Sooner or later you will want to start gathering useful terms used in the Japanese gardening community and in publications. Every term you learn will be a tool in your learning. Here is a dynamic list of more than 150 Japanese gardening terms as used in Japanese Gardening Organization’s resources (see also Tea Terms).
aisatsu 挨拶 – greetings such as “Good morning.”
aranami-mon 荒波紋 – lines raked in karesansui gravel representing large storm waves. It resembles patterns of raindrop ripples partially merging.
Aso-san 阿蘇山- Mount Aso is the active volcano that stands above Kumamoto prefecture on the Kyushu island of Japan. There is a symbolic Aso-san and Fuji-san in Kumamoto En.
azukibachi – a skillful combination of ingredients from the other kaiseki dishes meant to demonstrate no waste, typically in the tea ceremony.
azumaya 東屋 – most often a free-standing, four-sided tea-waiting arbor with a pyramid roof. The symbol used for the Katsura Manji-tei is 宮卍. The “manji” arrangement has the four benches arranged where they do not face each other.
chabana 茶花 – “tea flowers”. 2 or 3 flowers and branches arranged naturally, and for the purpose of the tea ceremony. Often in a hanging bamboo vase on the left side in the tokonoma.
chaire 茶入- tea container for koicha.
chaji 茶事 – the term used today for a formal tea gathering. The host will serve a meal in the tea kaiseki style, but the emphasis is on thin tea (usucha) and thick tea (koicha). An abbreviated gathering where no meal is served is called ‘chakai’ (tea meeting).
chakai 茶 会 – was the word used 400 years ago for Chaji. Today, it is used for an informal tea gathering, usually a sweet and bowl of thin tea (usucha).
chakin 茶巾 – a linen tea cloth.
Chanoyu 茶の湯 – means “hot water for tea,” and refers to the Japanese tea ceremony and the” Way of Tea”.
A Chanoyu Vocabulary: Practical Terms for the Way of Tea – Japanese-English translation of Tea terms. More information here.
chasen 茶筅 – tea whisk. It is made from bamboo and used to make ceremonial tea as well as to apply the “dew” to flower arrangements for the tea ceremony.
chashaku 茶杓 – tea scoop. It is carved from bamboo and bent by heat. It is often made by Buddhist priests, giving it a special association.
chashitsu 茶室 – a traditional tearoom used for chaji or chakai. It can be a free-standing building or a room within another building.
chawan 茶碗 – tea bowl. In Tea, it refers to the bowl used to make and serve ceremonial tea.
chidorigake 千鳥掛 – Zigzag pattern used in arranging stepping stones.
chiriana 塵穴 – dust hole. This is a mortared or cement hole placed in area in full view of guests and near the teahouse entry. A symbol of disposing of the dust and clutter of the garden as guests dispose of dust and clutter of the world outside.
chisen kaiyuushiki 泉回 – the typical stroll garden designed around a central pond.
choku’uchi 直打 – A straight line as a type of stepping-stones configuration
chozubachi 手水鉢 – stone basin for washing. Chozubachi are used as part of the tsukubai, or “place where one must bend down”. It is part of the physical and spiritual cleansing in order to partake in the tea ceremony. In the tsukubai, it is always placed low so one must crouch down in order to use it.
chūmon 中門 – middle gate. This is the middle gate within a tea garden. It is the passage from the outer garden to the inner tea garden, and the symbolic door from the outside world to the inner pure world of tea.
Daimaru or Takashimaya – two very comprehensive department stores in Kyoto.
Daimyo 大 名 – the Japanese Lord of the Land (10th – 19th century Japan). It is literally “Great Names”, these were the heads of powerful clans who controlled domains and provinces in medieval Japan.
dora 銅鑼 – gong. The gong is rung a number of times, depending on the number of guests, to let tea ceremony attendees know that all is ready for the first part of the ceremony.
“Dozo oshimae kudasai.” – “Please go ahead and finish (making tea).” It is a phrase to let the host know it is ok to stop making tea and move on to the next part.
engawa 縁側 – the veranda that serves as a link between the outdoor garden and traditional Japanese dwelling, typically with sliding panels to protect it from the elements or open it completely to the outdoors.
enshaku 遠借 – a type of shakkei using a distant borrowed scene.
enshū 遠州 – 5 stones set in a pattern to orient the visitor to certain view directions.
fujibai 藤灰 – wisteria ash used for decoration.
Fuji-san 富士山 – the highest and most famous of Japan’s mountains.
Furuta Oribe 古田織部 – well-known tea master and warlord. He is credited with many innovations in the tea garden and ceremony.
fūro 風呂 – portable brazier used in the warm season; usually May to October. Also the word for the traditional Japanese hot bath.
furokama 風炉釜 – furo (brazier) and kama (iron kettle) used to heat water for tea. It is used in the warm season; usually from May to October.
futaoki 蓋置 – the lid rest.
gozumi 後炭 – second charcoal procedure of the tea ceremony.
Gyo 行 – of the semi-formal style. It is sometimes used to describe Japanese glazed ceramics.
hama 浜 – beach, coast or river bank.
haifuki 灰吹 – bamboo cylinder for ashes. It is a bamboo tube containing a small amount of water for the disposal of ash from the tobacco pipe.
haiken 拝見 – to inspect, look over, or admire objects.
hashi 階 – rising steps or bridge.
hashibasami 橋挟 – the four “anchor” stones at the corners of a stone bridge. These stones give the feeling of direction and stability to the bridge arrangement.
hishaku 柄杓 – water ladle made of bamboo.
hanaire 花入 – flower vase for tea arrangement.
hanki 飯器 – a dish used to serve rice.
hanto – the host’s assistant.
hasun 八寸, a small wooden cedar tray which is 8 sun (about 8 inches) with food from the mountains and food from the ocean. It is part of the kaiseki meal.
Heian period 平安時代 – the period of Japanese history from 794 to 1185 known for art, poetry and literature.
hiire 火入れ – lit charcoal container. A small container with ash and a lit piece of charcoal to light the tobacco in the smoking pipe.
hishaku 柄杓 – water ladle made of bamboo.
“ichi go ichi e” 一期一会 – “One chance, one opportunity”. A phrase meaning this time together is a one time opportunity, so make the best of it. Wikipedia explains the term as “linked with Zen Buddhism and concepts of transience. The term is particularly associated with the Japanese tea ceremony, and is often brushed onto scrolls which are hung in the tea room. In the context of tea ceremony, ichi-go ichi-e reminds participants that each tea meeting is unique”.
ichimatsu-mon 市松紋 – Checkered pattern raked into karesansui gravel. It can be smooth squares alternating with raked pattern squares.
“ Ichio oshimae itashimasu” – “I will finish for now.”
ike-gaki 生垣- a hedge of live plants trained to create a fence.
ishi 石- stone
ishi-bachi 石橋- stone bridge. It is more commonly called “ishibashi“
ishi-dōrō 石灯籠 – (ishidourou) Japanese stone lantern. See the Stone Lanterns reference for more information.
ishi-gaki 石垣- a wall of stone used as a fence, foundation, or foundation for a fence.
itabei 板塀 – a fence made of horizontal wooden planks with a top frame, roof or plate to protect the fence boards.
izumi ishi-gumi 湧水石組 – spring water stone arrangement. An arrangement to represent a mountain spring. See also wakimizu ishi-gumi.
jima 島- island. Also “shima“.
kaiseki 懐石 – tea meal. It is the name for the “simple meal” that is in reality a very carefully created meal that is served in tea ceremonies. Kaiseki cooking is based on the lunar calendar and includes many dishes using the foods available in the season. It is made up of many special dishes. It is said that the idea came from the warm stones that some Buddhists would use during long seshin they take part in. The warm stone, wrapped in a cotton cloth would be placed in the kai or front opening of the samue (Monks work clothes) or kimono to warm the body and trick the stomach into feeling full.
kaishi 懐紙 – multi-purpose paper napkins carried in the kimono.
kakehi 篔 – a bamboo spout associated with chōzubachi. When kakehi is written with the characters 掛樋, it can refer to a hanging or suspended pipe, or similar objects made of stone, or pipes to drain rice paddies.
kaki 垣 – fence (also “gaki”)
kakemono, 掛け物 – hanging scroll with painting or calligraphy to hang in the tokonoma.
kame 亀 – turtle. A Japanese symbol of good luck and long life.
kame-jima 亀島 – turtle island (also kame-shima). A symbolic island garden feature resembling the shape of a turtle, typically with stones representing the head, tail and feet. It a symbol of longevity.
kansha suru 感謝する – to be thankful for.
karenagare 枯流 – a dry stream or watercourse often depicted by raked sand and stoney shores
karetaki 枯滝 – a dry waterfall created from carefully arranged stones where edge stones make up the land and vertical stones symbolize cascading waters.
karikomi 刈込 – sheared plants to create round shapes resembling moss covered stones in the Japanese garden. See also ‘o-karikomi’.
karesansui 枯山水 – dry garden where water and motion are represented by carefully arranged stones and patterns raked in sand.
Katsura gaki 桂垣 – a bamboo fence type named from Katsura Detached Palace in Kyoto.
Katsura Rikyu 桂離宮 – Detached Palace in Kyoto, Japan. It is known for the excellent gardens and structures surrounding the central lake.
Kawaramono 河原者- A class of outcast people living on the banks of the Kamo and Katsura rivers who provided labor for menial and unpleasant tasks. Some became known for their skill in placing stones in garden construction and were known as senzui kawaramono 山水河原者, and recognized for skills once held by priests.
Kenninji-gaki 建仁寺垣 – a style of bamboo fence named for its use in Kennin-ji Temple. See Kenninji gaki for more information.
kensui 建水 – discard water container.
kiri-ishijiki 切石敷 – cut paving stones such as those used in the” Shin” or formal paths in the Katsura Detached Palace.
ko chakin 小茶巾 – small tea cloth for guests. A guest uses it to wipe that area of the rim from which they drank.
kodai – the base or foot of a Japanese bowl or cup.
kogo 香合 – incense container, often containing sandalwood chips.
koicha 濃茶 – thick tea.
koshikake machiai 腰掛け待ち合い – a waiting room in the inner garden. Tea guests would wait here in the beginning and in between parts of a tea ceremony.
kozuimono 小吸物 – a clear soup to cleanse the pallet before the exchange of saki.
kuromatsu 黒松 – Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii).
kuromoji 黒文字 – small sticks used to pick up and eat tea sweets.
kyaku-ishi 客石 – visitor stone. This is a wide stepping stone just outside the chuumon (middle gate) of the garden.
Don Pylant, 2004
ma 間- a space between objects and the interval of time between thoughts, emotions, or events. It is this space that defines, then releases experiences and feelings. It is an important element in Japanese garden design.
machiai 待合 – tea waiting room, usually with three walls and a pitched roof, leaving the front open.
mae-ishi 前石 – a low, flat stone set in front of a chozubachi or lantern and used to stand on. It is 3 or 4 inches higher that the stepping stones.
miegakure 見隠 – a technique whereby hiding a garden element and providing only a partial view creates expectation. It is well expressed in the phrase, “the flower bud, hidden from the eyes, becomes a bloom.”
mitate 見立 – to see a thing with different purpose. An example would be the use of a millstone as a paving stone.
mizu-mon 水紋 – concentric circular lines raked into the gravel around ‘island’ stones in the karesansui arrangement. Resembles the pattern caused by a pebble tossed into water.
mizu-sashi 水指 – cold water container.
mizu-hotaru toro 水蛍燈籠 – also “mizu botaru” water-firefly lantern. See Mizu-hotaru Toro for more information.
mizu-waki ishi 水分石 – water separating stone near the bottom of a waterfall separating a stream into two streams.
momiji もみぢ – Japanese maple (Acer palmatum or Acer japonicum).
mon 門 – Gate, a garden element used to give separation to spaces of different purpose or value. The expectation is that each gate leads to a more sacred or valued place.
naguri-shiage 名栗仕上げ – a decorative scalloped pattern created by an adze on wood.
niju-masu 二重桝 – double measure. This is the “container within a container” design used in some chozubachi basins.
niwa 庭 – an open space reserved for a certain purpose, now used to indicate “garden”.
nobedan 延段– a paving for long stone path segments using cut stone, natural stone, or a mixture.
nozura ishi-gumi 野面石組 – field stone arrangement. In the Daimyo fence, it can be a knee wall on which the fence is built.
o-karikomi – 大刈込み – a group of shrubs or other plants to create a larger shape. See also ‘karikomi’.
Oribe Lantern 織部灯籠 – a stone garden lantern named for Furuta Oribe, a well-known warlord and tea master. See Oribe lantern for more information.
rangui 乱杭 – palisade-like edging constructed of wood posts set vertically.
rōji 露地 – (also roji) the “Dewy Path”. The garden path from the ordinary world to the world of tea.
ryū kuchihige 竜口髭 -(also ryū-no-hige) dragon’s mustache. A term used for dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus nana).
ryūsui 流水 – Running water pattern raked into the gravel of karesansui to represent flowing rivers or streams.
sabi さび – the essence of beauty in something aged or worn.
sandan no ishi gumi – 三段の滝 – three stage waterfall.
sanko doro 三光灯籠 – three lights lantern. This is a moveable stone lantern named for its three lights – the sun, the moon, and the stars. See sanko doro for more information.
sansui 山水 – literal is mountain and water, but has come to mean landscape.
sawatobi ishi 沢飛石 – stepping stones crossing water
sazanami-mon 漣紋 – straight or wavy lines representing water ripples in the raked gravel of karesansui.
sanzon butsu 三尊仏 – an arrangement of 3 stones, typically consisting of a central vertical stone flanked by two subordinate diagonal or horizontal stones. Sometimes used to represent Buddha and disciples.
sasa 笹 – bamboo grass.
seigaiha-mon 青海波紋 – pattern of semicircles resembling interlocking fish scales or ocean waves used in karesansui gravel designs.
shakkei 借景 – using “borrowed landscape” from outside the garden as a part of the garden composition.
shin 真 – of the formal style. It is sometimes used to describe Japanese glazed ceramics.
Shōgun 将軍 – a military leader, usually inheriting the post.
so 草 – (also “sou”) of the informal style. It is sometimes used to describe Japanese glazed ceramics.
sode-gaki 袖垣 – “sleve fence” a fence section attached a building for a screen or private area. Named for its resemblance to a kimono sleeve.
sotetsu 蘇鉄 – sago palm (Cycas revoluta).
sotoroji 外露地 – the outer portion of the Tea garden outside the middle gate.
suikinkutsu 水琴窟 – a water basin with an underground ceramic jar. As water drips through a hole in the jar, drops echo inside, creating a beautiful sound.
souan 草庵 thatched roof hut tea house.
suimon 水門 – water gate. This hole serves as a drain and to regulate the water in the drain basin of a tsukubai.
Suizenji Park 水前寺 – a well-known Japanese garden located in downtown Kumamoto, Japan.
Takara-bune 宝船 – treasure ship of the 7 deities from China, India and Japan, usually depicted by a boat-shaped stone in the garden’s water or karesansui.
taiko bashi 太鼓橋 – hemispherical, high arched bridge made of stone or wood. When positioned over a pool of reflecting water, the reflection completes the circle shape to resemble a Japanese drum.
take bishaku 竹柄杓 – a bamboo ladle used to dip water to purify the mouth and hands before entering a sacred place.
take-gaki 竹垣 – bamboo fence. When living bamboo is trained to make a fence, it is sasa-gaki 笹垣.
take-zutsu 竹筒 – a generic term for bamboo pipes.
taki の滝 – waterfall
taki-gumi 滝組石 – stone waterfall arrangement. It can be either a wet waterfall or dry kare-take 枯滝 symbolic waterfall.
tamamono 滝組石 – stone waterfall arrangement. It can be either a wet waterfall or dry kare-take 枯滝 symbolic waterfall. Also the term used for hemispherical shaped shrubs.
tenba 天端 – the apparent top flat surface of a stone or structural member.
teoke 手桶 – a Japanese water bucket, usually of wood or split bamboo.
teshoku 手燭 – a hand-carried candle holder. It is usually iron with three legs.
teshoku-ishi 燭石 – a stone for holding a lantern or candlestick holder. It is flat-topped stone, shorter than the youke-ishi and placed to the left of the basin. The Uresenke School of Tea calls for it to be located on the right. It is used during a night-time tea ceremony.
tobi-ishi 飛石 – Stepping stones for the roji or tea garden path.
Togetsu-kyō 渡月橋- or “moon crossing bridge”. A Kyoto landmark, this long bridge near mount Arashiyama spans the Oi River and is known for reflections of its beautiful scenery in the waters below. It gets its name from a history of being a place to enjoy moon viewing.
tokonoma 床の間 – An alcove in a room or teahouse for the honored display of art and treasured items. In the tea ceremony, it is a place to set the mood of the meeting by the flowers and scroll hung there.
tome-ishi 止め石 – a usually round, smooth stone tied with palm rope and standing knot placed on the entry or first stone of a path indicating that this path is not to be used at this time.
tourou 灯籠 – Stone lantern. See ishi-doro.
tsuboniwa 坪庭 – a courtyard garden.
tsukiyama 築山 – an artificial mountain or hill, often recreating a famous mountain landmark.
tsukubai つくばい – “place where one must bend down”. The tsukubai is a place rather than the basin itself. It is in the inner roji and centered around a chozubachi surrounded by special stones such as the crouching stone, lantern stone, hot water stone, etc. The tsukubai area is usually 5 to 15 steps from the tearoom.
tsukubai hishaku つくばい柄杓 – an oversized hishaku (wooden tea water ladle) used to draw water to rinse the mouth and hands. It usually rests on the edge of the chozubachi.
tsuru 鶴 – crane, also a symbol of good luck and long life, fidelity and peace.
tsurushima 鶴島 – (also tsuru-jima) crane island.
tsuyu 露 – dew. The tea flower arrangement is sprinkled with water to emulate dew – a sign of freshness.
uchiroji 内露地 – the inner Tea garden between the middle gate and the Tea house. This is where the tsukubai is located.
ume 梅 – plum or plum tree.
umi 海 – the sea or beach.
Urasenke (Ura Senke) 裏千家 – a school of the Way of Tea.
wabi わび – simple beauty.
wakimizu ishi-gumi 湧水石組 – spring water stone arrangement. An arrangement to represent a mountain spring.
yaku-ishi 役石 – named stones that play and important role in the tea garden. Here, it refers to the 4 stones used in the tsukubai arrangement.
yama 役石 – mountain, including symbolic mountain.
Yasuimoku Koumuten Company – designer of Kumamoto En. The company has specialized in renovation, restoration and construction of traditional Japanese structures since the late 1700’s.
yatsuhashi 八橋 – low, wood plank bridge in a zig-zag pattern over a shallow pond. The name means ‘eight planks bridge’, but refers to any similar bridge. The are often associated with water iris gardens.
yoritsuki 寄付 – waiting room in the outer tea garden to prepare for invitation to come to machiai, or room immediately inside an entrance below the raised floor.
yuoke-ishi 湯桶石 – stone for warm water pail. It is taller than the teshoku-ishi and usually to the right of the water basin. The Uresenke School of Tea calls for it to be located on the left. A bucket of warm water placed on this stone would be used in cold weather instead of the chozubachi.
zazen-ishi 座禅石 – meditation stone. Usually a large, flat-toped boulder one may sit upon for meditation in the garden.