The Muromachi Period in Japan was a time of significant growth and development in Japanese arts and culture. Many of the rituals, cultural practices and forms of artistry we attribute to Japan today found their beginning in this period of time. Some notable developments in particular include the rise of the Japanese tea ceremony, the start of Noh Theater, the shoin style of Japanese architecture, and the transformative arrival of the Japanese Zen garden.

Japanese Zen gardens are traditionally called karesansui, which translates to “dry mountain water”. We see their arrival in the Muromachi period come out of the reinterpretation of traditional Chinese gardens. At the time, gardens in China featured water ponds with island-like rock formations strewn throughout them. The evolution towards the Japanese style Zen garden was marked most notably by the replacement of water with raked sand—hence the translation, “dry mountain water”. (Reference:

If you want to create one of these tranquilly symbolic gardens yourself, you’ll need a few key elements:

1. Inspiration:

Observing the simplistic and natural beauty of well-known ancient Zen gardens will be a great first step in achieving your own Zen-inspired space. Observe their key features and think about how they can translate to your own environment.

Ryōan-ji (image credit)

Daisen-in (image credit)

Tenryū-ji (image credit)

2. Sand:

Remember, the sand element of your garden should take the place of water and therefore resemble its pattern, flow and behavior. Lay it as the foundation to “fill up” all areas of your garden where water would stand or flow.

3. Stone Elements:

Once your sand foundation is laid, you can place the stone elements of your garden. This is your interpretation of a Zen garden for your own home and your own enjoyment, so have fun with it. You can place large or small stone, stacks of stones, or even stone statues and symbols. We love the arched stone tealight holders to add both stone elements and ambiance to your space. Suitable for indoors and out, they can help you bring Zen-inspiration to literally any space. A meditative Buddha statue can also set the mood for thoughtful calm in your Zen-space.

4. Finishing Touches:

Lastly, add any finishing touches you feel with bring serenity and tranquility to the area. Moss is a popular element in the traditional gardens, or you can add other greenery. Potted plants, small trees (like the Japanese Maple), or bamboo give a nice look and add life to the space. A wooden arch, simple stool or bench can be functional and also visually interesting. Maybe wind chimes or even a gong? Once you have placed these details, all you have left to do is rake your sand. Or, of course, your can take a lower maintenance approach and simply smooth it out.

Shop our favorites Zen designs below to select perfectly peaceful additions for your indoor or outdoor Zen-spirational space!