When you have the opportunity to experience a Japanese Garden, whatever size it may be, Weather it be a grand large garden or a tiny miniature one. Whatever style it may be,  A Japanese stroll garden, tea garden or water garden. Weather it is strictly traditional 

Japanese garden view from house

following all of the rules or just a subtle influence in a westerners work. They all have something in common. It’s not just the “things”, the elements that define them and identify them as Japanese, but it is as much the way they are used or presented to the viewer, the principals used to construct them that makes them what they are, Japanese Gardens.

miniature Japanese garden
Japanese Gardens

You could give the same exact landscape materials needed to create a successful Japanese garden to a traditional American style landscaper and not even recognize the same materials were used. The American style would plant the azaleas in evenly spaced rows in a bed with straight or gently curved lines. The Little taller rhodies lined up behind the azaleas followed by the taller yet spruce trees. The beds would be covered in gravel as a ground cover with the larger rocks set here and there equally spaced between. The smaller rocks lined up in a clean row, carefully placed for equal heights as an edging barrier between the grass and the planting area etc. etc. Formal or informal it would likely be laid out with a pattern of orderliness and symmetry.


The elements of a Japanese garden are used as a representation of the natural world either symbolically or literally on a smaller scale. Therefore, you will always find stone, water, and vegetation, though the elements themselves can also simply be a symbolic visual representation. Such as you will often see gravel in the place of water, planted shrubs used as hills or moss representing far away shrubs, grassy fields or understory vegetation beneath huge ancient trees.

A dry creek of gravel winds throughout the landscape. “Floating” stepping stones create a pathway up the stream.

The rocks symbolize a far off rugged mountain range but also present a magnified look into those very mountains where the rocks becomes a literal view of stone outcroppings with alpine trees and moss laden ground.

In a Japanese garden, objects are placed in asymmetrical triangles for visual balance. The largest object in the center with the next largest at the close point of the triangle and the smallest at the far point of the triangle. The distance of the triangle points are determined by the visual weight of the stones as though the center rock were a fulcrum and the small far object balances with the closer larger object. This un-noticed pattern can be repeated until the desired number of objects are placed. weather they be rocks, plants, ornaments, or a combination.

Illustrations coming soon...

There is in fact a miniature form of art that combines Japanese gardens and bonsai together. (Saikei) meaning "Planted Landscape", which can give you incredible ideas for a larger scale landscape or in itself become a whole new consuming hobby. The same fantastic principals seem to be used in all of the Japanese artistic endeavours of nature.

Saikei~ The Japanese art of creating a miniature landscape planted on a tray or slab.


Rock is often used to represent larger than life views of nature, such as scenes of stone outcroppings, sea cliffs rising from the ocean, rugged mountain tops, canyons or entire islands. They are placed as though by volcanic upheaval or the slow deterioration of time. Tumbled from higher up cliffs or slowly exposed by the freeze thaw cycle working together with the winds and rains.

It's not an exact copy or a replica of the real world but a representation.



Rock may also serve a practical purpose which is often named. Anchor stones give visual stability to the ends of a bridge which may itself be stone. Tsukubai is a stone water basin used for washing in a tea garden which may be surrounded by other rocks for sitting and placing objects. Waterfalls traditionally are made up of several stones including a mirror stone, dividing stone guardian stone and children stones. Stepping stones are used to create pathways and even stairways.



Japan is a nation of fantastic scenes of nature jutting up out of a rugged coastline flowing with water streaming and falling from the mountains back to the sea. It's no wonder water features are so prevalent in the Japanese Garden. Waterfalls, streams and ponds can be a main focal point from within the house or the ideal location for a tea house.


A stream can be a rout for a path to follow, an excuse to include a bridge or just a way to create mystery as it rounds the corner upstream to its unknown source, beckoning the visitor to further explore.



A water garden allows for a vast new selection of plants shapes and textures. A place to set stones mimicking sea cliffs or coastal islands in the sea.

A waterfall is a call to the wild bringing in nature with its sights, sounds and movement. It can act as a noise screen blocking out unpleasant background noise of neighbors and traffic. They provide cooling refreshment on a hot summer day and aeration for giant pet koi.


The addition of koi fish ads color, life and an enchanting entertainment to the properly designed pond.

Most ponds in a Japanese garden are home to the incredible koi fish. Koi fish can live in captivity up to 50 years and can grow over three feet long. Their vibrant color patterns come in many combinations that have been skillfully breed by the Japanese since the early eighteen hundreds. Proper koi care requires special filtration and a purpose built pond but the visual rewards of owning these amazing pets is well worth the investment.



Trees and shrubs in the Japanese garden are trained much like a bonsai tree, though they are not called bonsai which means (tray planting). The styling when planted in the ground is called “Niwaki” meaning (garden trees). The effect, like the concept of a Japanese garden or a bonsai tree is to capture or mimic nature. Trees are pruned and trained to appear as something extraordinary in the wild. They can be exaggerated to such effects as stretching over the water leaning toward the life giving light and away from it’s competitors, open with downward sloping branches like a huge old tree growing alone in a field, dwarfed in height with large stumps as though high in the rugged mountains or planted in groves with layered foliage pads and barren trunks with moss beneath like an ancient forest.


Plants trees and shrubs are also used to create privacy and a natural atmosphere by planting screens or informal hedges using a selection of varying textures, heights and colors. Imagine a dense bamboo hedge planted in an informal strip with shrubs pruned into mound shapes representing heavily forested rolling foothills below a high mountain range. These screens are also situated in a clever way to take advantage of “borrowed scenery”. This is a trick where the border plantings are kept at just the right height to block undesirable views of neighboring buildings or telephone wires but low enough to see advantageous views such as mountains or the neighbors flowering cherry tree. Wherby pulling the gardens perceived boundaries well outside of the confinements of where they actually exist.



The Traditional Japanese Tea house sits within a garden. It begins with a path.  Your cares of the outside world are left behind at the entrance gate to the garden.  The journey down the gardens dewy path (or "roji"), brings you into a greater appreciation and awareness of nature, it mentally calms and prepares you for the tea ceremony in the inner garden. The Japanese tea garden was created as a place for privacy and the designers made good use of evergreen screens and bamboo hedges as well as fences and gates to create an environment of true intimacy.

Traditionally, At the end of the journey guests purified themselves by washing their hands and mouths in the "Tsukubai",  a stone water basin, before entering the tea house. The Tsukubai was fed from a bamboo pipe which also provided water for the tea. Gravel or small river stones were used to keep the mud down while large boulders were used for places to sit or kneel or place the tea set while washing.



The Japanese pagoda or stone lantern (Toro) Is symbolic of ancient multicultural pagoda temples. A representation of the earth elements with religious connotation. The stone pagoda lanterns were originally used to light the way to the temples and eventually became popular in the home garden after the Japanese began using them as garden ornaments in their tea gardens.



Paths are used as both a physical and a symbolic journey, away from the hectic life outside to the tranquil place of rest inside. The entrance to the path is often marked by a gate, defining the boundary or the starting point where this journey begins. Paths are designed to manipulate the traveler to completely consume the full beauty of the garden. Areas where a focal point exists will widen allowing the traveler to look up. There may be a large stepping stone, or even a place to sit, calling for a pause to take in the surroundings such as a pond, a pagoda or a specimen tree. Areas with less interest will narrow and wind causing the traveler to look down and watch their step where the path itself can become the focal point. Perhaps with a garden of groundcovers and mosses surrounding stepping stones or a stone pagoda lantern amidst some carefully maintained shrubs cropped with rocks.

A bridge along the pathway does not only provide an attractive garden element and a practical means to cross a stream or pond but also provides a vantage point for viewing the garden. Traditionally it represents the spiritual crossing from one world to another.

The Japanese gardens structures, finely maintained plantings, water features, pathways and ornaments all come together to create a surreal and enchanting environment of the natural world living in harmony with mankind.


A  Japanese  Garden  captures  the  essence  of  nature  through  representations  and  allegorical  symbolism.     Allowing  one  to  contemplate  life  in  it's  ever  changing  sights,  sounds  and  seasons.   A  tranquil  stillness  embraced  in  constant  rhythmic  motion.