The best books for digging into Japanese gardens

Mira Locher Author Of Zen Garden Design: Mindful Spaces by Shunmyo Masuno - Japan's Leading Garden Designer
By Mira Locher

The Books I Picked & Why

Secret Teachings in the Art of Japanese Gardens: Design Principles, Aesthetic Values

By David A. Slawson

Book cover of Secret Teachings in the Art of Japanese Gardens: Design Principles, Aesthetic Values

Why this book?

I love that this book uses clear language to explain how design principles in Japanese gardens are transmitted from master to apprentice, the effect those principles have on the way we see and experience a garden, and the connection of the gardens to cultural values. The final section is a translation of a classical garden manual, and the descriptions of “reading” and placing rocks is fascinating – you will never see a rock in the same way again!


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Sakuteiki: Visions of the Japanese Garden: A Modern Translation of Japan's Gardening Classic

By Jiro Takei, Marc P. Keane

Book cover of Sakuteiki: Visions of the Japanese Garden: A Modern Translation of Japan's Gardening Classic

Why this book?

Not only does this book provide a translation of a nearly 1,000-year-old text on garden design – the oldest such text existing in the world, but it also includes extensive annotation and a carefully researched introduction to the cultural and historic influences on the development of Japanese gardens. This is a delightful combination of the technical detail and practical advice of the classic text with the author-translators’ descriptive explanation.


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Japanese Gardens: Design and Meaning

By Mitchell Bring, Josse Wayembaugh

Book cover of Japanese Gardens: Design and Meaning

Why this book?

The wonderfully detailed plan and section drawings of eleven important gardens in Kyoto are the stars of this book for me. The introduction situates the gardens in the climate and culture of Japan, later sections of the book discuss historic influences from within and outside Japan, and the final section is a very well-illustrated study of some of the important design principles and construction details utilized in Japanese gardens.


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The World of the Japanese Garden: From Chinese Origins to Modern Landscape Art

By Loraine Kuck

Book cover of The World of the Japanese Garden: From Chinese Origins to Modern Landscape Art

Why this book?

Systematically tracing the origin and history of Japanese gardens back to China and the influences on Chinese gardens, this book provides a great basis for further digging into the foundations of Japanese gardens. It also carefully documents the historical development of gardens in Japan through the mid-twentieth century, situating Japanese garden design as a “vital artistic activity” that both connects to a particular time, place, and culture and transcends it.


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Japanese Gardens

By Gunter Nitschke

Book cover of Japanese Gardens

Why this book?

Focusing on how attitudes toward gardens and nature transformed over time, this book starts with the first gardens in Japan and ends with contemporary examples. The chronological approach emphasizes the transitions from one era and style to the next, while the author focuses in on the important influences and aspects of each. The wide range of ideas and examples draw the reader in and also provide ideas for further “digging in.”  


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