Mosses are back. They were a fad in the late 19th century, when newly discovered plants were being carried across the globe, and Victorian gardeners and armchair horticulturalists enjoyed domestic dalliances by cultivating mosses in terrariums and mosseries. When the craze abated, though, mosses were more or less relegated to their natural terrain of forests and woodland landscapes.
If you've read "A World Apart," our article about moss in Japan, and you're interested in visiting the gardens, here are all the details:
You're tough! You've got your knuckle duster on, ready to punch!
But maybe you're soft, because your knuckle ring has, um, moss growing on top of it.
It seems fitting that my husband and I got lost on our way to Saihō-ji, arguably the most famous moss garden in the world but one carefully tucked away from it, on the outskirts of Kyoto. To reach the 1,300-year-old temple grounds swathed in at least 120 kinds of moss feels like tearing an opening into contemporary Japan. That modern context, a maze of tile-roofed houses winding up and down around the garden’s elusive entrance, trapped and confused us, until a sympathetic local resident parked her bike and showed us the way, as she’d clearly done for other tourists.
Who can resist the pleasures of moss, a 10-second spa treatment, a bed of berber that caresses the sole? A stroll in the woods usually offers us this pleasure but so could a walk in the garden.