The Seattle Japanese Garden is located in Madison Valley within the Washington Park Arboretum. Over 100,000 people visit every year, including locals as well as visitors from around the world. It is one of the most highly regarded Japanese-style gardens in North America.
About Japanese Gardens
Gardens in Japan are much more than a collections of plants. They have been elevated to an art form. Like other Japanese art forms (examples that come to my mind are Japanese food and the understated but very purposeful tea ceremony), the change is often subtle and unique–in fact, you can miss it altogether if you are simply rushing through.
In addition to trees, flowers, and plants, many other elements might be featured in a Japanese garden, such as bridges, statues, lanterns, fences and gates, teahouses and other buildings, ponds and streams, water basins, and fish. Every element in a Japanese garden has a symbolic meaning that mirrors the beauty of nature.
For example, sand or gravel symbolize a river or water, clouds, and purity. Rocks represent mountains. A stone lantern represents the four natural elements: fire, water, earth and wind. Bridges reflect artistic feelings. Small ponds represent the sea. And so on.
Elements for a particular garden style are carefully chosen. As the garden matures, the garden evolves each season to reveal new shapes, textures, colors, and scents.
The concepts, ideas, and various styles of Japanese garden began around the 7th century and have continued to develop over time.
Styles of Japanese gardens
These are a few of the different styles of traditional Japanese gardens.
- Tsukiyama or Kasan (Hill and Pond Garden): one of the oldest styles of Japanese gardens featuring ponds and hills as well as streams, stones, trees, flowers, bridges, and paths designed to mimic natural scenery.
- Chaniwa (Tea Garden): the main feature is a stone path meant to symbolically take the visitor from the everyday world to an enchanting place (the teahouse).
- Karesansui (Rock/Dry/Zen Garden): a simple garden without plants featuring only combed gravel and large rocks.
- Tsuboniwa (Courtyard Garden): includes element of the hill garden, tea, and Zen gardens.
- Shizensa (Stroll Garden): a large and detailed garden, usually with a pond or lake at its center.
There are many other styles and new styles are constantly being designed, even in the 21st century.
About Seattle Japanese Garden
The 3.5-acre garden is a “stroll” garden based on a design from the late-16th to early-17th century. A stroll gardens takes visitors through varied landscapes. Planned by renowned landscape designer Juki Iida, the Seattle Japanese Garden is faithful to shizensa design and includes stones, water, lanterns, bridges, buildings, plants and animals.
Juki used both traditional Japanese plant materials and Pacific Northwest natives. He famously traveled to the Cascade Mountains to find the granite rocks installed near the waterfall.
A winding path through the garden takes visitors around a central pond. As you stroll, various landscapes are revealed. Benches along the way beckon you to stop so that you can take time to enjoy the garden thoughtfully, using all of your senses. While you can walk through the Seattle Japanese Garden in less than 10 minutes, plan on 30-60 minutes to better appreciate the seasonal beauty.
- Location: Seattle Japanese Garden, 1075 Lake Washington Blvd E, Seattle, Washington 98112.
- Hours: The garden is open Tuesday through Sunday, with seasonal changes in hours.
- Admission: Adults 18-64: $8. Youths 6–17 and Senior Adults 65+: $4. Children 0-5: FREE.
- Parking is free.
- Membership begins at $25 and includes free admission for one year plus other benefits.
Tours and Special Events at Japanese Garden
First Viewing spring re-opening event. The public is invited inside the gate for the new season. First Viewing begins with the dramatic flair of a Shinto blessing, a formal ceremony that’s been conducted in Japan since ancient times. The blessing will usher in auspicious ki –life energy– for a successful new year. A Shinto blessing is a formal ceremony that’s been conducted in Japan since ancient times. The blessing will usher in auspicious ki –life energy– for a successful new year.
Take a free guided tour. Available April through October and included with the price of admission. Check their website event calendar for details.
Tea Ceremony or Chado (The Way of Tea). This 40-minute presentation takes place in a traditional roji garden setting. Reservations are required. Tickets: $10. Check their website for details.
Moon Viewing Festival in autumn. Welcome the arrival of the full moon in Japanese tradition. The garden is magically lit up with lanterns and luminaries welcoming the arrival of the full moon. お月見 (otsukimi), moon viewing, dates back to 8th century Japan, when on the 8th month of the old Japanese calendar, aristocrats celebrated the beauty of the autumnal full moon with poetry and music. Check our event calendar (below) or visit their website for more information.
Maple Viewing Festival in autumn. Momijigari (紅葉狩り) is the beloved tradition of appreciating nature’s art. Each day brings out more colors to the Seattle Japanese Garden during this time of year creating a breathtaking view.
- When: October 8-17, 2021. Closed Monday.
- Adults 18-64: $8. Youths 6–17 and Senior Adults 65+: $4. Children 0-5: FREE.
- Self-guided maple tour brochures are available at the gatehouse all day.
- New scavenger hunt will be available Friday – Sunday, 10am-2pm during the festival.
Don’t miss the Northwest Nikkei by Michelle Kumata in the Tateuchi Community Room displayed through the end of October.
Find special events in the calendar below or visit the Seattle Japanese Garden website.
Upcoming Garden Tours & Special Events
The following calendar list includes garden tours and gardening events throughout the Puget Sound region.
(If nothing is listed below, there are no upcoming garden tours or events in our calendar. Theoretically this shouldn’t happen. We update garden events throughout the year, but especially in spring and fall.)
Sunday, October 17, 2021
Monday, October 18, 2021
Monday, November 1, 2021
Saturday, November 6, 2021
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
Wednesday, December 1, 2021
But wait, there’s more!
- Check our list of Home & Garden shows in the Puget Sound region.
- Bookmark our list of home gardening resources and plant sales.
- And here’s a list of 101+ always free things to do for fun.
- More free and cheap things to do every day: Greater Seattle on the Cheap event calendar.
- Still more ideas for frugal fun: Greater Seattle on the Cheap home page.
Love our cheap ideas? Get our FREE email newsletters. Choose from daily, weekly, and monthly lists. Click here to subscribe.
Seattle, WA 98112