Visits to a few Japanese gardens, whether it is a stroll style garden in a peaceful former villa, a dry landscape Karesansui garden at a famous Zen temple or a small Tsubo garden in a traditional style ryokan, can be highlight of your travel in Japan. Japanese gardens help you to appreciate Japanese aesthetics as well as to get relaxed for meditation. They might even motivate you to create similar garden back at your home.
Here we would like to explain basics for you to enjoy Japanese gardens from travelers' standpoint. As such, they are not meant to categorize gardens from academic point of view. (e.g. chronological order or type of gardens).
Many of the beautiful gardens in Japan are located in Zen temples. Many famous ones are in Kyoto.
Stroll gardens are attached to some of the temples such as Tenryu-ji or Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion). These gardens are often centered around a pond (Chisen Kaiyu garden) and designers tried to represent nature by using basic elements such as rock and trees. Shakkei (borrowed scenery), one of the most important techniques of Japanese landscape designs, is often used.
Famous Karesansui gardens (dry rock gardens) include Ryoan-ji and Daisen-in in Kyoto. By looking at simple, but meticulously laid out rocks as well as raked gravel, you can relax and contemplate in Zen gardens.
Larger (public or semi-public) garden
Large cities such as Tokyo or Yokohama have beautiful spacious Japanese landscape gardens. Examples include Rikugien or Hamarikyu in Tokyo or Sankeien in Yokohama. Japan's three most famous landscape gardens are Kenrokuen in Kanazawa, Korakuen in Okayama, and Kairakuen in Mito, although each one is located outside of often visited cities.
Some ryokans (traditional Japanese style hotel) have picturesque gardens. Sekitei in Hiroshima and Minamikan in Matsue are ranked among one of the best by the "Journal of Japanese Gardening".
Beautiful landscape gardens from your room of your ryokan, coupled with fine cuisine served at ryokan, will surely give you memorable moments.
Luxury traditional ryokans, most representative examples of which are Kyoto's machiya-type prestigeous ryokans, have sophisticated Tsubo garden in a confined space.
Others (museums, former private villas etc.)
Adachi Museum of Art's garden has been top ranked in the "Journal of Japanese Gardening" for five consecutive years. You can fully enjoy the combination of art and garden. Visitors are impressed how meticulously they maintained the beauty of various gardens.
If you have a chance to visit Kyoto and seek lesser-visited peaceful gardens, you can also explore gardens attached to former private residences or villas, such as Shisendo or Ohkochi Sanso.
Garden tour in Japan
If you would like to travel Japan with focus on Japanese gardens, click Garden Tour. We are happy to arrange a special private tour for you.