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Japanese Gardens | Elements to Use to Create Your Own Zen Space


Japanese Gardens | Elements to Use to Create Your Own Zen Space

The peace and serenity of traditional Japanese Gardens have a way of transporting you back to simpler times and pleasures that are difficult to find in the modern world.

To create your own Japanese-style Garden, here are some elements to consider:

Bridges:  Bridges are honored areas in a Japanese Garden. They generate an area where you can take in the beauty of the entire garden and also provides a way to cross over ponds and streams. They can be made from wood or even a slab of stone and can made in various shapes (rounded or arch-shaped are popular).

Lanterns: Lanterns are a key element in a Japanese Garden. In the past, they were commonly sculptured from stone and came in various shapes and sizes. They were used as guiding lights for various ceremonies and celebrations and were strategically placed throughout the garden.

Pathways: Pathways in Japanese Gardens are usually made from sand or crushed gravel and can include stepping stones. The paths are circular and/or winding to separate different or private areas (rooms) of the garden. They provide visitors a chance to casually stroll leisurely through the garden and partake of its wonders.

Plants: Plants have multifunctional purposes in the Japanese Garden. Plants express the passion of nature and joy and symbolizes spiritual growth and wellness. The plants shapes are known to be symbolic.

Stones/Gravel:  Stones and gravel are crucial in this type of garden. Small rocks or gravel are used to line ponds, streams and bridge ways. Large stones provide structure, depth and personalities. The layout and sizes create different stories or scenarios critical to Asian folklore. They can symbolize ubiquity of the forces of the nature, produce surreal private valleys with a bounty of hills and streams and life nurturing ponds.

Structures: Japanese Gardens were once created to be viewed from inside buildings (temples or palaces). However, structures such as pavilions or tea houses can be main focal points and the garden can b created around them to allow visitors and enclosed sense of privacy.

Water: Water is an essential component of a Japanese Garden. Water represents the splendor of nature, calmness, renewal, marvel and the continuation of spiritual journey beyond life. Creating features such as flowing streams, cascading water and the stillness of ponds projects absolute serenity and are the lifelines of any Japanese garden. Including carp or koi in ponds bring life and color to the garden.

Most Japanese gardens feature the following plants (please keep in mind there are many Japanese variations of the plants listed and should be considered for inclusions for the garden style):



Bird’s Nest Fern

Blood Grass



Cherry Tree



Forest Grass



Japanese Zelkova



Painted Fern








Variegated Sedge


Additional Resources for Japanese Gardens

Kenroku-en Garden

Seattle Japanese Garden

Hakone Gardens

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