Are you in love with all things Japanese? Thinking about converting your yard into a classic Japanese water garden? That could be quite the project. Before you get started, here is what this project will entail, as well as some salient points about culture and garden design to help you decide if you should attempt this garden project.
First and foremost, when you are not Japanese or Japanese-American, you want to be sure that a project like this will not be viewed as culturally insensitive. The Japanese and Japanese-Americans take great pride in their water gardens and you do not want to insult their mastery of this landscaping medium and design. That means you cannot incorporate garden features from other Asian countries just because you like those features and then call it a Japanese water garden. If you want, you could do an "Asian fusion" garden, which is also acceptable, but you will need to hire a landscape designer (like Boyer WH) to do either of these gardens proper justice.
A Japanese water garden will require that you unearth most of your yard to create proper ponds and waterways. If you are undisturbed by this idea, then you can get started. You will also need to fence in the garden to prevent accidental drownings of small children, and you will need some way to fill and clean the ponds and waterways. Filters can be installed within the pond basins, but then you will also need an electrician to connect the filters. If you also intend to install lighting in the ponds or along your foot bridge over the pond, that can be done when the electrician sets up the wiring for the filter systems.
On the other hand, if you go completely traditional, pond basins, filters and electrical lighting are all out. A completely natural approach is to dig your ponds and waterways, fill the bottoms with gravel and sand and leave room to plant your Japanese water plants around the edges of the pond. (You will still need the fence for safety reasons.) Then you will have to learn how to keep your little ecosystem in balance by testing the water and adding the correct microbes and solutions to it so that your Koi fish do not get sick and your plants survive. Overall, it is a lot to do, and a lot to learn, but that is what makes it more interesting and attractive than just the standard flowers and trees landscaping.