What’s the opposite of a green thumb? A black thumb, perhaps? Red? Puce? Whatever it is, I’ve got one. Although I can’t garden to save my life (or my plants), I do appreciate a good garden. And I really appreciate a great garden, like Ritsurin Koen, in Takamatsu, Japan. Originally created in the Edo period for a daimyo (feudal lord), the garden has been maintained for nearly 400 years. To put that in context, imagine that the settlers in the American Jamestown settlement of 1607 created a top-rate garden and then kept it up (at the highest standard) all the way up to the present day.

Ritsurin Koen (garden) today looks much like it did 400 years ago, with six ponds and thirteen landscaped hills. Schools of colorful carp swim lazily in the rivers. Turtles relax on lily pads. Viewing stations on nearly every hill offer well-curated views of the environs.

My favorite place in Ritsurin is the Kikugetsu-tei teahouse in the southwest part of the gardens. Here, you can relax on the tatami mats, order a green tea and a sweet, and enjoy the view from the veranda overlooking the ponds. If I let my mind drift, I can transport myself back to the time of shoguns, emperors and samurais, sipping my ocha and perhaps composing a haiku inspired by this perfect view.

When was the last time you soaked up a peaceful view in a nearby park? Why not schedule some time this weekend to relax in front of a tranquil pond, recharging your batteries and shaking off the cortisol produced by our hectic modern lives? Who knows, you might take a time machine back to ancient Japan. Just make sure you keep your eye out for ninjas!