Lawn Care in Japan
Grass and product reference
Types of Grass
Japan primarily uses kourai shiba (高麗芝), a slower-growing long-stalk variety of grass. It’s known as zoysia in the US.
Other types of grass are available online, notably Baroness varieties and American blends of bluegrass and fescues.
However, most lawn-care products (week-killers and fertilizers) are geared for kourai shiba. Using these products may kill your grass. I’ve tried seeding the lawn with Baroness on top of a kourai shiba base. It did not work, or it hasn’t worked visibly.
Kourai shiba can be purchased as rolls (primarily for developers and gardeners) or as stacks of pre-cut, dehydrated sod. In my experience, the sod stacks were highly effective and grew very well. The rolls tended to give us an uneven lawn, as there were patches with good grass, little grass, or no grass. That, and developers do not care too much so long as the lawn looks OK.
Sod stacks are about 500 yen for half a square meter or so.
Kourai shiba is easy to care for. It will brown in the summer and in the winter, but it provides a pleasant, if a little hard, feel on feet. American grass is softer but may require more maintenance.
Kourai shiba does send long runners into new areas. It is extremely invasive if there are no permanent borders beside the grass. It has invaded and grown through an area with both an anti-grass cover sheet (woven plastic) and small rocks layered on top of that. It has also sought out the small cracks in a layed-brick path and is living successfully in such cramped areas.
Kourai shiba grows well in shady areas. If water is insufficient (especially in hot summers), the grass will grow slowly and brown.
I’ve had to cut the grass about once every two-three weeks depending on how shady (and water-retentive) it is in the summer. Kourai shiba can be cut very close to the base without much damage, but it depends on soil condition and water retention.
More and different information can be found at ShibaBlog.