Japanese gardens contain incredibly unique landscaping elements. If you’re keen to replicate this aesthetic in your own home, here are seven of the most breathtaking Japanese gardens to draw your inspiration from.
1. Ryoan-ji Temple
One of the most interesting Japanese Gardens is the Ryoan-ji Temple. Unlike most gardens, which are green with grass and colourful flowers, Ryoan-ji Temple is famous for its rocks. Yes, you read that right!
The popular rock garden is rectangular and consists of a plot of pebbles. They showcase patches of moss that carry groups of 15 rocks. It’s architecturally interesting and leaves many spectators curious to the meaning of the layout.
There is no definite explanation for the design, but some believe that the garden represents infinity while others believe it may be an abstract representation of islands in the sea.
2. Mukojima-Hyakkaen Gardens
Located in the middle of busy Tokyo lies one of the most tranquil Japanese gardens – the Mukojima-Hyakkaen Garden. Built in the Edo Period, this garden has a dream-like feel with the vibrant floral scene that changes every season.
Visitors are enchanted by its historical appeal and quiet ambiance, despite being amidst the bustling mega city. People are comforted by benches that welcome every onlooker to stop, have a long breath and take it all in.
One of the most spectacular structures of Mukojima-Hyakkaen is the Japanese Clover Tunnel. As you walk through the tunnel, you are surrounded by the gorgeous, lush green of clovers. It’s the tunnel from fairy tales!
3. Saiho-ji Temple
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, Saiho-ji Temple is especially beautiful for its mesmerising, moss-filled environment. Saiho-ji has a historical significance dating back to 1339, when Zen monk Muso Soseki became head priest of the temple and remodeled it to be his masterpiece.
With roughly 120 types of moss filling the garden today, it is an amazing site that is unmistakable and certainly one of a kind. Paired with the tranquil water and tall trees, it is no surprise that many acclaim the Saiho-ji Temple as Kyoto’s most beautiful garden.
4. Shinjuku Gyoen
With its grand, spacious design, Shinjuku Gyoen is a space that gives Tokyo a breath of fresh air. The park is full of large lawns and walking paths for visitors to enjoy every day. Its size makes it an indisputable standout amongst the city’s attractions.
In spring, Shinjuku Gyoen comes to life with Japan’s famous cherry blossoms. The iconic, unofficial national flower floods the park thanks to more than one thousand cherry trees in over a dozen varieties!
Of course, the landscape also features large ponds and bridges, and other main gardens such as the French garden and the English landscape garden.
5. Heian Jingu Shrine
Unlike some of the other Japanese gardens, the Heian Jingu Shrine is relatively young and dates back to just over a hundred years ago. It is dedicated to the spirits of the first and last emperors of the city of Kyoto.
In the garden of the shrine, a large number of weeping cherry trees stand. They’re emphasized with the surroundings of calm waters and floating water lilies.
One of the most astounding features is the bridge across the lake, Taihei-kaku. The bridge is designed in traditional Japanese style and gives onlookers the most phenomenal view.
Opened to the public in 1871, Kenroku-en is a generously sized Japanese garden that was constructed over a period of nearly two centuries by the ruling Maeda family.
The size is actually how the garden got given its name with Kenro-ku translating to “Garden of the Six Sublimities”. It refers to the six essential attributes for a perfect garden according to the Chinese – spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water and broad views.
The trees bloom plum blossoms and cherry blossoms in different months, and the garden’s large pine trees carry freshly fallen snow in the winter for a majestic white wonderland.
7. Tenryu-ji Temple
The Zen Temple of Tenryu-ji has some of the finest gardens in Kyoto. Firstly, there’s Sogenchi Teien (Sogen Pond Garden), which is designed as a strolling pond garden and gives the illusion of depth with the view of nearby mountains.
Then there’s Hyakka’en (Garden of a Hundred Flowers), which is full of herbs, bushes and trees on the slope of a hill. It is also where people may walk through and find the Sagano bamboo forest.
Tenryu-ji Temple is also home to a few traditional Japanese teahouses. These small, simple wooden buildings are designed specifically for tea ceremony use, and are commonly found in traditional Japanese gardens.
What is a Japanese Garden?
Japanese gardens originate from (you guessed it) Japan, but were actually inspired by Chinese gardens. They’ve been around for centuries and were enjoyed by many emperors. Today, traditional Japanese gardens remain the pinnacle of sacred temples.
Traditional Japanese gardens are so beautiful that they’re actually considered an element of Japanese art – and there’s no doubt why. These landscapes are mysterious and picturesque.
The garden architecture includes a variety of elements that are natural to the landscape or structures that are incorporated into the design of the garden, such as: water, sand, bamboo, gravel, rock, streams, fish, various stones, strolling paths, lanterns, moss, flowers, ponds, small waterfalls, trees, statues, shrines, gates and even water basins.
Each element is equally important as they carry symbolic meanings that contribute to the serene aura and holistic appeal of a Zen garden. The aim is to make a person at peace, relax their body and mind, and enjoy the calming effects of nature.
That is the chief difference between Japanese gardens and any other regular backyard. Rather than focusing simply on physical appearance, they’re designed with a spiritual and philosophical objective.
The incredible thing about Japanese gardens is that they take time to build and grow naturally, and the older they are the more character they possess.
Despite the fact that many ingredients come together to create a Japanese garden, the overall aesthetic is quite simple and minimalist. That’s what makes them so unique! Every piece falls so fittingly into place that it cannot help but inspire meditation and reflection.