What Is A Japanese Tea Garden? Explained 

Wondering what is a Japanese tea garden? Read on to discover its origin, meaning, and how to design one for your home.

What Is A Japanese Tea Garden
Japanese tea gardens are some of the most beautiful landscapes to exist

A Japanese tea garden is also known as rojiniwa; this is a beautiful landscape designed specifically for the tea ceremony rituals performed inside a gorgeous, humble traditional tea house in the middle of the garden. 

The tea house entrance is a long, curved paved way (roji) that represents a peaceful journey where you leave behind the buzzes of social life before focusing on the rituals of the tea ceremony.

Japanese tea gardens are some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. There lies an art of horticulture and landscape management that embraces aesthetic and spiritual values. When inside, visitors will instantly feel a sense of simple happiness and tranquility. 

Origin Of Japanese Tea Gardens

a japanese tea garden located in san francisco
A traditional tea ceremony must take place inside a separate, specialized Japanese tea garden

The origin of Japanese tea gardens was part of the tea ceremony’s history. In the late 12th century, the Zen monks introduced the Chinese tea ceremony to their country after picking it up from the Song Dynasty of China.

In the 15th century, Murate Juko, a Japanese monk, developed a set of rules that govern the tea ceremony practice inside a separate space known as a tea house. Its architecture has become the standard for Japanese tea houses and gardens in the modern days. The one-story tea house has a tatami mat placed in the middle of the floor, covered by a thatched roof and smooth mud walls.

Today, the Japanese tea gardens have become an utmost standard of Japanese landscaping art, tea-serving technique, and tea ceremonies. A traditional tea ceremony must take place inside a separate, specialized Japanese tea garden to commit to the stylized ritual of preparing, serving, and drinking Japanese tea.

What’s So Special About Japanese Tea Gardens?

The making of a Japanese tea garden complements the principle of sabi, meaning “aged and mellow.” This is the core understanding of Japanese sensibilities which should be expressed thoroughly in the garden by the arrangement and composition of each element.

Other than sabi, the principle of wabi, meaning “rustic but refined,” is another key factor behind the meaning of a Japanese tea garden. Wabi is defined by the typical architecture of a Japanese teahouse, gate, and fence using traditional, local materials. Bamboos, stones, wattle, and daub walls are the most common add-ins that bring out the charm of a Japanese tea garden.

When visiting a Japanese tea garden, visitors must remove their shoes and leave them outside before entering the tea house through a small, low entrance door. Once inside, the host will roll up a small window to bring in the light before the tea ceremony begins, just high enough so you won’t be distracted by the outdoor scenery. A tea table is placed in the middle with a few simple objects garnished, such as a roll-up painting or ikebana, classical art of Japanese flower arranging.

If you liked this post, you might also find our explainer on a kitchen tea helpful. 

What Are The Different Types of Japanese Tea Gardens?

The most basic type of Japanese tea garden is a small garden surrounding the tea house. The second one is called niju-roji, which consists of an outer and inner garden connected via a pathway called roji. By walking on the roji, you’re leaving behind all the hustle and bustle of the city life and cleansing your mind.

The last one is taju-roji; this is the most sophisticated Japanese tea garden out of the three styles. It’s a niju-roji with a middle garden added in between as a form of transition where you have more time to get ready before getting into the sanctuary space at the tea house. 

How To Make A Japanese Tea Garden At Home

a Japanese tea garden with stepping stones and boulders of rock with a mini bridge
Three essential elements to consider in making a Japanese garden are stones, water, and plants

When you look around any Japanese garden, certain elements define its vibe and beauty. Some specific features set the tone you can use to incorporate into your creation. The three essential elements that must be incorporated in a Japanese garden are:

  • Stones
  • Water
  • Plants

These elements can be made of different materials. Plus, you can creatively mix and match each of them as long as they resonate with one another and bring out a sense of calmness in the Zen philosophy. 

Therefore, a Japanese tea garden must showcase rustic beauty rather than a modern, manicured garden. If you plan to make your own traditional Japanese tea garden, consider adding stepping stones and lanterns and placing them along the roji path that leads to a small, wooden tea house.

What To Consider Before Mapping Out Your Own Japanese Tea House?

The rustic beauty of a Japanese tea house must represent a set of aesthetics and ideals without missing out on simplicity. 

Let’s put it this way: your Japanese tea garden must look breathtaking without looking artificial. You can build a small space by the side of your home or in the backyard where you can return after work, stay put, and wind down.

To spruce up this Asian motif, you can add a pergola at one corner or in the middle of the garden to sit in and soak up the energy.

You can set up a few stone lanterns along the paved way and light them up when the sun beams down. Allow the trees to grow as much as possible and lean toward typical Asian plants such as bamboos, iris, lotus, Azalea, and cherry blossom.


  • Oanh Nguyen

    Born and raised by a traditional mama-barista, Oanh is a typical Viet coffee aficionado who would spend her entire precious Sunday showing you how to categorize coffee beans just by the looks and smells. She enjoys writing copies about everything drink-related while sipping her favorite rosebud tea.