Step through the iconic red torii and discover a world of seasonal delights that invites you to pause and appreciate the elements of traditional Japanese garden design. From the bold winter structure of thoughtfully pruned shrubs and trees, to the delicate spring cherry blossoms, cool summer walks through the towering bamboo, and the brilliant fall color of Japanese maples, there is always something new to experience in the Japanese Garden.
All who enter the garden must pass under the torii, or “gateway to heaven,” a traditional Japanese garden gate that symbolizes the visitor’s passage from our world to the sacred place of the garden.
Kayser Cherry Walk
As you walk down the main path into the garden there are dozens of Yoshino cherries whose pale pink blooms are a showstopper in early spring. These fleeting blossoms are highlighted at the annual Sakura, or cherry blossom, Festival, which celebrates the beauty and ephemerality of life.
Passing through the Taylor Gate you will discover an authentic karesansui, or dry landscape garden. Traditionally used as a contemplation space, the karesansui has a simple composition of rocks and raked gravel, but it is rich in meaning, evoking the mountains and seas of Japan.
Just beyond is a 16th-century, Sukiya-style teahouse, made completely from materials brought from Japan and built by Kazunori Tago, one of the finest miyadaiku, or Japanese temple and shrine builders, using only traditional tools and techniques. Surrounding the teahouse is a roji, or traditional tea garden, and yoritsuki, or waiting hut. This space is meant to prepare the mind for participating in chado, Japanese tea ceremony.
Hill and Stream Garden
Beginning at the top of the hill just beyond the teahouse and cascading through the heart of the garden is the Seven Virtues Waterfall symbolizing bushido, the way of the samurai: benevolence, courage, honesty, honor, loyalty, integrity, and respect. Follow the stream down the hill past the Moore Cultural Pavilion to Long Life Lake, where you can view colorful koi and other wildlife from two iconic bridges.
Along the eastern edge of Long Life Lake, follow our accessible Protective Life Boardwalk to escape into the tranquil bamboo forest. Woven into the towering collection of 34 bamboo species are two authentic Japanese granite welcome lanterns, gifts from Birmingham’s sister city Hitachi.
Fun Facts: Japanese Garden
The name Toshinan (pronounced toe-shi-nan) means “the house where those gathered can light a wick of understanding in each other’s hearts.”
From spring through fall, the Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens offers yoga classes at the open-air Moore Cultural Pavilion.
Volunteers with the Friends of Birmingham Botanical Gardens meet each Tuesday morning to care for this special space. To learn more and get involved, visit bbgardens.org/volunteer.
Japan’s tradition of installing lanterns in gardens dates to the seventh century. Lanterns found here are tachi-gata (pedestal lanterns), ikekomegata (buried lanterns), yukimi-gata (“snow-viewing” lanterns), and a spirit lantern.