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Fountains in Japanese Gardens - Meaning and Symbolism of Water

Updated on March 25, 2012

Joined: 8 years agoFollowers: 905Articles: 744
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Unique fountain with azaleas surrounding it.  You have to go down a little rock path to get closer.
Unique fountain with azaleas surrounding it. You have to go down a little rock path to get closer. | Source

The Meaning and Symbolism in Japanese Gardens

Japanese Gardens and Symbolism

Over the last eight years or so, I have really come to love Japanese gardens. I very much enjoy seeing Japanese gardens wherever I see them. Usually, this is in botanical gardens. Currently, I live nearest to the Saint Louis Botanical Garden in Missouri. They have a very lovely Japanese garden there.

It is very interesting to learn what symbolism means in a Japanese garden. The focus here will be on water and symbolism in general.

To fully understand the making and beauty that a Japanese garden represents one must try to capture the "spirit" of the Japanese garden. Nature is always the ideal one must strive for in a Japanese garden. Nothing overly fancy or against the natural flow we see in nature will fit well in a Japanese garden. If you ever get to far involved in the gardening process where you recreate something that nature could not have done, then that is too far.

I have heard of the example of a square pond. People who love ponds, like myself, love all shapes and kinds of ponds. I have another article showcasing some formal pond gardens that are very rectangular in shape. The problem with that is that you would never find a square or rectangular shape in the wild. So it must not be in a Japanese garden.

Balance is a key part of the Japanese garden as well. Recreating a large "landscape" even in a small space is something that is really neat. Rocks can present a whole mountain and a small pool can "become a lake." Small patches of raked sand can represent an entire ocean. The minute I heard that, I smiled because I love the effect of the raked sand or fine gravel. That it represents such a large body of water is just beautiful to me.

"Less is more," is a key component to Japanese gardening.

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Symbolism in a Bridge

A bridge in a Japanese Garden.  One other way to showcase water is with beautiful ponds.  Click on image to see it larger.
A bridge in a Japanese Garden. One other way to showcase water is with beautiful ponds. Click on image to see it larger. | Source

Water Symbolism

As a nation, Japan gets a lot of rainfall. It is not surprising that water is a key element in Japanese gardening. As I mentioned before, even the raking of sand or gravel represents water, such as in the karesansui garden.

Perhaps you have seen the flat river stones, I can just picture them now. These are known to symbolize a rushing stream. Such a stream smooths stones, and it all is more and more beautiful the more I think about it.

The Passage of Time

The sight and sound of water in the Japanese garden has an even deeper meaning. It has to do with the passage of time. The more you learn, the more you realize for example, that a bridge crossing the water in a Japanese garden, is not just a bridge crossing the water. It is rather a pathway, and is representative of one's journey. The word for bridge is hashi, and is also the word for "edge." So a bridge is symbolic of moving from one world into another. This is a common theme seen in gardens and also in Japanese art.

The flow of water, and the passage of time, are things I will think about when I see Japanese gardens in the future. It really is like art, and to me, gardeners are artists. The photos here of fountains are from the Japanese garden in Missouri. The bridge there is one of my favorite places. Now, it means even more to me.

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    • nityanandagaurang profile image

      nityanandagaurang 4 years ago

      I have heard only of simple garden,but your description of japanese garden so vivid that i long to visit one of the japanese garden.Very beautiful and voting it up.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks for this interesting guideline to help us understand Japanese gardens and the use of fountains and water in them.

    • anglnwu 4 years ago

      I always like the simplicity of Japaneses landscape and the way they use waterfalls is simply beautiful. I agree--less is more and thanks for sharing such lovely pictures.

    • American_Choices profile image

      American_Choices 4 years ago from USA

      Oceansunsets,

      Rockford Illinois has one of the most spectacular Japanese gardens in the United States - it is called Anderson Gardens.

      If you love this garden style, you must see this amazing garden - even if it is only via the Internet.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Nityanandagaurang, I am so glad you read and found my hub about Japanese gardens and water symbolism to be of interest to you. It makes me happy you want to visit one of these gardens. I hope to visit them again soon. Thank you so much for stopping by. :)

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Anglnwu, thanks for your nice comment and visit to my hub. Have a great evening. :)

      Hello American Choices, I am so happy you stopped by and shared about that beautiful Japanese Garden in Rockford Illinois. I hope to go there some time to see that amazing garden! Great tip for people that want to see more of these kinds of gardens. Like you said, we can at least visit it on the net, if in no other way. :) Thank you!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

      I've followed several of your garden hubs and like you, have come to enjoy the peace and tranquility that Japanese gardens bring. Well done, once more. Voted up. :)

    • DavePrice profile image

      DavePrice 4 years ago from Sugar Grove, Ill

      I grew up in Missouri, and I spent a year in Japan, so I connected with your subject nicely. Thought you described the beauty and meanings very well, and brought back wonderful memories for me. Thanks very much.

    • Gloshei profile image

      Gloria 4 years ago from France

      I love water fountains in the garden, they are so calming. Wonderful pictures thank you for sharing them. I will be looking at your others as well.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

      I have always loved Japanese gardens, and now that I am equipped with a better understanding of some of the symbolism they hold, I like them even more! Thanks for sharing these fascinating insights, oceansnsunsets :D

    • jpelczar profile image

      jpelczar 4 years ago

      A picture is worth a thousand words. The last picture you posted took my breath away. I spent as much time looking at the picture as I did reading the article. Thank you! Excellent post. Voted up.

    • vespawoolf profile image

      vespawoolf 4 years ago from Peru, South America

      This is a well-organized hub with beautiful photos. Congrats on HOTD!

    • kelleyward 4 years ago

      I loved this! I love the Japanese garden in San Fran and now I understanding the symbolism behind the beauty. Congrats on Hub of the Day!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Denise, thank you very much for your kind words. Its good to know there are others that also enjoy Japanese gardens. :) Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

      Hello Dave, that is so great to hear about you living in both Japan (for a year) and Missouri. The Botanical garden in Missouri has a very large Japanese garden which it sounds like you know of. Isn't it amazing? Thank you so much for your comment. I really appreciate it. :)

      Hello Gloshei, I think fountains are so beautiful and especially in gardens. Glad to know others do as well. Thank you for stopping by my hub and I am glad you want to see others. Thanks so much. Have a great day.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Simone, I think it's a joy to have discovered Japanese gardens when I did, they are just so beautiful. I agree that the symbolism helps us to enjoy them even more. Its a peaceful way of thinking about an already beautiful garden or place. It can be so calming to the soul and beautiful to behold I think.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment here. I really appreciate it. I can see more and more why Japan is such a special place, as I have learned a lot from your hubs on it. Very diverse at the very least, but so interesting and beautiful too. Have a wonderful day.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      Good Morning, my friend! I am just so happy you won Hub of the Day. They couldn't have picked a more deserving Hubber than you! I try to read your Hubs when you publish because I know I'm in for a treat. I don't know how I missed this one. As always, you put a lot of effort into your Hubs, and your photography is aways amazing. I voted this UP, etc. Have a wonderful day!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Jpelczar, thank you so much. I am glad you liked the pictures, especially the last one with the Japanese plants and shrubs and path to the fountain. They have such a way with garden planning and executing things. I would love to have that in my own garden one day. I am glad you stopped by and left a comment. Have a wonderful day.

      Hello Vespawoolf, thank you so very much for your kind words and visit to my hub. Glad the photos gave you a feel for water in Japanese gardens. Your visit and comment are appreciated.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
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      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Kelley , I would love to see that Japanese Garden in San Francisco one day as I am sure it is beautiful. Thank you for visiting my hub and I am so glad you learned a little bit more about the symbolism behind the beauty. It is like it makes a pretty garden even more beautiful I think. Have a nice day.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
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      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Mary, Thank you so much my friend. :) I always welcome your comment and am happy when you stop by. It brings a smile to my face that you enjoy the photos. :)

      Have a wonderful day Mary!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      What a gorgeous hub! I loved learning more about the symbolism in Japanese Gardens. Just yesterday I published one about Golden Gate Park which has the oldest Japanese garden in America. I have visited the Missouri Botanical Garden...and you are right about it containing a gorgeous Japanese Garden amidst all of their others. The one in Houston, while adhering to the same qualities uses rocks generic to the area which is interesting. The one in Portland, Oregon is also a beauty. I guess you can tell...I love Japanese Gardens. Congratuations on Hub of the Day. Well deserved! All votes up except funny and sharing this. Thanks!

    • ytsenoh profile image

      Cathy 4 years ago from Louisiana, Idaho, Kauai, Nebraska, South Dakota, Missouri

      This is a great hub. Since I live in Kansas City, and the subject ties into my family culture, please let me know where that garden is. I embrace simplicity values. Thumbs up because this was wonderfully displayed and written. Thanks much.

    • Eugene Hardy profile image

      Eugene Hardy 4 years ago from Southfield, Michigan

      I have always loved Japanese culture, now you present another reason to love their culture.

      Voted up.

    • Olde Cashmere profile image

      Olde Cashmere 4 years ago from Michigan, United States

      Love hubs like these. This is a great topic and I like the idea of more people becoming aware of these gardens and the meanings. One day I'd love to have my own Japanese garden complete with fountains and flowers, the whole works. Voted up and beautiful.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 4 years ago from South Carolina

      Ah, this was a breathtaking trip through the Japanese Gardens and I loved reading about the symbolism and specific traits of a Japanese Garden.

      I too, visit them whenever I find one. I like the "less is more" quality that makes them seem more natural and I also like the fact that special garden features like rocks, bridges and fountains are placed in locations that make the background around them feel like one is looking at a framed painting- everything blends together in a colorful and most pleasing way.

      Voted up across the board except for funny and congrats on winning Hub of the Day with this exceptional hub.

    • urmilashukla23 profile image

      Urmila 4 years ago from Rancho Cucamonga,CA, USA

      Good to know the meaning of Japanese water symbolism. Great Hub! Congratulations on Hub of the day award!

    • dariashakti profile image

      dariashakti 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Nice hub, I've always wanted to create a small Japanese meditation garden. I love the aspect of the water symbolism...voted it up..

    • prosols profile image

      prosols 4 years ago

      classical .. good to know that. very nice. i hope u get your reward by achieving the HUB OF THE DAY prize.. Congrats!!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hi Peggy, I would so love to visit the botanical gardens in Houston and Portland someday and see their Japanese gardens. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting, and I love hearing from a fellow Japanese garden lover. :) I appreciate the votes and visit so much, and have a great evening.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Ytsenoh, thank you for taking the time to comment and read my hub. This garden I took these pictures at is the Missouri Botanical Garden located in Saint Louis Missouri. It would be worth the drive or a visit the next time you are in the area. Have a wonderful evening.

      Hello Eugene, thank you very much. These gardens and the meaning and beauty they share is something I too love about the Japanese culture. I am happy you stopped by and commented, thank you.

      Hello Olde Cashmere, thank you very much, I am so glad you enjoyed it. :) I am like you in that I would hope to have a garden like this one day, wouldn't that be wonderful? Thank you again.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Happyboomernurse, thanks so much for your comment, and I always love to hear from you and appreciate your visits. I agree that it is a joy to observe such gardens, built on simplicity that look almost like a beautiful painting when complete and growing. What a joy! Thanks for your vote and kind words, it means so much.

      Hello Urmilashukla, thank you very much for your comment and visit here. The symbolism is really neat to learn about for me, and I am glad others are glad to learn of it as well.

      Hello Daria, thanks so much for your visit and vote. I think your idea of creating a Japanese garden for meditation is a wonderful one. :)

      Hello Prosols, thank you for your visit to my hub about water in Japanese gardens and the symbolism and meaning it gives. I really appreciate it.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 4 years ago from sunny Florida

      Thanks for sharing this... I lived in Japan for four years and grew so very fond of the various gardens there. It is so uplifting and calming to sit in one of those gardens. The rock gardens are amazing as well.

    • John Sarkis profile image

      John Sarkis 4 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      Great hub oceansnsunsets, and the photos are awesome.

      Congrats on winning HOTD!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Pstraubie, what a wonderful time that must have been in Japan, and seeing all the different gardens! I would love to see more of their rock gardens. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, I really appreciate it.

      Hello John, thank you very much. I am so glad you liked my photos and thank you for the congratulations on Hub of the day. I was so excited to see that. Have a great evening.

    • Lenzy profile image

      Lenzy 4 years ago from Arlington, Texas

      Beautiful photos. I love the water and bridge features. I would love to have a garden like the small one in my back yard. Maybe someday. Lenzy

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Lenzy, thank you so much. The water and the bridge really bring me peaceful feelings, I just love them. Like you, I would hope to someday have a miniature version of such a garden in my own yard. Perhaps one day, like you said. Just the thought is a happy one. In the mean time, I hope to keep on visiting and seeing the others that bring me so much joy. Thanks for your visit here and comment.

    • Fennelseed profile image

      Annie Fenn 4 years ago from Australia

      I love Japanese Gardens for their simplicity and their very calming atmosphere, but I had never really thought about symbolism. Thank you OnsnSts for expanding the Japanese garden experience for me though your lovely photos and your information. This is a very enjoyable hub, and my votes to you accordingly!!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Fennelseed, I am so happy you stopped by and commented. It makes me glad you enjoyed it and I appreciate your votes and friendship in Hubpages. Understanding something deeper in a symbolic way, something that already has a sense of beauty to it, is something I have enjoyed discovering and sharing with people. So happy you liked it. :)

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 4 years ago from North Carolina

      Congratulations on your Hub of the Day award-well deserved...excellent choice.

    • davenmidtown profile image

      David Stillwell 4 years ago from Sacramento, California

      oceansandsunsets! Congrats on hub of the day... This is a great hub and I think I will put it to work when I start to build my herb garden... votes up and on and on and on...

    • KimberlyLake profile image

      Kimberly Lake 4 years ago from California

      Congratulations on Hub of the day. This is a great hub, very interesting. Voted up and shared.

    • uzma shaheen 4 years ago

      very interesting and informative hub. I started loving japanese gardens, as they are so beautiful.loved the pictures.thank you for sharing it.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Denise, thank you so very much! I really appreciate that. :) Have a wonderful day.

      Hello Dave, Thank you for your visit, comment and votes! I wish you the very best as you build your herb garden and can't wait to hear about it once you are on your way. I have an herb garden that I like to grow also but nothing too fancy right now. Thanks again!

      Hello Kimberly, thank you very much for sharing, visiting here and your comment. I really appreciate that.

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 4 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      As an avid gardener and lover of gardens with a special appreciation for Japanese artistry of all kinds, this was very special.

      I never knew that about the bridge - fascinating. It does give more meaning.

      Rockford, Illinois has Anderson Gardens which is perhaps the premier Japanese Garden in all of the Western hemisphere.

      The respectfulness of nature is something that Americans are just now beginning to embrace. We can learn allot from the Japanese who have always respected nature.

      Frank Lloyd Wright was a lover of nature and prairie style was developed by him. His hotel in Japan is something I wish to be able to travel and see.

      My peony tree that I planted last year was credited to Japan. I wonder what other perennials we can associate to Japan.

    • TwilightDream profile image

      TwilightDream 4 years ago from Chennai, India

      Thanks for insightful explanation about the meaning and symbolism of water in the Japanese Garden. I like the deeper meaning about the 'hashi'(and also the picture from your photo library)which is surely to showcase the water. I have visited once a Japanese Friendship Garden at San Jose, California. This nice memory will be in my minds for ever. Thank you again for sharing this wonderful garden hub. Keep writing!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Uzma, thank you so much for taking the time to view my hub and comment on it. It is very much appreciated. I am like you in that all it took was for me to view a few Japanese gardens, and the next thing I know I love them. Have a wonderful week.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
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      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello GmaGoldie, Your comment is so helpful and interesting to me and I am sure will be the same for others. I agree that it is neat that more people are embracing the idea and beholding the beauty more of gardens than I remember from long ago.

      I really need to visit Rockford Illinois to see that Japanese garden, as it sounds amazing. I am glad you liked the symbolism of the bridge, and I did too the first time I heard that. It kind of all makes sense once we hear some of these things, like it really "rings true".

      The idea of planting a peony tree the way you did sounds neat. I will have to do something like that!

      I am still learning about Japanese gardens, and wish I could answer you better about the other perennials. I know that this garden boasts some very beautiful peony shrubs (of course), and cherry trees that blossom beautifully, as well as azaleas, and many other flowering trees. I will have to think more on this, and learn more about Japanese perennial plants.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
      Author

      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hi Twilight Dream, thank you so much for your comment and memory of visiting the garden in San Jose. I would love to visit all these different gardens one day, as I am sure each one has so many unique views and things to offer. I know that my experience has been that every part of the year, even the same gardens seem to change as the seasons do. I love that so much.

      Thank you again for your comment, and I am glad you enjoyed the garden photos and information. My plan is to keep on writing, and thanks for the encouragement to do so. :)

    • midnightbliss profile image

      Haydee Anderson 4 years ago from Hermosa Beach

      Thanks, great hub! I will pass this along to my friend who is an architect. She loves garden landscape and fountains, especially of Asian influence.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
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      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Midnightbliss, thank you for taking the time to stop by and comment, I really appreciate it. Thanks for thinking to share the hub with someone else who might appreciate it as well. Have a great day.

    • Lilleyth profile image

      Suzanne Sheffield 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

      Absolutely beautiful hub. Thumbs up!

    • oceansnsunsets profile image
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      Paula 4 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hello Lilleyth, thank you so much! I am glad you like it. Thanks for your vote and comment, I appreciate it.

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