Friday, May 24, 2019



      Back from a 2-week cultural tour of Japan, organized by Overseas Adventure Travel. Definitely recommended!

      Not recommended: going there and back, starting with a 3-hour delay getting off the ground from Reagan-National Airport due to a thunderstorm. At one time “getting there was half the fun”, but now with delays, full flights, cramped seats, and other items you are eager to add to that list, the fun starts on arrival. Jetlag is only now beginning to recede for my wife and I, allowing a little writing about the trip.

      I had never been to the Far East, though you know, without studying a map, the mid-section of Japan we visited was a sliver of the giant that is Asia. Nonetheless, the two weeks were packed with experiences and short talks on the history and nature of Japanese society by a fine leader, Marika, and great companionship from others on the tour.

      We visited a number of gardens, many connected with Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. I took pictures of nice landscapes and kept an ear out for birds. I didn't get to add too many to my lifelist. Time was stolen from temple gates and incense to lean over hedges for a glimpse of birds making a racket. They expertly hid, not knowing I didn't have a gun. Better to be safe. On occasion they would slip up and show themselves, eventually allowing me to add 18 species to the modest list I've kept for almost 50 years.

      As for gardens, the style was formal in the extreme, showcasing hedges that must have been manicured with nail clippers. Quite the opposite of the naturalistic gardens in my area, and backyard.

      British gardens have the same formality with man's hand dominating nature's attempts to be itself.

      Powerful, rich people show their dominance of nature, grabbing it by the throat and twisting it into artificial forms. Possibly neither British nor Japanese gardeners influenced the other, rather developing by “convergent evolution” toward the same artificial idea. This convergence is apparent, for example, in birds of different families developing similar structures (bills, feet, etc.) for individuals with a need to survive in an evolutionary niche.

      How are the two countries' gardens different? Japanese gardens have more rocks and water features than I saw in Britain. A scattering of stone lanterns seems to fill a need. English formal gardens have elaborate fountains and statuary, celebrating myth and glory.

      If you promise not to tell anyone, I'll let you in on a secret: I'm not rich or powerful! Who would'a thunk it?? My garden will stay naturalistic, and I'll enjoy its woodsy setting. Here's hoping your garden is a reflection of what you enjoy!


  1. This is great, Barney! I'd like you to dig deeper into the differences of the two garden styles and the reasoning behind the lanterns and the rocks, for example, compared to why we (because I do) enjoy a more natural pruning style.