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How to make a Japanese water feature from bamboo yourself!

Japanese gardens are among the most beautiful in the world, because they are based on the model of nature. The Japanese style garden is characterized by the careful selection of garden architecture and plants used. One of the most important elements of a Japanese garden is water, but not in the form of a fountain, as they splash loudly and disturb the silence. A water feature, where water flows over bamboo poles directly into a stone bowl and gently down the walls, is very common in Japanese gardens. Today we will tell you how to build a Japanese water feature from bamboo yourself.

Tsukubai – Japanese water basin

japanese water feature in the garden

In Japan, a tsukubai is a wash basin at the entrance of a sacred tea garden where the tea guest can ritually wash his mouth and hands. This type of ritual cleansing is common for guests attending a tea ceremony or visiting the grounds of a Buddhist temple. The name derives from the verb tsukubau, meaning “to squat down” or “to bow down,” an act of humility. Guests at a tea ceremony squat down and wash their hands in a tsukubai in the tea garden (roji) before entering the tea room.

build japanese water feature

Tsukubai are usually made of stone and are often supplemented by a small ladle. Water is supplied by a bamboo pipe called kakei. Small, natural and original – the tsukubai today fits well even in many domestic gardens. It is ideal for small plots of land, where there is no space for large ponds and other complicated water systems.

Build your own Japanese water feature

build japanese water feature from bamboo and stone by yourself

This Japanese water feature made of bamboo is relatively easy to build. The water circulates in a closed system. It is pumped from a reservoir (it can be a metal or plastic barrel) hidden in the ground to a bamboo pole, the end of which is buried in the ground. Around the basin formed a trough, lined with foil and covered with stones. As a result, the water does not seep into the ground, but flows into a dug reservoir. It is covered from above with a strong metal grid that can support the weight of the stone basin and stones. The grid, on the other hand, is laminated with pebbles. For this reason, of course, it must not be too coarse mesh.

build japanese water feature from bamboo yourself - diagram


When selecting a pump, its capacity (measured in liters of water that the pump delivers per hour) must be adapted to the size of the water system. Also important is the height to which the water should be pumped – the so-called maximum head, which is specified in meters. In order to produce a quiet splashing of water, the pump should be as weak as possible. Optimal would be a 10 watt pump with a capacity of 550 to 600 L/h. Pay attention to the length of the power cable and install an outdoor outlet nearby.

In summer, you should refill the system more often, because the pump should not run dry. In winter, empty the water basin and remove the pump.

Japanese water feature – what else goes with it?

water feature and stone lantern in japanese garden

A Japanese-style garden design is popular for its simplicity and tranquility. The decoration is kept to a minimum. As a rule, various rocks and gravel are used as dominant elements. A true Japanese garden is full of symbolism: every rock and plant, its position and shape has a sacred meaning. It is about creating harmony and balance between plants, stones and the void.

japanese garden water feature


Typical of this style of landscaping are grasses, cherry blossom trees, conifers, Japanese maples , irises and bonsai trees. Many of these plants are evergreens, so the garden looks beautiful even in winter. The Japanese umbrella fir (Sciadopitys verticillata) is a particularly beautiful eye-catcher. It grows very slowly and has an interesting crown shape, but does not tolerate calcareous soils. It is among the 5 sacred temple trees in Japan, along with the Japanese tree of life, Sawara false cypress, Hiba tree of life and Hinoki false cypress.

japanese garden in autumn with bamboo water feature and beautiful plants

Bamboo is also widely used in Japanese gardens. Legend has it that the bamboo canes protect the house from evil spirits. In the garden, bamboo can be used as a natural privacy screen or planted in groups. Since it is a heat-loving plant, it is grown in containers that are dug up over the winter.

Tsukubai water feature do it yourself

Other commonly used small trees and shrubs in Japanese gardens include:

  • Azaleas
  • Boxwoods
  • Forsythia
  • Magnolias
  • Ginkgo biloba
  • Rhododendrons
  • Pines
  • Sedges
  • Golden bulrush (Ligularia dentata)
  • Chinese reed (Miscanthus)
  • Hosta hosta
  • Siberian irises
  • Lilac
  • Foxglove
  • Ferns
  • sedges (Carex)
  • and anemones

In this article you can get inspiration for a planting plan.

build japanese water feature yourself

A Japanese stone lantern also looks particularly good next to a Japanese bamboo water feature. It is a miniature stone or metal house that can be placed in different areas of a garden to illuminate specific areas such as paths, streams or stone statues. If the size of the plot allows it, it is recommended to build a Japanese pavilion or tea house. This way you will create a great place to relax.

Japanese water feature with rocks, pebbles and bamboo