Japanese stroll gardens are very large park gardens. These were a legacy from the Chinese imperial hunting parks that Japanese courtiers saw and were fascinated with when they visited China. They were then introduced to Japan between the 6th and 7th centuries A.D. Many of these types of parks belonged to Chinese emperors and consisted of large man-made lakes, hill areas, rivers, and islands in the ponds. These parks would often cover hundreds of square miles. Here you would find a large variety of trees, ornamental plants and shrubs. The emperors of China wished to create microcosms of their own vast empires on a smaller scale, and these gardens were the result of those efforts.
The lakes were large enough for pleasure boats and the parks themselves were often used as hunting grounds, so vast an area did they cover. The Japanese stroll gardens were adapted and created during the Edo period in Japan. This was at the time when the capital city of Heian-Kyo (Kyoto) was moved to Edo (Tokyo).
Much like the hill and pond design, the Japanese took what was found in nature and scaled it down to fit the park. It is designed with a multitude of pathways so visitors can walk through and view the garden from various perspectives. These pathways twist and turn, adorned with plants and trees of various heights, colors and textures. In essence, each turn on the path opens up to a new discovery.
In addition, sometimes stepping stones or cut logs are placed along the pathway to draw the stroller’s eyes down to notice the low-growing plant life. (Cut logs are also useful for inclines in the path to help with footing.) Small koi ponds, river rock pathways, large stepping-stones across a small brook, stone lanterns, water features, fences, benches and gates add to the element of delight in a Japanese stroll garden.
Should you think of designing a stroll garden, you will need at least 3/4’s of an acre of land, preferably more. In addition, you could consider adding a Japanese tea garden to one section and perhaps a Zen rock garden in another area for more visual appeal to the garden.