Brightly variegated foliage in yellow and green of Carex Evergold features a tight fountain-like habit, even in the shade. Try planting with Astilbe and Fern to provide a contrast in textures. Maintains a good appearance in summer and winter.
Another replacement idea for Japanese maple. Feijoa sellowiana, pineapple guava. Gorgeous edible blooms, evergreen 7' tall average height. Full sun, drought tolerant. Very cold hardy. Prune to shape, control size or not, attractive either way -- adaptable.