Japanese gardens derive their beauty from a blending of different elements such as sand or gravel, rocks, water, ornaments (such as lanterns or water basins), natural plants, and the garden’s surroundings. Part of the beauty of Japanese gardens comes from the use of these elements for the symbolic expression of religious Shinto and Buddhist beliefs.
The design of the Japanese gardens is based on three basic principles, reduced scale, symbolization, and borrowed view. Gardens in reduced scale represent famous scenes and places in small and confined spaces. Mountain views and rivers are miniaturized using stones, sand and gravel. Symbolization is used in almost every Japanese garden. Raked sand or gravel symbolizes rivers, groupings of stones and rock can represent islands. The groupings are also often expressions of Shinto or Buddhist religious beliefs. Shakkei or borrowed view is the use of existing scenery and plants to supplement the garden. The garden design is made in such a way that the existing scenery becomes part of the total design.
There are several different styles of Japanese gardens:
Tea gardens (Cha Niwa or Roji) are a passage from the outside world to the inner world of the teahouse and includes the following elements: Japanese lanteren (toro), crouching water basin (tsukubai), stepping stones (tobi ishi), and a waiting place (machi-ai).
Courtyard Gardens (Tsubo Niwa) are small gardens made in the open spaces between buildings.
Strolling gardens (Tsukiyama and Kaiyu Shikien) are large landscape gardens that often reproduce an existing landscape on a smaller scale.
For more information and a huge database of Japanese gardens visit www.jgarden.org