Creating a Japanese Themed Garden Pond

The appeal of the Japanese garden really became established in Britain towards the end of the Nineteenth Century and with its unique blend of hard, man-made elements with softer natural features and deliberately calm atmosphere it has remained a firm favourite ever since. Many of the traditional elements of the true Japanese garden have specific cultural and often spiritual significance, making a fascinating study in itself, but it is not necessary to fully understand all of these to introduce something of the feel of the Orient to your own plot. With water forming the focal point of the whole scheme, there are few better ways to capture the atmosphere of Japan’s gardens than by creating a Japanese themed pond for yourself.

Moving Water

Moving water is a key component – traditionally prized for its ability to take our minds off day-to-day concerns. There are plenty of suitable styles which you can use and predictably, bamboo features heavily in many of the popular features for the Japanese water garden– with the Shishi-Odoshi (Deer Scarer) or Kalehi (Japanese Fountain) being the most commonly seen on offer.

The Shishi-Odoshi is a pivoted length of hollow bamboo on a wooden frame; water is pumped into it until the weight eventually makes it tip, emptying the water into the pond and the rear of the device knocking against a stone or wooden “stop” as it returns to begin filling again. The Shishi-Odoshi was originally designed for the rhythmic noise this makes – as a way to protect crops from grazing deer – but it has long since been adopted for its stylish elegance as a water feature in its own right. The Kalehi is a fairly simple bamboo spout, often splashing water onto a chozubachi or flat stone basin. There are a number of pond kits available that contain all you need to get started – containing the feature itself, a suitable pond pump and appropriate piping.

On a practical level, since plants play a very much smaller role in Japanese water garden landscaping, the splashing of moving water adds oxygen – much to the benefit of the fish that are an almost essential feature in oriental ponds.

Other Elements

In the typically Japanese way, the movement needs to be balanced by an area of calm water to inject a spot of reflection into the garden and lend the whole pond a feeling of quiet and tranquillity. The planting scheme around the water’s edge would normally be chosen to embody the changing seasons – azaleas and flowering cherries for the spring, summer irises and Acer for the warmth of its autumnal foliage.

In the main, Japanese landscaping adheres to the “less is more” principle – with individual features typically being positioned for maximum effect and are often highly symbolic. Many of these have their ancient origins in the rich mythology of ancient Japan; a stone, for instance, placed in a cascade represents a fish travelling up the waterfall to become a dragon. Even the smallest pond will have frog ornaments – designed to mock any demon that might wish you harm – while in large Japanese water features, zigzag bridges and stepping stones are often included to make sure that no evil spirits follow the unwary. Dragons and demons may not be exactly high on your own list of concerns, but adding a hint of these details can certainly help get the right feel.

An island – even if it’s a very small, symbolic one made of a well-chosen stone supported on brick pillars – is another feature that you might like to consider and if you have sufficient space, try to make sure that you can’t see all the water from any one vantage point. Japanese garden design is big on journeys – often using lights and carefully placed focal items to lead the visitor through the site; keeping part of the water hidden encourages a feeling that there is always something more to see. Finally, using Shioridro (bamboo screening) or Shiba-Gaki (thin timber screens) around the pond will finish the whole thing off with a definitely authentic look.

The true Japanese water garden is an art-form in itself which demands considerable skill and understanding on behalf of the gardener – and typically takes many years to develop. Adding a Japanese theme, however, is an easier proposition. With modern pond liners and the wide range of readily available pond supplies, bringing the sight and sound of Japan to any garden is probably easier now than it has ever been at any time since our fascination with the home of the Samurai first began.

What are Japanese pond gardens?

Japanese pond gardens are a type of Tsukiyama Garden that follow the traditional Japanese style of landscaping. These gardens aim to make a small space appear larger than it is by using specific design elements. Typically, Japanese water gardens are constructed around a central pond and feature carefully placed stones, plants, and water features. The overall goal is to create a serene and calming environment that encourages relaxation and contemplation.

How do I make a Japanese garden in the UK?

To create a Japanese garden in the UK, one easy option is to plant a single potted maple tree, such as the ‘Sango-kaku’, which has striking autumn foliage. You can place this in an area of gravel or underplanted with Japanese forest grass to create a beautiful impact. It is essential to allow enough space around specimen shrubs and trees to highlight their natural form.

Is a Zen garden the same as a Japanese garden?

A Zen garden, also known as a Japanese dry garden or rock garden, is a specific type of Japanese garden that features rocks, sand, and gravel instead of water. These gardens are meant to represent a miniature landscape and often contain elements of Buddhist philosophy and symbolism.

What are the four principles of a Japanese garden?

Japanese gardens follow four essential design elements: rocks, water, plants, and ornaments, as well as five garden design principles: asymmetry, enclosure, borrowed scenery, balance, and symbolism. These design elements and principles work together to create a harmonious and serene space that inspires contemplation and inner peace.

What is the purpose of a Japanese garden?

Japanese gardens were originally built for recreational purposes, providing entertainment for the aristocrats and the emperor. These gardens often feature ponds, streams, and other water features that aim to reproduce miniature versions of famous landscapes. Nowadays, Japanese gardens are also built to provide a place for contemplation, tranquility, and relaxation. They are designed to capture the natural elements in their ideal form, creating safe and captivating natural spaces where visitors can unwind and let go of their stress.

What is the benefit of Japanese garden?

In Japanese gardens, koi ponds or lakes are a traditional feature. However, many hobbyists now use special ponds in small locations, with no attempt to suggest a natural landscape feature. These ponds provide a space to enjoy and observe koi, a colorful species of carp that are treasured in Japanese culture.

What is the famous pond in Japan?

One of the most famous ponds in Japan is Namonaki Ike, better known as Monet’s Pond. This pond has become a popular attraction due to its uncanny resemblance to the “Water Lilies” series of paintings by Claude Monet, the master of impressionist imagery. The pond’s tranquil beauty and stunning scenery attract visitors from all over the world, making it a must-visit location for anyone interested in Japanese gardens or art.

What are the 7 principles of Japanese garden?

The seven principles of Japanese gardens are guidelines used to create a Zen garden, which include austerity (Koko), simplicity (Kanso), naturalness (Shinzen), asymmetry (Fukinsei), mystery or subtlety (Yugen), magical or unconventional (Datsuzoku), and stillness (Seijaku). These principles are used to create a harmonious and peaceful environment that promotes contemplation and meditation. A Zen garden should incorporate most, if not all, of these concepts.

What are the six basic elements to Japanese garden?

Japanese gardens are typically composed of six basic elements, including water, rocks, trees and flowers, bridges and fences, stone lanterns and water basins, and fish. Each element is carefully chosen and arranged to create a harmonious and balanced composition. The goal of a Japanese garden is to create a naturalistic and serene environment that promotes contemplation and tranquility.

What are the two types of Japanese gardens?

There are three traditional types of Japanese gardens: tsukiyama (hill gardens), karesansui (dry gardens), and chaniwa gardens (tea gardens). Tsukiyama gardens are constructed to mimic a mountainous landscape, while karesansui gardens use rocks and gravel to represent natural scenery. Chaniwa gardens are designed to be viewed from a tea house and typically feature a teahouse, a stone path, and a water basin. Each type of garden has its unique design elements and purpose but ultimately aims to provide a space for relaxation and contemplation.

Last Modified: April 6, 2023