Famous Gardens in Japan

Kodaiji temple garden

kodaiji garden pond light-upkodaiji garden

The garden of Kodaiji was redesigned by the renowned landscape architect Kobori Enshu form an older garden located on the same site. Kodaiji temple garden is famous for its excellent stone layout, it is one of the finest gardens of its period. In the north section of the pond is an island in the form of a turtle, and in the south section is a group of stones representing a crane.

Kodaiji's garden has been designated by the Japanese government as a "place of Historical Importance and Outstanding Scenery."

Katsura Rikyu Imperial Villa garden

katsura villa gardenThe total area of the Katsura Imperial Villa is approximately 69,000m². In the middle of the villa's grounds, there is a lake with an intricate shoreline and there are five artificial islets of various sizes over which there are bridges made of earth, wood and stone, as well as a boat mooring located near the Shoin (main house) and tea pavilion. Katsura Villa is surrounded by a magnificent landscape garden, with lanterns and hand-washing basins in appropriate locations, with a pathways laid out in a circuit for strolling. The structures are build in the pure Japanese Sukiya architectural style. The walk through the garden is one that constantly surprises the visitor with its clever design. At times the pond disappears entirely from view, only to return in a panoramic vista, with the path itself leading the visitor from the waterside to elevated positions. The Katsura Imperial Villa has three sets of stepping stones, Shin (formal), gyo (semiformal) and so (informal) and one can enjoy the contrast of paving stones and stepping stones while viewing the sights of the Suhamakatsura villa pond (shoreline) of the pond, Tsukiyama (mounds and promontories) and Yamazato (mountain villages). There is a keen sense of aesthetic quality in the scenery. Come rain or shine, it is impossible not to admire the natural beauty that can be witnessed in any of the seasons of the year. It is said that Kobori Enshu was not directly involved in the creation of the garden. As it is readily accepted that the styles of both the garden and architecture are those that were favored by Kobori Enshu, the Katsura Imperial Villa is a place where the art of woodworkers and garden designers, as well as the artistic tastes of princes Toshihito and Toshitada, have been combined to perfection.

The garden at Moutsuji Temple

moutsuji temple garden,  Iwate prefecture One of Japan's few remaining Pure Land Gardens, which attempt to reproduce the Buddhist concept of the pure land or "paradise". Pure Land Gardens were a popular garden style during the Heian Period (794-1185).

This garden evoking the past splendor of the Oushu Fujiwara clan has survived in excellent condition. The gentle curves of the pond and above all the islet within it are of exquisite form. From shimmering emerald green in summer to the thin blankets of snow covering its frozen surface in winter, the pond mirrors the breathtaking beauty of the garden’s lush environment across the changing seasons.

The pond here is called Oizumi ga Ike. The pond-centered garden was laid out in accordance with the precepts of Japan's oldest garden manual, Sakuteiki ("Treatise on Garden Making"), and includes elements like a peninsular beach area, rocky coastline and great rocks protruding from the lake's surface, bridges, mountainous elements, and a feeder stream. The adjacent Kanjizaiouin Garden is also not to be missed.

Moutsuji Temple homepage
Moutsuji Temple map

Koishikawa Kourakuen park

koishikawa kourakuen park, Tokyo prefectureIn this park, visitors enjoy walking in this "chisen sogoshiki teien" (garden with a pond at its center) whose landscaping reproduces famous scenic spots in miniature. The Oi River and Tsutenkyou Bridge and the rich Chinese imagery of Full Moon Bridge and the Seiko Tsutsumi Dike are among the numerous attractions of this garden. Indeed this justly famous garden can be considered a forerunner of the theme parks of today.

Founded in 1692 by Mitsukuni Tokugawa (also known as Mito-Komon) of the Yorifusa branch of the Tokugawa family, Koishikawa Korakuen is one of the most beautiful gardens in Tokyo. Every season has its own splendor. The several varieties of cherry trees blossoming from late March to early April make it one of the best "hanami" (viewing of the blossom) spots in Tokyo. Autumn leaves are also particularily attractive.

Koishikawa Korakuen park information
Kishikawa Korakuen Park map

The Garden at the Remains of Suwayakata House

garden at Suwayakata house,  Fukui prefectureThis garden on the grounds of a residence that Asakura Yoshikage build for a favorite concubine has been excavated and restored 400 years after it was first build. Asakura Yoshikage was a powerful daimyo of the Echizen province and owned several gardens. The lavish use of massive rocks and boulders transported to the site from famous quarries give the landscape a grandiose quality that perhaps says something about the character of the warlords of the Warring States era. The highlight of the garden is a waterfall with upper and lower "taki-iwagumi" (literally, waterfall stone arrangement) separated by a distance of three meters and including a boulder 4.13 meters high, the largest found in any garden in Japan. This garden is one of Japan’s most magnificent pond appreciating gardens.

# Kidonouchi-cho Fukui-shi, Fukui prefecture.

Garden of old Shurinji Temple

Kyu (old) Shurinji temple, Shiga prefectureA disciple of Kobori Enshu who created the garden at Katsura villa used this garden as inspiration. The garden’s location on a plateau with a view of the Hira Mountains serve to make that majestic range an integral part of the landscaping. The garden’s daring design is especially distinguished by the pond’s novel angularity and the "tsurujima" and "kamejima" (literally, crane island and tortoise island) stone arrangements within it. The allusions to Hourai Shinsen, a legendary land of immortality where Chinese alchemists were said to reside, achieve an overall design highly spiritual in tone. This garden is a must see for everyone interested in imaginary and rock formation landscaping.

# Kouseiji Temple 374 Kuchiki-Iwase Takashima-shi, Shiga prefecture.

Garden of Toin at Heijoukyu Palace

Toin teien garden at Heijoukyu Palace, Nara prefectureThis garden of a Nara period, which has many features modeled in later period, is a recent recreation of the original. The pond with its rich undulating topography of islands and coves is spanned by a flat bridge and a curved bridge. The pond also has a “suhama” – an imitation beach made from pebbles – and a model of "houraisan", the legendary island mountain of immortals. The garden’s starkly three dimensional plan reflects Chinese influence. The gorgeous scenery with the scarlet platform, projecting over the pond creates a separate world, transporting the visitors back to the Nara era of long long ago.

It is considered that this is the ruin of "Toin Garden" constructed by Empress Shotoku in 8th century. It was a place for parties and receptions for court nobles and diplomatic agents. Since 2004, Toin garden is opened to the public. Wooden structures are modern-day reproductions though the garden stones and the pond are original.

# Saki-cho Nara-shi, Nara prefecture.

Garden of Manpukuji Temple

garden of Manpukuji Temple, Shimane prefectureWhether this garden is the creation of Sesshu is still a point of contention, but whatever the case, all agree that it is a remarkably accomplished work. The ridgelines of the garden’s "tsukiyama", or constructed mountains, are a thing of beauty, the "iwagumi", or stone arrangements, the product of an exquisite aesthetic sense. Though each piece alone is nothing more than rustic, coarse local stone, they come together to form a space of exceptional beauty that is the very essence of the Japanese garden. Nearby Ikouji Temple is another Sesshu masterpiece and should be part of an itinerary that includes a visit to the garden.

# Manpukuji Temple 25-33 Higashi-machi Masuda-shi, Shimane prefecture.

Garden of Joueji Temple

Joueji Temple garden, Yamaguchi prefectureTwo gardens were created in the south and north of Joueji Temple, feudal lord Mouri Takamoto’s family temple. The northern garden is said to have been build by Sesshu, master painter of landscape at Ouchi Masahiro’s request in the Muromachi period. It has a 20 meters long waterfall at the east-northern corner, in front of which is a large pond. Around the pond a man-made mount was created and some stones were arranged. The Zen spirituality and iconic landscape are integrate in an ink painting-like composition. The southern garden was designed by Shigemori Mirei in 1969.

# 2001 Miyanoshita Yamaguchi-shi, Yamaguchi prefecture.

Omotegoten Garden of Tokushima Castle

omotegoten Garden of Tokushima castle, Tokushima prefectureThis garden consists of a "karesansui", of dry landscape garden, and an adjacent pond garden. The many splendid stone arrangements fashioned from Tokushima chlorite schist and the glassy smoothness of the greenery captivated none other than Isamu Noguchi. The natural, uncut Stonebridge over the "karesansui" is over 10 meters long – the longest of its type in any Japanese garden – while the five meter bridge of cut stone that follows is one the earliest of its kind.

# Jounai Tokushima-cho Tokushima-shi, Tokushima prefecture.

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