Influential to landscaping the world over, Japanese gardens are simultaneously enigmatic and peaceful. The subtle influence of Zen worked early on imported Chinese landscape design, and resulted in uniquely Japanese gardens. The aesthetic of wabi and sabi, fundamental to all Japanese arts, turns Japanese landscaping towards simple lines and spaces which suggest larger scenes, focusing on the principle of change within nature. Arguably most renowned for dry landscape, or karesansui Zen gardens, Japanese gardening ranges from tiny and formal chaniwa tea gardens to huge park style gardens with tsukiyama landscaping containing artificial hills and lakes. Larger Japanese gardens often have tea houses where the bright green reviving matcha is the perfect excuse to rest your legs.
Here are a few of our favourite gardens. Please see our Garden Category page for more ideas.
Listed as one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan, Kenrokuen is often said to be the best of the three. Founded in the Edo period, and opened to the public in 1871, the garden now features ponds, hills, and a number of buildings and tea houses. Kenrokuen famously combines all six principles traditionally desirable in a Japanese strolling garden, with spaciousness and seclusion, artifice and antiquity, and water courses and panoramas.
Adachi Museum of Art, Matsue
This award winning garden has been named the best garden in Japan every year since 2003 by the “Journal of Japanese Gardening”. The garden can be enjoyed at any time of the year and shows a different character depending on the season.
One of the three most famous gardens in Japan (the others being Kairakuen in Mito and Kenrokuen in Kanazawa), Korakuen looks very much now as it did on its completion in 1700. Open to the public since 1884, Korakuen is full of gorgeous views, green lawns, and architectural treasures, including the unusual Ryutei Pavilion which houses a running stream.
Ritsurin Park, Takamatsu, Shikoku
Ritsurin Park is one of the largest in Japan, covering an impressive 75 acres. Though named for its chestnut trees, Ritsurin is now dominated by beautifully sculpted pines, which cover the tsukiyama, or artificial hills, and the banks of the large ponds.
Shukkei-en Gardens, Hiroshima
Dating from 1620, Shukkei-en’s name roughly translates into English as “shrunken-scenery garden”, which succinctly describes the garden itself; natural features such as mountains, forests and valleys are shown in miniature in the garden’s landscapes. Through careful cultivation, the garden mimics a variety of natural scenic views.