Japanese gardens embody peace, contemplation and beauty, offering a respite from the busy world outside. Although there is diversity in Japanese garden design, three fundamental elements are always present: stone, water and plants. With these guidelines in mind, you can create a Japanese garden as simple or elaborate as your imagination and backyard space allow.
Investigate Japanese gardens online, in books, or go and see them or pick any theme. It might be Zen temple style, which tends to be very different than the Shinto, or the imperial style. Some are for contemplation and meditation, some are for strolling through, so there are other aspects to consider
There are elemental characteristics that are important to Japanese Gardens. Stone (known as Suseiki), water (ponds, streams, fountains, waterfalls, etc.) as well as planting alignments are quite important. Consider the sculptural aspects. Some examples of these are lanterns, pavilions, pagoda, stepping stones and gravel, water bowls, deer chasers, fencing or screens, etc.
Pick a nice large area. Slopes and small hills add to the charm if you have them, however they can also add to the workload. There are Japanese gardens for both flat and hilly terrain. Decide on your plants. These vary from bamboo, maples, cherry blossom trees, azalea, camellia, iris, moss etc.
Expect change. This is a central part of the Buddhist philosophy, but it's also part of the garden as it will change with the seasons such so there will be flowering periods, no leaf periods etc. By expecting it you can use it for maximum impact by putting plants where they will stand out as the leaves change colour etc. Decide where the plants are going to go. Work with the landscape as that will make the garden more natural, but also more beautiful than heavy terrascaping. If you want a pond select a medium area.
Buy the plants that you want, and put them in the marked spots. Examine them in-situ while still in the pots to decide on appearances before putting them in the ground. You may need to redesign your plan.
Build the pond according to directions from the supplier. Fill the pond with water and allow it to settle for a few days before testing and adjusting the PH of the water (if needed) before adding plants and fish.
Install your added sculptures such as large tall stones, stone lanterns or pagoda etc. Put a bench in a place where you can see the pond and a clear view of all the flowers.