Top Ten Elements For Japanese Garden-A Garden Brimming With Zen Feeling


Many people are fond of Japanese cuisines, and they also have some particular passions for Japanese garden decoration. The Japanese courtyard designers reproduce the natural landscape with some natural materials, such as gravel and sand, in an abstract way.

The irregular stone path symbolizes the rugged path in the mountains, the dwarf pines refer to the lush forest, the hand washers are associated with the mountain springs, while the stone lantern creates strong Zen mood.

Here we will show you top ten elements for Japanese garden, help you to build a garden brimming with Zen feelings and have a better understanding about the cultural origins of Japan.

1:Dry Landscaping Design (Karesansui)

Dry landscaping design (Karesansui), also known as stones garden, is a unique element for Japanese garden and is the essence and representative of Japanese classical gardens.

As its name implies, there is no water in the gardens.

It is a dry garden landscape and sometimes without any plants either. Its main feature is to use rocks and white gravels as the main body of the gardens. The sloping or lying down rocks represent the mountains or canyons, the vertical stones are associated with waterfall and the white gravels refer to running waters.


At the earliest time, the water is an inherent part of Japanese garden art. The water, which implies life, abundantness and purity in Japan, brought aliveness to the gardens.

When the Buddhism gradually spread to Japan on the 6th century, the monks who admire the nihility realized some artistic conceptions from the stones and sands, and started to build some landscapes with rocks and dry gravels.

In the 13th century, another Buddhist sect that originated in China was popular in Japan, that is: Zen.

In order to reflect the ascetic and self-discipline spirit pursued by Zen practitioners, Japanese garden designers began to abandon water from the gardens’ design, but used some static elements such as evergreen trees, moss, stones and gravels to create a dry garden landscaping.

Almost no flowering plants are used, in order to achieve self-cultivation purposes.

2:Bamboo Fence

Bamboo fences are indispensable element in Japanese gardens. In addition to raw bamboo, aluminum and plastic artificial bamboos are widely used as well nowadays because of their properties such as non-perishable.


3:Garden Plants

Red maples, moss, pines are important green plants in Japanese gardens. The plants, represent missing, new life and longevity, create a sense of tranquility and make the gardens look very natural.


4:Stone And Wooden Garden Bridge

The bridge is a landscape with strong Zen feeling in the Japanese courtyard. Even those gardens that without flowing water may have decorative stone or wooden garden bridges which symbolize the connection between this shore and the other shore.


Most of Japanese wooden garden bridges are in red ones. Japanese gardens and temples designers have special liking for orange-red color. In the courtyard, flowers that blossom in spring and the autumn leaves create a colorful landscape. In summer, the orange-red color bridge looks awesome in a garden filled with green plants. While in winter, the red wooden garden bridge, set against the white snow, looks even more amazing.

5:Bamboo Deer Chaser (Bird Scaring Device)

Japanese-Bamboo-Deer-ChaserAs the name suggests, it is a bird-striking device. The water flows into the one bamboo tube, after storing a certain amount of water, the center of gravity of the bamboo shifts from one side to the another side. As soon as the water in the bamboo tube pour out, the other end of the bamboo will hit the stone or other hard stuff to make a sound. This will scare and drive away the birds and beasts.

In ancient times, this device served as timing tool as well. Because the bamboo tube stores water and then knocks on the stone after a certain period of time. Nowadays, the device is only used as a decorative item. Many people like the sound of bamboo knocking the stone.

Placing this Bamboo Deer Chaser in the garden will make the courtyard looks more vivid and full of Zen touching.

The Japanese Bamboo Chaser is so classical that many garden ornaments designer get inspiration from it and make some Japanese water fountains in Deer Chaser’s design.

6:Hand Washer

Normally, there is a tea room in the garden of Japan. The open space in front of the tea room is called the tea court, where will be a hand washer set. We have to wash our hands before entering the tea room. Usually, It is made of wood, stone or copper.



Japanese-SuikinkutsuIn some cases, the Japanese garden designer will dig one hollow underneath the ground near the hand washer. The water of the hand washer can drain into this hollow. And when the water drops, the hollow will enlarge its echo.

The structural principle is to bury one pottery pot upside down underneath the ground and form a hollow (cavity), which can accumulate a little water inside the hollow. A hole is drilled at the bottom of the pottery pot. When the water flow into the hollow through the hole and drop onto the water surface, it will produce some pleasant water dropping sound, which sounds like a ringtone or sound made by a Japanese lyre (koto, a 13-string instrument).

This ingenious sound system was invented by a tea ceremony teacher in the Edo period. Until today, we can still find such system in some Japanese gardens or temples.

8:Stone Lantern

Stone Lantern is an indispensable element for Japanese garden as well. It stands in the garden, just like the guardian of it. Stone fountain represent “Lighting and Bright” in Japanese culture.

Its earliest prototype comes from the lamp in the Buddha temple in ancient China, which was then introduce to Japan via North Korea.

Since the Nara era, Japanese building designer began to build stone lanterns on the front of the temple to protect the lights offered to the temples. And the stone lantern was adopted into the Japanese garden designs gradually.


The stone lantern brings a sense of tranquility and make the garden filled with Zen feeling.

As an important symbol of the Japanese garden, many artists make some Japanese water fountains in lantern style by its reference as well.

9:Stone Pathway

The stone pathway in the Japanese garden consists of multiple sets of stones that form a path leading to the tea room and other buildings.

The stones are either arranged in a straight way, or in irregularly curved way.

The Japanese garden designers pay lots of attention on the ground decoration. And the irregular stone pathway implies the hard life journey.


10:Moss Landscape

Japan is surrounded by the sea and has a humid climate, which is very suitable for the growth of moss. There are about 12,000 species of moss in the world, while about 2,500 types moss living in Japan.

As a very primitive plant, the vitality of moss is very tenacious.

The moss landscape adds attractions of secluded and peaceful to the living environment.



Above are top 10 elements for Japanese garden. The Japanese garden is very delicate and meticulous. The stones, gravels, plants etc in the garden get their own philosophical meaning, making the garden brimmed with Zen feelings. Have a better understanding of the Japanese garden will you learn much more about the cultural origins of Japan.

8 thoughts on “Top Ten Elements For Japanese Garden-A Garden Brimming With Zen Feeling

  1. I do love these gardens and these are ideas that I would love to use in my own garden one day. I love the japanese and the asian style gardens. They are so peaceful and yet so full of color and life. I have never seen a dry landscaping design tho, that was interesting.

    1. Hi Alexandra,

      I’m glad that my post is helpful to you. The Asian style garden is full with zen and peaceful feeling and make us relaxed in no time. Hope the ideas in this post will help you when you try to build a garden like this. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for this great post – I always feel a sense of peace walking in gardens like these. You seem like you really know your stuff here 🙂

    Have a super day!


  3. I lived in Japan for 2 years, loved the aesthetic and vibe of the gardens there, but would never have been able to name all the elements that make them so culturally distinct – fascinating! I didn’t know about the hand washers, but having been to a formal tea ceremony in Japan, I can understand how it would be an important part of the process.

    1. Hi Kirsten,
      Thanks for checking. Yes, the Japanese garden is really meticulous. Many ornaments get their own philosophical meaning. Very culturally distinct garden style!

  4. These gardens are very beautiful. I think my favorite is the Moss one. It looks like two people hugging with a blanket surrounding them. I would love to have a garden like one of the ones you mention here in my home garden. I’m especially fond of stones and water. Thanks so much for the inspiration.

    1. Hi Jen, thanks for checking this post! Do hope my article will give you some inspirations on building a zen garden. Welcome back to check more if you need more ideas!

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