Japanese Gardens 101

Karesansui Garden in Pasadena, California at Huntington Library and Botanical Garden

Karesansui Garden in San Diego, California at Japanese Friendship Garden

Raked design

Rock textures in Pasadena, California

Pathway- notice the different shapes, sizes, textures. This is the designers way of controlling the visitor’s experience.

Common feature in Japanese Gardens: bridges

Pond stocked with koi. Notice the asymmetry of the rocks in the pond

This water basin is for visitors to wash their hands and refresh before entering the tea house.

Courtyard garden in Toyama, Japan

Gorgeous Japanese Maple with red foliage

Often large ponds like these will include an island.

One of my favorite aesthetics of Japanese design is in the garden. In a traditional Japanese garden, design emphasis is placed on the balance of yin/yang, harmony, mystery, and meaning. Here are some of the fundamentals in Japanese landscape design:

1 Gravel or sand- “Karesansui”-which in Japanese, translates as “dry mountain water”. This style of landscape is meant to be viewed but never entered- except for raking and maintenance purposes.

2 Rocks- Each selected as a work of art and it’s shape, color, texture, and character are carefully considered.

3 Plants- The seasons dictate which plants to use. Each plant is selected for its leaf colors, bark, stems- even branch pattern. Asymmetry is the goal.

4 Water- Represents change. It represents impermanence: it flows. A stream, pond, lake or even just a simple granite water basin creates ambient sound that’s conductive to meditation.

5 Paths- Paths are meant to guide you through the garden and are constructed in such a way that a visitor must move carefully and slowly through the garden.

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