Embrace serenity in Hamilton's Japanese Garden of Contemplation

Let your mind relax into the serene and peaceful landscape at Hamilton Gardens.

The Japanese Garden of Contemplation at Hamilton Gardens follows ancient rules of landscape design to create a calm, restful space. Take some time to contemplate the carefully laid out arrangements from your seat in the Abbott’s Quarters, and after a moment you will feel your mind relax into the serene, peaceful landscape.  This is a garden that embraces contradiction in all its forms: you will see contradictory pairs such as movement/stillness, complexity/simplicity, vastness/ smallness, and even wet/dry.


The karesansui (dry landscape) gardens of the Muromachi era of Japanese history are amongst the most austere garden designs ever created. Within tightly bounded compositions of gravel, rocks, and only the minimum of vegetation, they evoke vast landscapes of mountains, oceans, and forests – although the final interpretation of the arrangement is always up to the individual viewer. These dry landscape gardens are often called ‘Zen gardens’ because the most renowned examples are found in Zen temple complexes in Japan. However, while their underlying design does use Zen Buddhist concepts of ‘the void’, ‘movement without movement’, and so on, the deep sense of contemplation that they produce in the viewer goes beyond any particular religion and can be enjoyed by everybody.

The scroll garden, on the other side of the Abbott’s Quarters, shares some features with the karesansui. Both gardens are designed to be enjoyed from a single perspective. Both gardens create a miniature version of a vast landscape with year-round interest, and both gardens are intended to create a feeling of peace and serenity in the viewer. However, the scroll garden is much more literal in its approach.

Visit Hamilton Gardens and be transported into a story which explores the arrival of Buddhism into Japan.

Hamilton Gardens

Hamilton Gardens is a conceptual garden based in the Waikato that explores the context, history and meaning of gardens through time, and from around the world. It is internationally recognised for its unique concept and is the Waikato region’s most popular tourist destination. 

Only five minutes drive from Hamilton’s CBD, the Gardens is open 7 days a week during daylight hours and entry and parking is free. Mobility scooters, wheelchairs and pushchairs are available to hire and guided tours are available.

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