Gardens are as important to the Japanese as they are to the Chinese. Natural places of serene, quiet beauty, Japanese gardens have an ancient history influenced by Shinto, Buddhist and Taoist philosophies. These philosophies have combined to create an intensely spiritual place, always containing the essential elements of water, plants, stones, waterfalls, trees and bridges.
Two basic styles of Japanese garden are: The Tsukiyama Style (wet), in which small hills and stones represent mountains and a pond represents the ocean and The Karesansui Style (dry), in which carefully raked expanses of white sand represents the ocean and stones represent hills. The Sand and Stone Garden in Portland's Japanese Garden is modeled after the story of a mother lion and her cubs; in this garden, the rocks represent animals.
Everything in a Japanese Garden has meaning; nothing is accidental. Lanterns, bridges, guardian lion figures, and living occupants -- the colorful koi -- take their place in the interesting environment of the garden.