Parks and Gardens in Japan
Japan is rightly famous for its traditions of gardening and landscaping. From the Heian Period (794-1192) onwards Chinese techniques of garden construction for the aristocracy and priesthood became widespread in Japan. This legacy lives on in modern Japan with most towns and cities having a number of both public and private gardens worth visiting. Japanese temples, shrines, palaces and castles will invariably have a peaceful garden to provide rest and solace from often busy urban streets.
Types of Japanese Gardens
From gardens designed for tea ceremonies and those which mimic famous regional landscapes, to those that contribute to the sacred importance of temples, garden design has been a crucial part of Japanese art and culture for centuries.
Explore some of the types of Japanese gardens found in Tokyo and around Japan including: chaniwa, karesansui and tsukiyama gardens.
Gardens & Parks in Tokyo
Many of Tokyo's gardens date from the Edo Period when feudal lords (daimyo) were required to spend one year out of two in Edo (present day Tokyo) as a form of control by the Tokugawa regime. The daimyo built residences and adjoining gardens for themselves and their families. After the collapse of Tokugawa rule in 1868 many of these gardens reverted to government ownership and after World War II all of them were gradually taken over by Tokyo metropolitan authorities.
Tokyo Parks and Gardens See a listing of Tokyo's many beautiful and historical parks and gardens.
Gardens & Parks in Other Areas of Japan
Kyoto Parks & Gardens
Kyoto Parks & Gardens - Kyoto is a city of gardens. Japan's historic capital is home to thousands of set gardens within its many palaces, temples and shrines. In addition to these gardens, Kyoto has many public parks and areas of green space, chief among them Japan's oldest botanical garden, the river banks of the Kamo River and many other large and small public parks.
Nagoya Parks & Gardens
Nagoya Parks & Gardens - Nagoya belies its image as a vast, unremitting, concrete jungle with a number of large public parks and some classical Japanese gardens. Recommended parks and gardens in Nagoya are Tokugawa-en, next to the Tokugawa Art Museum, Shirotori Garden, the grounds of Atsuta Shrine, Heiwa Koen and Higashiyama Koen which includes Nagoya's zoo and botanical garden. For cherry blossoms head to Tsurumai Park or Nagoya Castle Park.
Adachi Museum of Art 足立美術館
The gardens at the Adachi Museum of Art near Matsue in Shimane Prefecture in western Japan are often voted the best in the country and compliment the art of Yokoyama Taikan and other artists inside the museum. The six-part gardens were laid out by famed designer Kinsaku Nakane and the different styles include the Dry Landscape Garden, The White Gravel & Pine Garden, the Moss Garden and the Pond Garden.
Ashikaga Flower Park 足利フラワーパーク
Ashikaga Flower Park is a floral attraction in Ashikaga, Tochigi prefecture, that features a year-round profusion of various flowers, with the main focus on wisteria, or fuji in Japanese. Imaginative landscaping and and attractions such as illuminated garden displays make a trip to Ashikaga Flower Garden an unforgettable one for the flower lover.
Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park 秩父多摩甲斐国立公園
Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park is a 1,262 km2 (487 square mile) national park, mountainous and full of natural beauty, that covers four prefectures: Tokyo, Saitama, Nagano, and Yamanashi.
From the Tokyo metropolis, Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park stretches out west as far as Yamanashi prefecture and can easily be reached by public transport from the capital.
Japanese Gardens in Expo Park, Osaka 万博記念公園
The Japanese Gardens at the Expo Memorial Park in Osaka are less than 50 years old, yet for those with an interest in traditional Japanese gardens it has a lot to offer as it showcases the many different styles of garden that have been enjoyed by the Japanese over the past 1,000 years or more. The gardens were built for the World Expo of 1970, and meant to introduce foreign visitors to the variety of traditional garden types throughout Japanese history, and is really four different gardens which flow into each other. Consequently it is much bigger than other gardens, measuring 1,300 meters from east to west and about 200 meters wide covering 64 acres in total. It was designed by Taji Rokuro who was also responsible for the Osaka Castle Park. The four styles are Ancient, Medieval, Early Modern and Modern.
Kairaku-en Garden Mito 偕楽園
Kairaku-en Garden in Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture, around one hour north of Tokyo by express train, is one of Japan's big three landscape gardens. The other two being Kenroku-en in Kanazawa and Koraku-en in Okayama. Dating from the 1840s, Kairaku-en is most well-known for its beautiful plum blossoms in late February to early March, which really draw the crowds, but this delightful, strolling garden can be enjoyed all year round.
Keitakuen Garden 慶沢園
Keitakuen Garden in Osaka behind the Osaka City Museum of Fine Art in Tennoji Park, it is a delightful garden that is not so well known and therefore gets relatively few visitors. Keitakuen Garden is a quite large, stroll type garden centred on a large pond. Keitakuen was built for the very wealthy Sumitomo Family, merchants and industrialists who made their modern fortune with the Besshi Copper Mine on Shikoku. The garden was designed by Ogawa Jihei (the 7th), (1860 to 1933) who many consider a pioneer of modern Japanese garden design.
Kenrokuen Garden Kanazawa 兼六園
Kenrokuen Garden, in Kanazawa is one of Japan's most beautiful and popular gardens. No matter what season you go to Kanazawa, a visit to Kenrokuen garden is an unmissable part of your trip.
The name of Kenrokuen literally means, "the garden of six sublimities" or, "a garden combining the 6 aspects of a perfect garden". These six features were what the Chinese traditionally believed were necessary for the ideal garden.
Koraku-en Garden Okayama 岡山後楽園
Koraku-en Garden in Okayama is another of Japan's big three landscape gardens. Completed in 1700, the garden is known for its expansive lawns and the beautiful Ryuten Pavilion, which has a small stream running through it. The garden is close to Okayama Castle and incorporates the castle in its "borrowed scenery." The manicured lawns are interspersed with stone lanterns, bushes and small ponds.
Minoo Park 箕面公園
Minoo Park is one of Japan's oldest parks, and a great side trip from central Osaka. Often compared to Mount Takao or Mount Mitake in the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park near Tokyo, Minoo Park is a relaxing place to get away from all the concrete and skyscrapers of the downtown. Minoo Park is worth visiting any time of the year. The well maintained paths make it possible to walk up in the winter, and in the summer beautiful green trees surround walkers. The best time to come is in the autumn (late November), when visitors can see a huge display of red and golden maple leaves.
Ritsurin-koen Takamatsu 栗林公園
Ritsurin-koen in Takamatsu in Shikoku is considered one of Japan's best gardens. This 16 ha strolling garden is laid out on a grand scale but it is also contiguous with a range of low, forested hills conveying the impression that the garden is endless. This incorporation of the view of Mt Shiun beyond the garden to the west, is a device often used in Japanese gardens, even those on a very much smaller scale, and is known as a "borrowed view".
The Rokkaen house and gardens in Kuwana, Mie Prefecture were designed by the celebrated English architect Josiah Conder (1852-1920) and opened in 1913. The combined Western and Japanese-style house was the former residence of Seiroku Moroto, a local rice and timber magnate, who made his fortune in the area. The beautiful strolling garden includes a lawn and pond, in which the mansion casts lovely reflections. The western part of the house includes a cafe and shop, while the Japanese house includes spacious, traditional tatami-style rooms.
Sankeien Garden Hiroshima 三景園
Sankeien Garden in Hiroshima (aka Chisenkai Yushiki Teien) is a traditional stroll garden but was only constructed in 1993, part of the development surrounding the construction of Hiroshima Airport in the mountains east of Hiroshima City that also includes a forest park, Chuo Shinrin Park.
Sankeien Garden Yokohama 三渓園
Sankeien Garden in Naka ward, Yokohama, is the city's most charming traditional attraction, with something for nature lovers, Japanese history and culture buffs, photographers, and anyone with an eye for beauty. Sankeien Garden is 17.5 undulating hectares (over 42 acres) of groves, traditional old Japanese structures, gardens, ponds, waterfalls, bridges, refreshment spots and a museum, connected by rambling paths and footbridges.
Sengan-en Garden 仙巌園
Sengan-en Garden in Kagoshima was the summer garden and villa of the ruling Shimazu clan in the Edo Period of Japanese history. Sengan-en is a strolling garden in Chinese style known for its use of "borrowed scenery" in the shape of Sakurajima and Kinko Bay. On the spacious grounds is Japan's first factory, the Shoko Shuseikan, which is open as a museum, displaying the Shimazu family treasures and the clan's early attempt at industrial production.
Shikina-en Garden 識名園
Shikina-en Garden in Naha, Okinawa, was constructed at the end of the 18th century as a second home for the Okinawan royal family and to entertain important guests. A section of the old stone pavement that ran from the Shuri Palace to Shikinaen still exists. The Shikinaen garden is a stroll garden, meant to be walked around rather than viewed from one particular point, and has features both Japanese and Chinese, to make it uniquely Okinawan.
Shukkei-en Garden Hiroshima 縮景園
Shukkei-en Garden in Hiroshima was completed in 1620 by the local feudal lord and is modeled on the famous West Lake in Hangzhou, China.
Shukkei-en Garden is small at only four hectares in area but has a delightful pond, ornamental Chinese-style bridges and relaxing thatched pavilions and tea houses to linger and enjoy the surroundings and plants and flowers in season.
Tottori Prefectural Flower Park とっとり花回廊
Tottori Prefectural Flower Park is a spawling, beautifully laid out and maintained 50-hectare garden estate in Tottori Prefecture, with a huge range of different landscapes, gardens, and flower collections. The Park has a renowned lily collection, and is distinguished by its huge transparent Tropical Dome that forms the focal point of the Park. Tottori Prefectural Flower Park offers different faces of seasonal beauty all year round, and with fully covered walkways for enjoyment in any weather. Illuminated garden at certain times of the year. Free shuttle bus from Yonago Station and free parking for drivers.
Urakuen Garden Inuyama 有楽苑
Urakuen Garden, in Inuyama is a perfect example of a Japanese cha-niwa - a garden designed to suit the needs of the aesthetic of the tea ceremony.
The delightful Jo-an teahouse which now stands in the garden, was originally built in Kyoto in 1618 by Oda Urakusai, a younger brother of local Chubu area warlord Oda Nobunaga. Urakuen can easily be visited from nearby Nagoya.
Yuka-en Garden 渝華園
Yuka-en Garden in Hiroshima's Naka ward is an authentic, walled Chinese garden completed in 1992 to mark five years of official friendship between the sister cities of Hiroshima in Japan and Chongqing in China.
Yuka-en Garden is set around a central pond and features typical Chinese keyhole gates, tiled pavilions and inner courtyards.