Gardens of the World – Japan
Japan is known worldwide for its beautiful culture and traditional arts. Just the word “Japan” conjures up images of tea ceremonies, flowing calligraphy, and descriptive poetry. The country also has a legacy of distinctive gardens, so unique in their beauty that they have been recreated all over the world. We thought we’d give you a glimpse into the magic of Japanese gardens with a few of the most well known in Japan.
Koishikawa Korakuen Gardens
Koishikawa Korakuen is one of the country’s oldest gardens and can be found in Bunkyō, Tokyo. It was first built by Tokugawa Yorifusa, a powerful lord (daimyo) and son of shogun Tokugawa leyasu, and dates back to 1629. The gardens were completed in 1669 by his son Tokugawa Mitsukuni with the help of a Chinese scholar called Shu Shunsui.
This historic site is now an oasis in the middle of a vibrant city and a true tourist attraction. When entering the gardens, you’ll be given a map and whilst there is a “proper viewing order” which is designed to mirror the sights of the Nakasendo trade route, visitors are just as welcome to meander through as they wish. The Koishikawa Korakuen gardens are exceptionally beautiful in autumn when maple tree leaves turn a vibrant red and orange whilst the ginko trees glow with golden yellow foliage. Entry into the garden costs ¥300 and is worth every cent!
This garden is one of the most famous examples of kare-sansui (dry landscape) in Japan. It is part of the Ryoan-ji temple found in Kyoto. Whilst history dates the original temple and garden to the Heian period (794 – 1185), both have been rebuilt due to damage. The last rebuild was done somewhere in the late 1700’s and today it is known as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
This mysterious rock garden is a fine example of the simplicity and harmony of the principles of Zen meditation. It is enclosed by an earthen wall with a viewing platform right above the garden. Within the perfectly raked light-grey gravel are 15 carefully placed rocks. Now this might sound mundane but the magic is that no matter where you stand, you can never see all 15 rocks at once.
The temple also includes larger gardens which contain the Kyoyo-chi pond and plenty of beautiful trees and moss. Entrance fees to the Ryoan-ji garden and temple are ¥500 for adults and ¥300 for children.
The Three Great Gardens of Japan
These three are known as the three most famous gardens in Japan. They are Kenroku-en, Koraku-en, and Kairaku-en.
Kenroku-en was once the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle. Its name means “garden which combines six characteristics” and is so called as it combines the six aspects considered important in an ideal Japanese garden. These characteristics are: spaciousness, serenity, venerability, scenic views, subtle design, and coolness. It is an expansive park-like garden which spans almost 25 hectares in the center of Kanazawa. The garden features colourful floral displays amidst streams, ponds, waterfalls, and hills. It also boasts historical tea houses and pavilions.There is an admission fee.
Koraku-en was built in Okayama in 1687. Its name is derived from a proverb of Confucius where it is explained that a ruler should consider the needs of his subjects before his own pleasure. The name therefor means the “garden of pleasure after”. It is located right by Okayama Castle and boasts a large pond, streams, walking paths and a hill which serves as a lookout point. What makes this garden so unique is its spacious lawns. It also boats groves of plum, cherry and maple trees, tea, rice fields, an archery range, and a crane aviary.
Karaiku-en is one of the newer gardens, built in 1841 by the lord Tokuwaga Nariaki. Unlike the other two, it was open to the public from the start, making it the one of the first public gardens in Japan. Its name means “a garden to enjoy with people”. Found in Mito, it boasts 18 acres of strolling gardens and is famous for its three thousand plum trees which bloom in early spring.
Japanese gardens are not only aesthetic masterpieces but are also steeped in a rich and fascinating history. If there is anywhere in the world you want to see unique, inspiring gardens, then Japan is your first stop!
Create your own Japanese Garden with Creative Living inspired products.
See the national garden in Tokyo here.