Although rocks are conspicuous in Japanese gardens, their use is quite different from that in Western rock gardens, where the aim is to duplicate natural rock formations as closely as possible. The rocks in a Japanese garden are considered individually as sculptural pieces, and either stand alone or are grouped for strong accents. The more rugged rocks symbolize mountains and cliffs, the rounded, waterworn boulders suggest river-beds.

Stepping-stones arranged in a variety of interesting patterns provide charming paths that sometimes lead a stroller across water. Natural stone steps are often found on slopes. Bridges, of many styles, and of wood or stone, are installed only where they serve the purpose of spanning water or simulated water.