The Japanese Garden with Kids

A Japanese garden, a dry landscape, a temple hall, a pond. Quite, tranquil.

Can you imagine this scenery with KIDS?

So yes, I can! I am not only a gardener and garden expert but also the mother of a toddler. Naturally, my son often joins me when visiting gardens. He was with me when I visited the quiet temples of Kyoto and also during my content gathering trips to Tokyo’s gardens and almost all the preparation visits for my garden tours.

So well, I need to find a way how to enjoy gardens with my kid while not disturbing others. This is not always easy but doable and in my private garden, it would be fun alone together with my son.

I see, maybe it needs a short story to convince you that there is a place for kids in the Japanese garden.

Ryoan-ji has a wonderful example, so I read. While it now is completely occupied by tourists, the dry landscape garden was once a playground for children. The temple actually only became famous in the 1930s but before it has been in disrepair. There wasn’t even a head priest in the temple. The kids from the neighborhood used the rocks and free space around them for their games.

Ryoan-ji covered with weed before it became popular.

I am imagining my own kid playing happily in my dry landscape garden in the afternoon and me doing some contemplative gravel pattern raking the next morning.

Oh, this would be a nice lifestyle..

However, I don’t own a garden, so I must help myself with public gardens.
The wildlife in the garden already helps me keeping my kid occupied and out of the way of other visitors. He likes to watch all the turtles, birds and koi carps.
Collecting dead leaves or branches is also a favorite game. When we visit in rain, other visitors are only a few and we can enjoy the water puddles and let leaves swim on them like little boats.
For the dry landscape gardens, we brought books, a card game (only to be played when we have enough space) or a coloring book and some pens (not to be used to draw on the flooring!). There are plenty of ways to keep a kid occupied and out of the way of others.

I hope every visitor with kids of gardens in Japan finds his way to enjoy the Japanese gardens together. Don’t get opinions like “Japanese gardens are not a playground for kids” in your way! This is just not true! (Although sometimes it is hard to keep mine out of the gravel areas 😉 ) Always remember, the priests are living in the temples with their families, including kids!

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