Japanese Gardening: The Magic of Japanese Gardens

Being in contact with nature is a good way to achieve spiritual peace. Such surroundings can be established in the confines of your home and garden. Tha Japanese garden is essentially a nature crib in miniature. Japanese gardening is much different from the Western style garden. Most would say that a Japanese garden is far more soul soothing and inspires meditation. Japanese gardening is a cultural form of gardening that is meant to produce a scene that mimics nature as much as possible. Using trees, shrubs, rocks, sand, artificial hills, ponds, and flowing water the garden becomes an art form. The Zen and Shinto traditions are both a large part of Japanese gardening and, because of this; the gardens have a contemplative and reflective state of mind.

The basic methods of scenery in are a reduced scale, symbolization, and borrowed views. The reduced scale is the art of taking an actual scene from nature, mountains, rivers, trees, and reproducing it on a smaller scale.

Symbolization involves generalization and abstraction. An example of this would be using white sand to suggest the ocean. Borrowed views refer to artists that would use something like an ocean or a forest as a background, but it would end up becoming an important part of the scene.


Elements used in Japanese gardening

The basic elements used in Japanese gardening include rocks, gravel, water, moss, stones, fences, and hedges. Rocks are used as centerpieces and bring a presence of spirituality to the garden. According to the Shinto tradition, rocks embody the spirits of nature. Gravel defines surface and is used to imitate the flow of water when arranged properly.

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Stones create a boundary and are sculpted into the form of lanterns. Water; whether it is in the form of a pond, stream, or waterfall, is an essential part of a Japanese garden. It can be in the actual form of water or portrayed by gravel, but no matter what, it is crucial to a Japanese gardens balance.

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There are several forms and types of plants that are signature of Japanese gardening, the main one being Bonsai. Bonsai is the art of training everyday, average plants, such as Pine, Cypress, Holly, Cedar, Cherry, Maple, and Beech, to look like large, old trees just in miniature form. These trees range from five centimeters to one meter and are kept small by pruning, re-potting, pinching of growth, and wiring the branches.

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Variety of Japanese garden fall into three basic categories:

1) CHISEN KAIYU SKIKI or Hill and Pond Garden

This type of Japanese garden owes its entire influence to China. It is an imported classic style where a pond or space filled with raked gravel/ sand fronts a hill or hills – which are moreoften than not stones of varying sizes. This style of garden makes use of the mountainous theme and indigenous plants and vegetation. Japanese strolling garden are usually based on this type of Japanese garden.


2) HIRANIWA or Flat Garden

This type of Japanese garden is required to make use of flat open space usually situated in front of a temple or a grand palace. Don’t get frightened, you can always have a variation when you are making a Japanese garden. No need for a palace.

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If your’r planning a courtyard style garden this would be perfect for you. Quite often these garden replocate a seashore scene and with the correct plants and foliage they are superb for areas of contemplation.


This type of Japanese garden is all about its funtionality. The main focus of the garden is a path called The Roji – in English a good translation would be ‘dewy path’. The garden would also play host to a natural pond and a selection of sparce trees. Gates are a really important ingredient too.

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In ‘Hill and Pond’ garden you can have a formal level, an intermediate level or a ‘so’ level of garden which is essentially informal. Wealthy people would have formal gardens, residences would be ‘intermediate’ and peasant dwellings often had informal gardens. There is a social order in Japanese gardens!


A garden is a wonderful place to relax and meditate. Whether it is a Japanese garden or Western world garden, designing, building, and planting is a great family event.

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