Japanese-inspired garden

How to Create a Japanese-Inspired Garden

Japanese-inspired designs evoke feelings of peace, calm, and tranquility. For that reason, many homeowners often wish to include some Japanese-inspired elements in their own homes and landscaping

Japanese gardens are well known for their use of texture, balance, and an invitation to sit and soak in your surroundings. Add a few of these ideas to your own backyard garden to capture some of the peace and tranquility for yourself.

Mixing Texture


granite steppers lead through the garden
Japanese Garden. Design: Steve Hansen. Installation: A Yard & A Half

Japanese designs are extremely deliberate; nothing is added by chance and everything is planned down to the smallest detail. This includes the type of textures that you’ll find within the garden.

Japanese gardens make use of several different types of material for hardscaping including gravel, large stepping stones, wooden pathways, and sand. The idea is to lead the visitor deeper into the garden by constantly changing the terrain. So, consider creating a sandy bed that gives way to a gravel walkway. Later, as you approach another area of the garden, switch to larger, softer stepping stones, that will take you to a path beside a water feature. This mixing of textures adds depth to the garden, and encourages you to walk deeper to see what the rest of the pathway may hold.

Changing Terrain

natural waterfall made of stone

You’ll also find a mixture of terrains in a Japanese garden. Subtle hills and valleys are used to change the way that you view the area around you. For example, by bringing you up a hill, you may be awarded a view of something that can’t be seen from below, such as a water feature, teahouse, or some unusually colored flowers.

Wind your path around a thickly planted hedge to reveal brightly colored flowers on the other side, or dip down slightly into a valley to hide the view of a waterfall just beyond. Put some thought into how you lay out the garden, and use the terrain as a way to help surprise visitors.

Balance the Garden


backyard view of patio design
Kyoto Meets New England. Design: Christie Dustman. Installation: A Yard & A Half

One of the most recognizable features of a Japanese garden is balance. No major feature placed in the garden is set there alone; there is always a balancing feature somewhere nearby.

For example, if you have a large pool or pond, consider an equally large wood deck bordering it. On the other side of the deck, create a seating area or an interactive rock garden that allows guests to rearrange the patterns of the rocks as they sit among them. Balance does not mean that you need to repeat the same materials or images again and again; as long as the different features have equal importance and visual weight, they can be made of varying material.


red tree accents Japanese garden

Like many gardens, Japanese gardens take their inspiration and color from the natural world surrounding them. Draw your color inspiration from what you can find in Japan, including a lush array of different shades of green, as well as shades of brown, sand, and gold.

The color red is considered lucky, and may be introduced in small amounts throughout the garden as an accent, creating the minimalist palette that defines a Japanese garden. When building the garden, using lots of natural material like wood, stone, and sand will enhance the colors of the space.

Create the Garden of Your Dreams

There are many ways you can use Japanese culture and gardens as inspiration for a design of your own. Keep in mind the deliberate planning and layout that goes into each space, as well as the minimalist palette and choice of materials. Give us a call to explore your options.


This guest post was written by Matt Lee of Kebony.com, a leading manufacturer of sustainable wood building products.