77 Japanese garden ideas for small spaces that will bring Zen to Your Home

backyard japanese garden design in Boston area by ZenAssociates

Japanese garden is traditional garden aims at elevating the ideal nature of a far away place. It introduces zen to any home and bring harmony to its surrounding. The garden usually does not use any artificial ornament. Instead, it brings both the Japanese philosophy and aesthetic to highlight the natural beauty.

In this ultimate guide to Japanese Garden, I will attempt to hand pick 99 best garden ideas (through quality photo) for small space that will bring harmony to your existing home. In order to make it easy to understand the concept, I will divide this post into 7 sections that describe all the seven elements of a Japanese Garden, namely: Water, Koi Fish, Rock & Sand, garden bridges, stone lantern, garden fence and flowers & trees.

A- Water

Water is one of the natural element in the world. For this reason, water is an indispensable element in Japanese garden. It serves as a Yin and Yang and will bring good fortune if properly set up. As such, always think of setting up a water element in your design no matter how small your garden is.

another beautiful japanese garden with water pond by zenassociates beautiful japanese garden in boston - contempory garden by zenassociates japanese garden water fountain in a big vase rock formation with waterfall in a zen garden standing solar energey water fountain

traditional outdoor japanese water fountain water element of Japanese garden in Boston water fountain flowing in a japanese garden design water fountain in a contemporary japanese garden design water pond in a boston zen garden

B- Koi Fish

Koi fish is a well known fish. Have you ever visit a Japanese Garden without seeing the koi fish? In fact, the fish is used as a decorative element in conjunction with the water elements. According to Wikipedia, the use of fish in the garden is rooted back to China more than a thousand years ago i.e. goldfish was introduced to Japan in the 16th century.

buddha statue in a fish pond zen garden contemporary japanese style garden fish pond for residential backyard courtyard koi fish pond

creative fish pond in japanese residential garden with large umbrella and designer chairs fish pond in zen garden indoor fish pond in a zen style garden indoor koi fish pond residential

It is important though to understand that if you decide to implement the water pond element with koi fish in your zen style garden, you need to monitor the pH, alkalinity, nitrates, salinity, hardness,chlorine, , copper, phosphates and oxygen levels in your koi pond water. I also suggest to use the automatic fish food feeder in your residential Japanese style garden.

koi fish pond in a residential home koi fish pond in a zen garden koi fish pond with water plan in japanese style garden koi pond in a japanese style garden


C- Rock & Sand

Rock represents mountain while white sand represents sea. This is yet another yin and yang principle. The Japanese garden is a miniature and idealized view of nature and hence no matter how small space your garden is, you could always implement this style of garden.

backyard japanese garden design in Boston area by ZenAssociates beautiful japanese garden in Boston area by zenassociates
contemporary stone and statue in a Zen garden landscape design with rock formation in a japanese garden

The hard rock can be categorized into vertical rock or flat. The vertical rough rock is used to represent mountain while the flat ones serve as stepping stones. Do not use any colourful rock as it will reduce the subtleness of the natural rock. To create an harmony scene, we usually find a combination of odd number of rock i.e. 3, 5 or 7. When the three rocks formation is used, the tallest represents heaven, the shortest represents earth while the medium refers to human being.

pathway in a tranditional japanese garden courtyard

rocky pond in japanese garden at home back yard

rocky stone ideas in a japanese garden

sand and rock element of the Zen Garden by ZenAssociates

The sands to be used are usually white as they represent purity. The sands can be considered as water or cloud in this case.
stone to use as pathway in japanese residential garden

zen garden using rock and water element

D- garden bridges

The bridge could be made from wood or stone. It represents a staircase to paradise and immortality. Depending on how you like the bridge to be, it could be flat or arched. One thing to note is that the bridge is a symbolic bridge and even your garden does not have any water element to serve as pond or waterfall, you can still install the garden bridge.

a small bridge in a zen garden aquatic pond and stepping stone backyard of a zen garden classic wooden bridge in a zen garden for home flat foot bridge japanese garden modern stepping stone japanese residential garden red railing japanese bridge from chinese influence residential red japanese garden foot bridge small red footbridge during winter in a japanese garden traditional footbridge in a japanese style garden tranquility flat wooden foot bridge in a backyard garden
vintage wooden footbridge using recycle trunk in a classical japanese garden

E- Stone Lantern

Toro is a traditional Japanese lantern. It is usually made of rough stone, metal or wood. Traditionally Toro is used mostly in Buddhist temples to illuminate the pathway.

big stone toro japanese lantern black hanging japanese lantern garden decor with japanese lantern japanese garden at night illuminated by paper lantern japanese garden bridge in a simple outdoor design with a wooden lantern japanese garden footbridge and a black stone lantern

There are two type of Toro. The first is called tsuri-doro which literally mean hanging lantern. The second is called dai-doro or platform lantern. It is the later that is used mostly in garden design. It is important to select the authentic hand-carved natural granite stone lantern that will add a tranquillity touch to your outdoor oasis.

japanese garden lantern

japanese lantern for backyard garden

stone japanese lantern next to a footbridge with wooden rail

toro japanese garden lantern made from stone

toro sculpture for zen garden

F- Garden Fence

If you have been to Japan before, you would understand the importance of bamboo fence in Japanese society. But if you have not been physically to Japan, fret not because you could visit your neighbourhood’s Japanese restaurant and observe how the fence is being used.

bamboo japanese wall in a zen garden Contemporary Balcony Garden Small Gardens Landscaping Pictures within Small Garden Landscape Ideas japanese fence in a zen garden

japanese garden simple fence japanese wooden gate in a zen garden japanese wooden gate minimalist japanese wall made from wood in zen garden

Likewise, garden fence is being used in many residential outdoor garden. The use of the fence could serve two purposes. The first is to separate the space and follow the principle of asymmetry but balanced. The second purpose is to give a sense of privacy yet achieving the tranquillity principle of Japanese design.

modern japanese garden fence residential japanese garden fence traditional fence in a japanese garden in Boston USA wooden wall in a japanese garden
G- Tree and Flower

Without a doubt, tree and flowers are being used in Japanese style garden. Nothing is left to chance and trees and flowers are used based on aesthetic principles. Either they are used to cover the undesirable sight or served as a backdrop. Most importantly they are widely used to have a picturesque scene just like in the post card.

beautiful design of japanese garden with flowers bonsai flower for a zen garden evergreen trees and flowers for japanese garden flower and a large bonsai tree for Japanese style garden

It is important to understand the maintenance requirement for your zen garden’s tree and flower so that it remains flourishing inja years to come. For example, you need to understand. One frequently asked question that I received is whether we can setup a Japanese garden in a non-Asian climate. The good news is yes! as a matter of facts many countries have already built as part of their urban planning, the zen garden. There is no doubt, though, those countries may not necessary have the tree or flowers originating from Japan but they have selected the appropriate flowers to make it work.

flower and tree in a japanese garden courtyard in a residential house

flower design in a zen garden

inspiring japanese stone lantern in courtyard of a Boston House
japanese garden in summer with evergreen shrub

Below are some trees that you could used in your Japanese style garden:

  • Cherry Tree (very beautiful when its flower blossoms)
  • Japanese maple tree (could be too large for small garden though)
  • Bamboo (this is an evergreen tree that you can plant in your zen garden)

japanese maple tree in backyard zen garden

small space garden japanese flower

tree design with water pond in a japanese residential garden

Bonus Photo of Zen Garden for small residential space:

Now that you have seen all 77 awesome Japanese garden ideas for small spaces that will bring Zen to Your Home, it is time to enjoy additional bonus photos around the world. Be inspired!

beautiful zen garden design blue water pond in this awesome japanese garden
japanese dinine hall outdoor with granite black pond japanese garden at night with lighting japanese garden ideas for small space mercury japanese garden in a backyard modern house with contemporary japanese garden design with water pond and flower night view of a japanese residential garden

residential japanese garden enclosure in small space design small curving japanese style bridge over a small pond
tiny footbridge in a jungle in one quiet afternoon tiny japanese lantern in a zen garden



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  1. Japanese gardens are beautiful. but, as mentioned above, these are not small gardens or yards! In the UK most homes have smaller gardens than these.

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