The Lure of the Japanese Garden

Authors: Alison Main and Newell Platte
Publisher: Wakefield Press (Price Unknown)

Every now and then a gem of a book turns up for review and this is one. Japanese gardens are a unique identity, resolutely spurning most international gardening influences in favour of symbolism and allusion which can appear austere, stark even, to the uninitiated. Over a number of visits throughout the seasons, the Australian authors have tracked down 120 gardens the length and breadth of the country which took them well beyond the better known gardens featured in most publications.

At one level it is a travel guide and each garden is given one page and one photograph only, with brief and practical advice on how to find them. Other snippets of travel advice are included. The section on Japanese business hotels is very charming.

But it is not just a travel guide. It also gives the historical context for each garden (the different periods for Japanese gardens are an integral factor) and it decodes the symbolism without rendering the whole mystique merely mundane.

Even if you are never likely to go garden visiting in Japan (and it would take real stamina to get to 120 of them) this is a delightful book which gives an insight into the self contained world of Japanese gardens. Anybody who is interested in international gardening would enjoy having this book on their shelves.