Japanese gardening has a culture all of its own, with the goal of producing gardens that look like outdoor scenery, complete with rock formations, trees, smaller shrubs, water features and changes in level arranged in an artistic manner.

There is a major emphasis in Japanese gardening on the religious and cultural attitudes of Zen and Shinto, and this is perhaps why Japanese gardens have a calming and meditative effect on the spirit. Japanese gardening is nothing like gardening in other countries, and many people suggest that it is an excellent aid to contemplation and reflection.

calming Japanese garden

There are three essential techniques in the layout of Japanese gardening. Firstly, the gardens are normally scaled-down versions of the real world. This involves the technique of taking what is often a real place, complete with trees, rivers and hills, and making a little model of it.

Secondly, the gardeners often use symbols to signify patterns in nature. A light colored sand could be used to symbolize a large sea. A Japanese garden will also finally often make objects like forests, which would never be in the foreground of a work of art, the most important element of the whole garden.

Japanese gardens generally have one of two forms: A level garden without any gradients or water features, known as hirinawa, and a garden made up largely of different levels, gradients and water features, known as tsukiyami. The two types are totally different from each other.

Most Japanese gardens are made up of a variety of materials, including hedges and fences, stones, water features, mosses, gravels and rock. Rock is normally made the central element in the ensemble and creates a sense of spiritual growth.

In the Shinto religion, rock embodies the essence of the outside world in all its beauty. Gravels can be utilized as a method of creating surfaces and can often mimic flowing water if used in the correct manner.

Small pebbles offer the chance to separate out different areas in the garden and can be made into the shape of lanterns. Ponds, streams, waterfalls and other water features are a very important part of Japanese gardening.

This might actually be water itself or possibly gravels used to suggest water, but however the appearance of water is created, the whole equilibrium of the garden depends on it. There are many different plants typically used in Japanese gardening and the most famous is the bonsai tree.

This is a method of encouraging normal small trees such as oak, maple, holly, cedar, cherry and pine to take on the appearance of much larger and older trees in a dwarf form.

A bonsai tree can be as small as two inches and as large as 40 inches and keep their small size through the use of very small pots, extensive pruning, and using pieces of wire to shape the dwarf tree into a variety of different forms.

Japanese gardening is ultimately about emotion and change, and as the great Japanese Zen master and garden designer Muso Soseki once said, “gardens are the root of transformation”. A Japanese garden will certainly create a variety of emotions and will hopefully be a catalyst for both change and relaxation in one’s personal life.

Water Basins As Japanese Garden Ornaments

Japanese garden ornaments, as they are artistically designed in a Japanese garden, do tell a story and bring out an effect that is soothing to everyone. As simple objects are being placed together to form a place for contemplation, a Japanese garden then becomes more filled with meaning and beauty.

One of these garden ornaments is the water basin that is usually made of granite stone. Typically, a Japanese garden may require one water basin especially if a water bamboo hammer is present. Like other garden ornaments, it is a charming element of a Japanese garden.

beautiful water basin in a Japanese garden

A water basin, also referred to as the chozubachi or tsukubai, has the main function of gathering the water into a small space in the Japanese garden. With the water bamboo hammer or kakei acting as the pathway, the water is then delivered to the container. It is indeed a simple method; however it is one of the main attractions of a Japanese garden.

The basins are utilized in various other purposes as well. For instance, during tea ceremonies, people use them as cleansing basins. Some gardens are decorated with water basins that are shaped like coins and often have the phrase, ‘tada taru wo shiru’ (translation: ‘I learn only to be contented’), featured on them.

The water basins basically act as a reminder for people to keep their mind as well as spirit in the right balance, therefore enabling them to develop a feeling of sense of satisfaction during their visit to the tea garden. With the basins around, those who attend a tea ceremony held in the garden may experience majestic and tranquil atmosphere.

There are different arrangements which can be made with Japanese water basins. They can be arranged to coincide a man-made stream coming from a pond of water. In this arrangement, stones may not necessarily be important as surrounding elements.

Further, they can also be built with only one stone, the maeshi that is placed in front of it. This type of water basin is believed to be the earliest type among them.

Another arrangement may be that the water basin has different stones surrounding it, such as the teshokushi, yuoke ishi, suimon and maeshi. Also, they can also be built below the ground with stepping stones designed to lead down it.

Moreover, these ornaments present in a Japanese tea garden are a source of purification for its visitors. The term tsukubai generally translates to ‘stooping basin’ since visitors need to stoop down in order to wash their hands and mouth using the water basin.

This gesture simply teaches the people of a humbling act, and prepares them to have a mind free of worry as they enter the premise. Such practice may have been adopted from the tradition of washing the hands and mouth, before entering a temple and worshiping the deities.

A ladle is usually provided for people to use in washing. At times, the water basins are also placed with surrounding stones and lanterns.

These water basins were originally formed to reach 16 inches high in the early ages. Later on, they were redesigned for Japanese tea gardens and decreased to a height of at least 12 inches.

A thing to remember is that they are made with simple stones. As it is built with simplicity, it can give out a beautiful element to the generality of the Japanese garden.

Why Do Japanese And Hawaiian Gardens Look So Much Alike?

I have heard this question quite a bit. Yes, when you look at pictures of Hawaiian Gardens it may remind you of Japanese Gardens. This is because both types of gardens share the same style, but with a few exceptions.

Similarities And Differences Between Japanese And Hawaiian Gardens

Japanese gardens typically has a fewer amount of grass in it then a Hawaiian ones. You may notice that they typically use a lot of stone, or crushed gravel, in place of the grass.

This material is generally raked out in geometric patterns, in order for you to be able to accentuate the garden to your liking. Many of these gardens also feature boulders that you set up in order to give the garden more focal points than just one.

Some of the best pictures of Japanese gardens are the ones that you can find online in order to get an idea on how you want to make your garden. There are still an abundance of flowering plants that you can put into a tropical garden and still keep it in the style of a Hawaiian, or Japanese, one.

Typically a Hawaiian garden has a section of grass that is surrounded by different flower beds filled with orchids, flowers, and other plants. There may, or may not, be structures set up in your garden that resemble scaled down native dwellings of either the Hawaiian, or the Japanese, style. This is very typical, and there is no reason why it can not be implemented into your tropical garden.

Be Imaginative and Your Hawaiian Garden Could Be Beautiful

You may think that it is hard to tell the difference between these two types of gardens, but it really isn’t. One of the dead giveaways is the fact that a Hawaiian garden incorporates more grass in it, as well as lava rock, than a Japanese one does.

The flowers that can be planted in your garden is really up to you. There isn’t a standard on what should, or should not, be planted in these gardens.

a typical Hawaiian garden

You are only limited by your imagination, and funds. You may decide that you want to try some traditional plants and trees for your garden.

It is important to note that it is a good idea to not overfill your garden with an abundance of plants, as that will take away from the idea of having a few focal points—but not too many.

The plants and trees that people typically plant in these gardens are cedar, Canadian hemlock, Himalayan white pine, Japanese black pine, and coastal redwood. You can also have a koi pond in your garden, whether it is a Hawaiian, or Japanese inspired garden since they fit well with both styles, and are sure to add to the overall look of your garden.