moss, though, it's a rare jewel in the crown of the world's great gardens.
Kokedera is also known by the name of the temple that contains it, Saihoij.
In 1977, the garden was closed to the public. It was seeing up to 8000 visitors a day, which was damaging the garden, unsurprisingly.
Now, you must write in advance to be one of the few allowed in each day.
Which is, I think, a good thing.
Ryoanji is the polar opposite of Kokedera - dry, not moist.
Considered the classic Zen garden, and one of the greatest gardens in the world , Ryoanji consists of 15 rocks, and sand. It is impossible to see all 15 rocks from any position (excepting levitation, of course).
These Zen gardens were designed as an aid to meditation. Today it would easier to levitate, than to meditate in any of the popular ones. They're crowded with tourists and guides and shops and loud speakers.
But you can find less visited gardens (like Kokedera), and in turn, maybe find the peace (inner or outer) that these gardens were intended to bring.