Video: Elements of Japanese & Zen Garden

Our resident designer and artist, Rod McKenna-Johnson, discussing the elements of a Japanese Garden.

What is a Japanese Garden?

Capture the Essence of Nature


The best definition for a Japanese garden is the distilling of nature into human living space.

Bring Nature In


Then you take it one step further by integrating the garden into your entire living space. The walls to home begin at the walls to your garden. This is called sukiya living.   

Nature at its best


Imagine seeing a peaceful mountain lake with trees, bushes, and a beautiful waterfall. You take a photo of the waterfall and then reconstruct this in your garden. But you don't just reproduce this, you improve on it. Making everything in perfect balance and harmony. Nature at its best.

Adding Structures


When structures are added to niwa, they tend to be an artistic endeavor of its own. Japanese carpentry relies heavily on special joinery that shows almost no hardware. Each piece of wood is selected for its grain, texture, and beauty; then sanded, stained, and surfaced for weather conditions.   


Japanese Garden elements, lanterns, bridges,

Very few man-made elements are found in the garden. Bridges, lanterns, special walls and trim act as accents. As a rule, are made from natural elements such as wood or stone.  

Balance of Elements


Then all elements are carefully combined to fit in perfect balance with the other elements of the garden.

Ready to begin? Call Arizona Zenscapes now to begin your dream garden!

Happy Clients

M. Higashi

"Arizona Zenscapes design Japanese gardens better than most of the current garden makers in Japan. Even my father, an old-school Japanese industrialist, was very impressed with their work, giving many compliments on my authentic Japanese garden in Tucson." 

Video: Plants for the Desert Zen Garden

Rod McKenna-Johnson, Designer and Artist, on plant selection for a Japanese inspired garden that do well in the Arizona heat.

Japanese Design

Japanese Gardens Tucson

10 Elements of Japanese Design

1. Niwa: A common word for garden in Japanese but a literal translation would be closer to "pure place" and this is much more descriptive of this type of garden.  

2. Roji: Is a term for garden path, but more accurately, refers to a philosophical path that takes the viewer from the stress of the work world to a meditative state, connecting them to the universe via the garden experience. 

3. Fukinsei: Balance of a composition is always asymmetrical. Space is defined by irregular division.  

4. Kanso: Reserved simplicity and the elimination of things ornate. Things are clean, fresh and neat. 

5. Koko: Austere maturity, qualities of venerable age. Weathered appearance that sometimes brings a sense of severity. 

6. Shizen: A naturalness; never forced; yet it has full creative intent; artless, never artificial, with a sense of spontaneous nature. 

7. Yugen: Refers to the subtle and mysterious. It suggests rather than reveals: partially hidden views, shadows, and reflections. It hints to deep layers of meaning that are often subtly profound. 

8. Datsuzoko: Surprise! A transcendence of conventional ideas. It can bring astonishment and ultimate surprise in the essence of natural things. Nature never ceases to amaze. 

9. Seijaku: Quietness and stillness; a sense of tranquility and peace upon entering the niwa.

10. Wabi-Sabi: Two terms that at one time had separate meanings, but now are often used together. Wabi-Sabi is a beauty in things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete; beauty of things modest and humble; a beauty in things unconventional. If an object can bring within us as sense of serene melancholy and spiritual longing, then it could be referred to as wabi-sabi.