How do you appreciate a Japanese garden? The typical temple visit — where you ponder a seemingly random assemblage of rocks and raked gravel or push your way through a throng of tourists jostling for camera angles — can leave one confused and underwhelmed.
Kyoto-based garden tour organizer Mark Hovane, 47, suggests that visitors first becalm themselves. He quotes master gardener Kinsaku Nakane’s advice that we view Japanese gardens “with a detached gaze, without preconceptions, and in a state of total receptivity.”
On a recent midwinter day, Hovane explained the history and design of two gardens in the Daitokuji Temple complex in northern Kyoto. It is a prime destination for his tailored tours, Kyoto Garden Experience, which take no more than four visitors at a time to intimate but historically and aesthetically noteworthy gardens.
He displays effortless erudition and a passion for his topic, achieved through a 23-year residence in Kyoto. In his tours, he said, “I try to provide clients with a set of tools to interpret what they see, so they can experience gardens in a deeper way.” Today, he also provides this writer with an extra pair of wool socks, which become increasingly appreciated as we linger on an open-air temple veranda.
Read the rest of the story: Kyoto gardens give up all their secrets during intimate guided tours.