Below you will find a selection of recommended Japanese gardens.


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Adachi Museum of Art

The Adachi Museum of Art in Matsue was founded by Adachi Zenko in 1980 in order to combine his passions for Japanese art and garden design. He hoped that viewing the gardens and artwork together would foster appreciation and interest in Japanese art. The museum is now best known for its award winning garden, which…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Western Honshu  |  Tags: , ,


At the base of Kyoto’s western hills, Arashiyama and Sagano are most famous for their bamboo groves, which are spectacular (the most impressive grove is outside Tenryū-ji’s northern gate), but the area is also full of temples and gardens. Although there are many temples to visit, we especially recommend Tenryu-ji, Jojakko-ji, Gio-ji and the Nenbutsuji…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,


This stunning temple in the small town of Uji near Kyoto combines Heian Pure Land style Buddhist gardens with Chinese-influenced architecture. The Phoenix hall was built in 1053 and is famously featured on the 10 yen coin. Various Buddhist treasures are on display throughout the temple and garden complex and especially in the small though…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,


More properly called Jishō-ji, the Silver Pavilion was, like the similarly named Golden Pavilion, built as a retirement villa and only later converted into a Zen temple. During its time as a residence in the late 15th century, Ginkaku-ji was, again like the Golden Pavilion a century earlier, the very heart of aesthetic Kyoto, playing…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Gio-ji Temple

Tiny Gio-ji Temple is often overlooked by the throngs of sightseers in Arashiyama but what it may lack in size, it more than makes up for in charm and it’s one of our favourite temples in the area, not least for its fascinating history. The temple was named after Gio, a dancer from long ago…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , , ,

Hamarikyu Gardens

Backed by skyscrapers and cloaked in green, Hama Rikyū Teien Garden is a peaceful oasis within Tokyo’s metropolis. Once a Shogun’s villa, where feudal lords hunted ducks in the tidal waterways, the garden was opened to the public in 1948 and features tidal ponds, plum groves, and a peony garden. We highly recommend stopping for…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: ,

Imperial Palace Gardens

Immaculately manicured, the Imperial Palace Gardens house Edo castle’s ruined keep, and are a wonderfully calm place within the hustle and bustle of the capital. The Japanese style gardens provide a wonderful taste of what the county has to offer. *Though the Imperial Palace East Gardens are open to the public, special permission is required…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,

Isamu Noguchi Memorial Garden

Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was a prominent Japanese American artist, sculptor and landscape designer. Although born, educated and based in the United States, Isamu Noguchi maintained a workshop in Japan and spent months at a time working there towards the end of his nearly 65 year long career. Noguchi’s major works include bridges at the Hiroshima…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , ,


Ishikawa is a prefecture in the Hokuriku area of central Japan, located on the Japan Sea coast. The prefecture’s capital and most famous city is Kanazawa, known for its stunning Kenrokuen Gardens. The northern part of the prefecture is the Noto Peninsula, a very scenic area of rugged coastlines and a lovely place to explore…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , , , ,

Isuien Gardens

Isuien is a very pretty Japanese garden close to Todaiji Temple. Isuien means “Garden founded on water”, and its name is came about because its ponds are fed by the Yoshikigawa River, which runs nearby. The garden is divided into two parts; Front & Rear, with several tea houses found in both parts. The front…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Kansai  |  Tags: ,

Japanese Gardens

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…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Throughout Japan  |  Tags:


Kanazawa, best known for the stunning Kenroku-en Gardens, is one of Japan’s best kept secrets. Ruled first by Buddhist monks and then by the powerful and wealthy Maeda clan, Kanazawa was once one of Japan’s richest cities. It was also one of only a handful of cities to escape damage during the Second World War,…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: , , , , , ,

Katsura Villa

One of Japan’s most important cultural treasures, the Katsura Imperial Villa is considered to be one of the greatest examples of classical Japanese architecture, and its minimalist designs have inspired many Western architects. Completed in 1631, the Palace lies in Kyoto’s western suburbs, and the gardens are a masterpiece of traditional garden design. Today, the…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,


Generally known as the Golden Pavilion, Kinkaku-ji was built in 1398 by Shogun Ashikaga, and served as a flourishing centre of the arts before becoming a Rinzai Zen temple in 1419. Though the gardens are superb, featuring a large pond with islands representing the landscape of the Buddhist creation myth, it is the Golden Pavilion…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,

Kodaiji Temple

Kodaiji is an outstanding temple, established in 1606 in memory of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of Japan’s greatest historical figures. Its main buildings were constructed in the lavish style of the era of Japan’s unification with the financial support of Hideyoshi’s successor Tokugawa Ieyasu. You can visit Kodaiji’s main hall (Hojo), which was rebuilt in a…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , , ,

Koishikawa Korakuen

Built in the Edo Period, Koishikawa Korakuen is one of Tokyo’s oldest and loveliest Japanese gardens. Like most traditional Japanese gardens, Koishikawa Korakuen reproduces famous landscapes in miniature, using ponds, stones, trees, and manmade hills to copy both Japanese and Chinese scenes. A network of walking trails lead around to prescribed viewpoints from which visitors…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: ,

Korakuen Gardens

One of the three most famous gardens in Japan (the others being Kairaku-en in Mito and Kenroku-en in Kanazawa), Koraku-en looks very much now as it did on its completion in 1700. Open to the public since 1884, Koraku-en is full of gorgeous views, green lawns (a surprising and unusual feature in traditional Japanese gardens),…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Central Honshu  |  Tags: ,


On the western edge of Kyushu, the city of Kumamoto is best known for its castle and for Suizenji-Jōjuen garden, both of which are among Japan’s best. The city itself is, like most Japanese cities, is modern with hints of history. Kumamoto is a good base for exploring Mt Aso National Park.

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Kyushu  |  Tags: , , ,

Kyoto Prefectural Botanical Garden

Measuring over 240,000 square meters and filled with over 12,000 different varieties of plantlife, Kyoto Prefectural Botanical Garden is considered Japan’s premier botanical garden. Originally built as part of an exhibition for the coronation of Emperor Taisho in 1913 but not completed until 1923 due to lack of funding, Kyoto’s botanical gardens were the first…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,

Life on the road

Keen to see parts of Japan she hadn’t seen before, Hannah hired a car and set off on a road trip to northern Honshu. Driving in Japan couldn’t be simpler, especially for British tourists as Japan also drives on the left side of the road! Summer isn’t everyone’s first choice of season to visit Japan….

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Meiji Jingu Shrine

Tokyo’s largest shrine, Meiji-jingū, covers 175 acres and houses over 100,000 trees, making it a lush escape from the hard angles of the city. The shrine itself is austere and built using cypress and copper in the nagare-zukuri style. Though often busy with tourists and pilgrims, it is still extremely popular for weddings, which are…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,


Even to the casual observer it is obvious that Nanzen-ji is one of the most powerful temples in Japan – indeed, since 1381 it has been named the principal Zen temple in Kyoto. The kare-sansui (dry landscape) garden of crushed rocks and shrubs with a backdrop of ‘borrowed’ scenery from the nearby hillside is said…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , , ,

Ninnaji Temple

One of Kyoto’s most interesting temples, Ninnaji was founded in the year 888 as an Imperial Residence but, like many historic buildings in Japan, has suffered repeated destruction in wars and fires over the centuries. Today, Ninnaji is the headquarters of the Omuro school of the Buddhist Shingon sect and features a large variety of…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Kyoto  |  Tags: , ,


Okayama’s main attraction is Korakuen, one of Japan’s three most famous landscape gardens. This superb strolling garden, set against the backdrop of Okayama Castle, remains much as it did on completion over three hundred years ago. Okayama is a busy transport hub, and Korakuen makes a wonderful break for visitors changing bullet trains here. Nearby,…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Western Honshu  |  Tags: ,

Omiya Bonsai Village

For anyone interested in the art of bonsai, a visit to the Omiya Bonsai Village near Tokyo is highly recommended. The ‘village’ is home to about a dozen top Bonsai nurseries as well as The Omiya Bonsai Art Museum, which boasts a stunning collection and displays special exhibitions regularly. The museum offers great insights in…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , ,


Built around 1700, Rikugien is often considered Tokyo’s most beautiful Japanese landscape garden alongside Koishikawa Korakuen. The garden is a good example of an Edo Period strolling garden and features a large central pond surrounded by man-made hills and forested areas, all connected by a network of trails. Rikugien is quite spacious, and it takes…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: , , ,


Ritsurin Park in Takamatsu is one of the largest in Japan, covering an impressive 75 acres. Built in the early Edo period and originally 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 many ponds, both large and small,…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Shikoku  |  Tags: , , , ,

Shinjuku Gyoen

Melding traditional Japanese, French, and English landscaping, Shinjuku Gyoen’s 2000 trees make for a peaceful green space within Tokyo, particularly as they are backed by bustling Shinjuku’s skyscrapers. The garden – once designated as an Imperial Garden and only opened to the public after the Second World War – is wonderful place to stroll amidst…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Tokyo  |  Tags: ,

Shukkei-en Gardens

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. The garden’s history dates back to 1620, soon after the completion of…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Western Honshu  |  Tags:

Yufuin Tamanoyu

As one of the founding ryokans of Yufuin, Tama no Yu offers a great sense of history along with the view of Yufudake mountain from the garden. This well-maintained garden has a bar, tea house and souvenir shop with the homemade and local jams and other delicacy available. The detached cottage-type rooms are also scattered…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Kyushu  |  Tags: , , , ,

Yushien Gardens

A garden on an island in a lake Just outside the city of Matsue, on the island of Daikonjima, which lies in the middle of Lake Nakaumi, is the lovely Yushien, a large garden best known for peony flowers. The 40,000 sqm grounds feature many traditional landscape garden design elements. These include a large central…

Type: Gardens  |  Category: Western Honshu  |  Tags: , , , ,