Garden design is Japan’s most noteworthy contribution to the artistic world that still prevails today. Japanese landscaping was heavily influenced by the Chinese gardens during the Asuka period. The Chinese gardening technique was slowly adapted and transformed into traditional Japanese aesthetic standards, soon to become the most popular artistic movement in the country for centuries to come. Japanese gardening continues to inspire landscape designers from all over the world, but the best gardens can still be found in the Asian country:
1. Kenroku-en [Ishiwaka Prefecture]
Credit: FlickrKenroku-en is often regarded as one of Japan’s three most beautiful landscape gardens. Located next to Kanazaga’s Castle, Kenroku-en was created and maintained by the Maeda family, who ruled the territory during the 19th Century. The garden features a big artificial pond, a two-meter tall stone lantern and an enormous collection of flowering trees. Kenroku-en roughly translates to “having six factors” because it possesses all the attributes a garden must have, according to traditional Chinese standards: spaciousness, seclusion, antiquity, artificiality, plenty of water and beautiful views. Admission is 310 yen for adults.
Address: 1 Kenrokumachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture 920-0936Access:By bus: take the Kanazawa Bus Loop and get off at the Kenrokuen stop.Recommended period: Spring and Fall.Contact:Kenroku-enWithin Japan: 76-234-3800
2. Kokedera [Kyoto Prefecture]
Credit: Wikimedia CommonsThe moss-covered garden of Kokedera, in Kyoto city, is one of Japan’s World Heritage Sites. The garden is complementary to the Saihō-ji temple, a Zen Buddhist house of worship built during the Nara period which currently offers visitors the opportunity to experience some of the temple’s religious activities. The entrance fee (3,000 yen) is the highest in Japan for a monument of this type. All guests must make a reservation in advance via post mail, as means to preserve the delicate moss that covers the area from large groups of tourists.
Address: 56 Matsuojingatanicho, Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 615-8286Access:By subway: get off at Matsuo Taisha Station, on the Hankyu Arashiyama Line.Recommended period: Anytime.Contact:KokederaWithin Japan: 75-391-3631
3. Katsura Imperial Villa [Kyoto Prefecture]
Credit: FlickrKatsura Imperial Villa is one of Japan’s most treasured relics. Its gardens, regarded as Japanese landscaping masterpieces, are amongst the most impressive in all of Asia. The villa was built in 1645 as a residence for the Imperial Family, and is now open to the public with guided tours offered by the Imperial Household Agency. Visits to the Imperial Villa are tightly controlled and only a few lucky people are allowed inside every day. Photographs are forbidden inside the palace.
Address: Katsuramisono, Nishikyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 615-8014Access:By subway: get off at Katsura Station, on the Hankyu Kyoto Line. It’s a 15-minute walk from there.Recommended period: Anytime.Contact:Katsura Imperial VillaWithin Japan: 75-211-1215
4. Ritsurin Koen [Kagawa Prefecture]
Credit: Wikimedia CommonsRitsurin Koen is a large garden (750,000 square meters) located in the city of Takamatsu, and an official Special Place of Scenic Beauty according to the Japanese Government. Daily tours are carried out in the garden passing through ponds, tea houses, numerous bridges, wooden boardwalks, museums, shops and hundreds of beautiful trees. Ritsurin Koen uses the ancient shakkei—or ‘borrowed scenery’—technique, which incorporates an already existing natural landscape (usually mountains or rivers) into the background of the composition.
Address: 1-20-16 Ritsurin-cho, Takamatsu-shi, KagawaAccess:By train: 10-minute walk from the JR Takamatsu Station, on the Kotohira Line.Recommended period: Anytime.Contact:Ritsurin KoenWithin Japan: 87-833-7411
5. Koraku-en [Okayama Prefecture]
Credit: all-free-photosKoraku-en is one of Japan’s Three Great Gardens, along with Kenroku-en and Kairaku-en. Located on the bank of the Aashi River, Koraku-en offers stunning views of the creek and the Okayama Castle, located next to the complex as part of the borrowed scenery. Apart from the usual features of a Japanese garden, Koraku-en also holds an archery range and an aviary, home to eight cranes.
Address: 1-5 Korakuen, Kita Ward, Okayama, Okayama Prefecture 703-8257Access:By train: 25-minute walk from Okayama Station.By tram: take the Higashiyama Line to Shiroshita. The garden is a 5-minute walk from the tram stop.By bus: take a bus outside Okayama Station to the Korakuen-mae stop, located outside the garden’s main gate.Recommended period: Anytime.Contact:Koraku-enWithin Japan: 86-272-1148
6. Sankei-en [Kanagawa Prefecture]
Credit: Wikimedia CommonsSankei-en is the best traditional Japanese garden within the Greater Tokyo area, and it’s definitely the best choice for international visitors staying in the country’s capital city. There are several historically significant buildings located inside the garden, including a feudal lord residence, a three-story pagoda brought to Yokohama from Kyoto, and several tea houses. The Kakushokaku, which used to be the official residence of the Hara family, can now be rented for private parties by the general public.
Address: 58-1 Honmokusannotani, Naka Ward, Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture 231-0824Access:By bus: take bus number 8 or 125 Yokohama Station to Honmoku Sankeien-mae. The garden is a 5-minute walk from there.Recommended period: Anytime.Contact:Sankei-enWithin Japan: 45-621-0634by Virginia Gonzalez