Japanese gardens evoke meditative feelings and self-reflection. They are planned carefully in order to meet certain styles and principles that correlate the feelings and philosophies associated with it. Ancient Japanese gardens adhered to certain themes during their respective eras, therefore creating various styles that are unique and natural in their own designs.
The different types of Japanese gardens reflect a lot about the atmosphere of the house. Ranging from the lush garden landscaping of Chaniwa, or tea gardens, up to the dry yet serene feel of Kare-sansui, or dry rock gardens, these styles are important to distinguish in order to know what you really want for your design.
The Different Types of Japanese Gardens
There are three distinguishable types of Japanese gardens, each having their own styles and usage of the elements. Some may be a bit challenging to create, while there are some that require a few elements to complete. However, do note that once you complete the garden, its stunning spirit and theme will make the adventure worth the effort.
Tsukiyama or Hill and Pond Garden
This type of garden reflects a miniature version of nature. As its name suggests. this type of garden mimics nature through the inclusion of hills and ponds over the entire landscape, creating a complete scenery.
Quite hard to replicate, it requires balance over water, land, and the softscape and hardscape included within. It usually requires a generous plot of land to properly execute, but it can still be done at a smaller scale if the different parts of the garden are present.
Elements of this type of garden consists of varying terrain to emulate the hills; a water feature becomes the pond; stones of different sizes amplify the beauty of the land; trees and small plants create the atmosphere; bridges and small paths create networks for movement; and fishes are also included to bring more life to the already living garden.
Kare-sansui or Dry Rock Garden
Varying greatly from the Tsukiyama Garden is the Kare-sansui, a type of Japanese garden that is impossible not to recognize because of its lack of water, in exchange for sand and gravel. Made popular by zen Buddhists, this garden exuded a calming atmosphere which is perfect for meditation and relaxation, allowing time for a calm reflection.
There are only a couple of elements required to create the look of Kare-sansui gardens, most notably are sand/gravel, rocks with varying shapes and sizes, and a few greeneries. The lack of too much vegetation makes this perfect for those who opt for a limited amount of plants used in the garden, and if you opt for a meditative type of space.
The sand is meant to emulate water, a quiet and gentle stream that flows along the path etched in the sand. Rocks or a single boulder represents an island that can be appreciated on its own or with some grass beside it. The garden is already good on its own, but you can add some vegetation to the areas around.
Chaniwa or Tea Garden
Originally meant as a garden for hosting tea ceremonies, the Chaniwa is a garden type meant to let people enjoy the scenery while having a cup of tea. It is categorized in two sections, the inner and outer gardens. The outer garden is filled with landscaping, with a path that leads people into the inner part, where the tea ceremony is held.
Nowadays, this type of Japanese garden is the most popular of the three, because of its utilitarian purpose, beauty of vegetation included, and flexibility of design. It usually fits in smaller garden spaces, and can be modified accordingly.
The elements included are various plants, shrubs, pathways, stones, and sometimes, hardscape such as stone lanterns and tsukubai (wash basin). You can omit the hardscape if you want a pure landscape space. Traditionally, the scenery prepares the visitors to the tea ceremony. If you opt to separate the inner and outer garden more prominently, you can also add a small gate to emphasize the zoning of the garden.
Elements you can use for your Japanese Garden
Because of the natural inclination of Japanese gardens to nature, water is almost always a part of them, except for the case of Kare-sansui gardens, which replace water with sand or gravel. You can either incorporate water as ponds or streams, depending on the type of garden you prefer and the size of the landscaped area you want to dedicate to the garden.
Another integral part of Japanese gardens are the stones that lie within. It is known as the counterpart of water, as they balance and complete each other. This element is visible in all the different garden types as they represent land, either as hills, mountains, or earth.
This element usually accompanies rock elements. This can be represented as earth, a beach, or a stream, which is the case for Kare-sansui gardens. Sand may be used in all the types of Japanese gardens.
Originally, lanterns were functional, serving as guide lights towards a certain point. In ancient Japan, stone lanterns lit up the path towards temples or ceremonial spaces, but are nowadays utilized as decoration. Though not a requirement in all gardens, it is used mostly in Tsukiyama gardens to emphasize the ceremonial atmosphere.
The plants vary greatly from each type of garden. Because of the philosophical arrangement of Japanese gardens, each plant will have its own purpose and identity. You can utilize shrubs in all the garden types, depending on the style you opt and the shape it appears as. The usual purpose of plants is to emphasize an area, create a picturesque scene, serve as background, or sometimes, hide a specific space.
Besides the life emanated by the garden, fish is also used to amplify further the atmosphere. They usually complete the overall aesthetic of Tsukiyama gardens in the pond, and are also sometimes utilized by Chaniwa gardens that have water features.
Careful Planning of a Japanese Garden
There are a lot of elements included in Japanese gardens, each one usually pertaining to a specific representation and philosophical arrangement. This careful approach to landscaping has made it famous, promoting a methodical approach in order to adhere to certain principles in design and visual quality.
If you opt to create a Japanese garden, it is important to consider first the atmosphere you want. You should also think about the size of the garden that you plan on making. After which, you need to see if your space can accommodate the type that you have in mind. Planning them is a complex process, including its construction. But after everything, the results will be worth the effort you put into it.
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I’m James J. Decker, a hobbyist and DIYs and also a big of home improvement and gardening tools. I immensely enjoy how these amazing products improve productivity and efficiency, and allow me to do jobs for which I would’ve otherwise needed professional help.