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Features of Japanese Garden Designs


by JB Bardot
See other articles by JB Bardot

(The Best Years in Life) There is no single element or design component indicative of or required for a Japanese garden. All gardens are works in progress, and design features added today may not be part of the original design. The simplicity of Zen design is often the main finished attribute of a Japanese garden, which encompasses peace, calm and serenity. Varieties of design elements are generally incorporated to achieve the full effect of a traditional Japanese garden.

Structures in Japanese Gardens

From the earliest times, Japanese gardens were meant to be viewed from the inside of buildings such as palaces, monasteries, homes and teahouses. The inclusion of ritual-style architecture in a contemporary Japanese garden pays homage to the past intentions from a historical standpoint.

Other Japanese gardens were meant to be experienced and explored on foot; and the free flow and transparency between indoor and outdoor space is an important feature in Japanese garden design.

Ponds, Streams and Bridges

A strong reverence for the presence of water can be found in the Shinto religion and is a highly desirable asset for a Japanese garden. From the earliest times, the inclusion of water in the garden was a necessary feature for religious as well as aesthetic purposes. Weather natural or man-made, there is usually a pond or stream included in most Japanese gardens.

Many ponds and streams are highlighted by the presence of a graceful bridge allowing visitors to the garden to access other parts of the scenery. Along with bridges, one often finds dragon boats of exotic design, which are perfectly functional for traversing larger ponds and lakes.


Lanterns, Basins and Architectural Rocks Found in a Japanese Garden

Design elements such as stone or bronze lanterns and oversized, architectural rocks are common design elements seen in many Japanese gardens. Lanterns were originally included in tea gardens to light the way for visitors. Lanterns in traditional shapes are often displayed near large basins of water in some Japanese gardens. Both useful and strikingly beautiful, lanterns offer an artistic journey to the past with traditional names and designs.

The Japanese have used stones and boulders in their gardens since time immemorial. They have a special reverence for stones of all sizes, and the presence of stones holds secret religious meaning known only to the priestly caste, known as Sakuteiki. A great deal of speculation has gone into figuring out the meaning of stones and their placement. It is still a mystery in the older gardens. The tradition to include stones of all kinds in Japanese gardens has been passed down and wonderful boulders and stones of all sizes are still dynamic design elements used and revered today.

Sand, Pebble and Gravel for Purification

The ground in front of early Shinto shrines was often covered with white sand or small gravel pebbles in the belief that it would help purify the ground. This tradition has carried through to modern Japanese gardens and there is generally a rectangle of white sand amidst the architectural structures and buildings in the garden.

Waterfall in a Japanese Garden

Waterfalls may be either natural landscape features or man-made features of a Japanese garden. The moving water symbolizes the impermanence of all things and brings with it energy or Qi to energize the surrounding garden. Waterfalls may be actual water or constructed with cascading stones, which are placed in very specific designs, sizes and heights according to ancient Japanese design elements.

Creating a Japanese garden takes time and study, and the outcome can provide serenity and peace to any property.


Copyright 2013 Jean JB Bardot, all rights reserved worldwide. Permission is granted to copy the title and first one hundred words with the provision that the author's name be included and a link to the original article be added.

About the author:

JB Bardot is trained in herbal medicine and homeopathy, and has a post graduate degree in holistic nutrition. Bardot cares for both people and animals, using alternative approaches to health care and lifestyle. She writes about wellness, green living, alternative medicine, holistic nutrition, homeopathy, herbs and naturopathic medicine.

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