How to Create a Japanese Style Garden

In today's fast-paced world, finding moments of tranquility and reconnecting with nature has become increasingly important. A Japanese style garden, with its serene beauty and harmonious design principles, offers the perfect oasis for relaxation and contemplation. In this article, we'll explore the essential elements and provide you with valuable tips and quick wins to help you create your own Japanese style garden.

History of Japanese Gardens

Japanese gardens have a rich and fascinating history that spans over centuries. Rooted in ancient traditions and influenced by various cultural, philosophical, and artistic movements, these gardens have evolved into the exquisite and serene spaces we admire today. Let's take a journey through time to explore the captivating history of Japanese gardens.

  1. Origins and Early Influences: The origins of Japanese gardens can be traced back to the Asuka period (538-710 AD) when Japan began to adopt elements of Chinese garden design. The Chinese philosophy of Feng Shui, which emphasises harmony between humans and nature, greatly influenced the early development of Japanese gardens. During this period, gardens were primarily created as settings for religious ceremonies and imperial residences.

  2. Heian Period and the Influence of Buddhism: The Heian period (794-1185 AD) marked a significant shift in the evolution of Japanese gardens. With the introduction of Buddhism from China and Korea, gardens began to incorporate Buddhist concepts and Zen principles. Gardens became places for meditation and contemplation, with an emphasis on the expression of natural beauty.

  3. Kamakura and Muromachi Periods: During the Kamakura (1185-1333 AD) and Muromachi (1336-1573 AD) periods, Zen Buddhism gained prominence in Japan, profoundly shaping the design philosophy of gardens. Zen gardens, also known as 'karesansui' or dry rock gardens, emerged during this time. These gardens featured carefully arranged rocks, raked gravel or sand, and minimalistic plantings, reflecting the Zen philosophy of simplicity, tranquility, and the contemplation of nature.

  4. Edo Period and the Tea Ceremony Influence: The Edo period (1603-1868 AD) witnessed the development of the tea ceremony and the rise of the samurai class. Gardens became integral components of tea houses, designed to complement the tea ceremony experience. Tea gardens, or 'roji', were created with an emphasis on natural materials, such as stepping stones, stone lanterns, and carefully placed plants. These gardens aimed to evoke a sense of rustic simplicity and a connection to nature.

  5. Meiji Period and Modern Influences: The Meiji period (1868-1912 AD) marked Japan's rapid modernisation and exposure to Western influences. Japanese gardens began to incorporate elements of Western landscape design and horticulture. The blending of traditional Japanese garden aesthetics with Western concepts gave rise to new styles, such as the strolling garden, which emphasised the exploration of different vistas and borrowed views.

Today, Japanese gardens continue to evolve while honouring their historical roots. They have become admired and sought-after worldwide, showcasing the timeless beauty and harmony between humans and nature.

The history of Japanese gardens is a testament to the enduring artistic and cultural traditions of Japan. From their humble beginnings influenced by China to the profound impact of Buddhism and Zen philosophy, Japanese gardens have evolved into masterpieces of design, tranquility, and contemplation. Understanding the historical context behind these gardens allows us to appreciate their beauty and significance even more deeply.

Standard Design Principles of a Japanese Garden

  1. Embrace Simplicity: Japanese gardens are known for their minimalist approach. Keep the design clean, uncluttered, and focus on highlighting the natural beauty of your surroundings. Use simplicity as a guiding principle when selecting plants, landscaping materials, and decorative elements.

  2. Balance and Harmony: Strive for balance and harmony in your garden design. Japanese gardens often incorporate asymmetrical compositions to create a sense of natural flow. Use elements such as rocks, water features, and pathways to guide the eye and create a sense of calm.

  3. Use Natural Materials: When selecting materials for your garden, prioritise natural options. Incorporate materials like bamboo, wood, stone, and gravel to maintain an authentic Japanese aesthetic. These materials not only blend seamlessly with the surroundings but also age gracefully, adding to the garden's overall appeal.

    Chinese Black Polished Pebbles

    Silver Grey Granite Gravel

    White Marble Cobbles

    Scottish Beach Cobbles

    Silver Grey Granite Cobbles

  4. Introduce Water Features: Water plays a significant role in Japanese gardens, symbolising purity and serenity. Consider incorporating a small pond, a trickling stream, or a simple stone basin. The gentle sound of flowing water and the reflections it creates will enhance the tranquil atmosphere.

  5. Choose the Right Plants: Carefully select plants that are native or well-suited to your climate. Japanese gardens often feature evergreens, bamboo, Japanese maple trees, azaleas, moss, and ferns. Incorporate a variety of textures and shades of green to create visual interest throughout the year.Adezz Water Bowl

  6. Create a Focal Point: Establish a focal point to draw attention and create a sense of contemplation. It could be a beautifully pruned tree, a traditional lantern, or a carefully placed stone arrangement. Allow this focal point to guide the overall layout of your garden and create a visually captivating experience.Buddha Statue

  7. Utilise Zen Elements: Incorporate Zen elements like rock gardens or sand/ gravel patterns to encourage mindfulness and meditation. A small rock garden with carefully raked gravel or sand can evoke a sense of tranquility and simplicity.

Quick Wins

  • Incorporate a Japanese-style gate or 'torii' at the entrance to your garden to create a sense of transition and leave the outside world behind. A pergola creates a similar appearance.
  • Use stepping stones to create a meandering pathway through your garden, inviting visitors to explore and discover its hidden corners.
  • Introduce a bench or seating area where you can sit and enjoy the beauty of your garden. Select simple, natural materials that blend seamlessly with the surroundings.
  • Install soft lighting to highlight specific areas of your garden, allowing you to enjoy its ambiance even during the evening hours.


Creating a Japanese style garden requires thoughtful consideration, but the rewards are well worth the effort. By embracing simplicity, balance, and natural elements, you can transform your outdoor space into a peaceful sanctuary that brings you closer to nature. Remember to select the right plants, incorporate water features, and utilise Zen elements for a truly authentic experience. With this advice and quick wins, you'll be well on your way to enjoying the serenity and timeless beauty of a Japanese style garden.