Japanese Gardens try to reach high levels of harmony with nature through the careful use of 3 elements: plants, stones, and water. They create serene areas of quiet beauty, encouraging meditation and contemplation. Color is used sparsely, therefore flowers are not common. Optical effects create depth and the illusion of space which is often rare. There are 3 basic garden types:

  1. Tsukiyama Gardens - the name Tsukiyama refers to the creation of artificial hills
  2. Karesansui Gardens - reproduce landscapes in abstract ways, better known as Zen gardens
  3. Chaniwa Gardens - specifically build for tea ceremony

Nakazu Banshoen Park 中津万象園, Mitoyo City, Kagawa

Nakazu Banshoen Park, Teahouse
... is not so far from the famous Ritsurin Park. Construction started in 1688 under Kyogoku Takatoyo, the second lord of the Marugame clan. The stone arrangement of the Hakkei Pond symbolizes Lake Biwa, the land of Kyogoku’s ancestors. A 630 year old “Grand Pine Tree” has a diameter of 15 meters and there are two tea houses in original Edo-style. A museum shows various arts.

Makayaji Temple and Park 摩訶耶寺, Western Shizuoka

This garden fell into desolation during the dramatic changes in Japanese society of the Meiji period. Rediscovered in 1967 by an construction engineer inspecting nearby overpasses, it is very special: the design dates back to the late Heian period in 1240. The temple was built in 726. “There is a statue carved by its founder, shown only once every 60 years” explains Honda-San, the local priest.

Ryotanji Temple and Park 龍潭寺, Western Shizuoka

Founded in 733 by Priest Gyoki, Ryotanji's garden was designed by Enshu Kobori in the early Edo era. It is seen from the main temple's veranda and is set like a 3-dimensinal painting. Main features are the spring and autumn azaleas together with carefully placed mountain rocks.

Hama-Rikyu Garden 浜離宮恩賜庭園, Tokyo, Chuo-ku

Located alongside Tokyo Bay at the shoreline of the Sumidagawa river, this garden is in close proximity to Ginza and the Tsukiji Fishmarket. Construction started in 1704 under Shogun Ienobu being a residence garden of a feudal lord. The biggest pond is Shioiri Pond with a tea house island at its center. By the entrance is a beautiful black pine tree, planted 300 years ago.

Kiyosumi Garden 清澄庭園, Tokyo, Koto-ku

After Lord Shimofusa-no-kuni became owner of this Edo residence somewhere after 1716, the garden was constructed and a pond filled with water from the Sumida river. In later years, rocks from all over Japan were brought here and the Garden was completed during the Meiji period.

Ritsurin Park 栗林公園, Takamatsu, Kagawa

Covering about 75 hectars, this garden is one of the largest and most beautiful in Japan. It was build starting from 1570 until its completion in 1745 and served as the private estate of the Matsudeira lords for 228 years. There are six ponds, 13 hills and a waterfall set in the elaborate daimyo style of the early Edo era.

Korakuen Garden 後楽園, Okayama

One of the three top Japanese gardens, even on a dark winter day it is a very nice place to relax. Adjacent to Okayama castle, it was build and used by the local Lord Ikeda Tunamasa as a daimo garden. It is a Kaiyu "scenic promenade" style garden.

Sankeien Garden 三溪園, Nakaku, Yokohama

Tomitaro Hara, a wealthy silk trader designed this garden. Open to the public since 1906, it has 17 historic buildings reconstructed from Kyoto and Kamakura. It also contains a three-storied pagoda from 1457, the oldest of its kind in the Kanto region.

Adachi Museum of Art 足立美術館, Yasugi, Shimane

Named after Adachi Zenko, this garden was established in 1980 over 165,000 square meters in front of the Kikaku Mountains. Adachi was a wealthy businessman and vivid collector of Japanese modern art, in particular paintings of Yokohama Taikan. The garden and art gallery were combined to a unique and attractive mixture, earning "Japan's #1 Garden" between 2003 and 2008.

Rikugien Garden 六義園, Tokyo, Komagome

Lord Yanigisawa Yoshiyasu established this garden in 1702. Famous for his literary accomplishments, he named it after the six principles of Japanese waka poetry. Designed as a "kai-yu - go-round" style garden it has 88 spots with literary significance, which have been arranged along a path surrounding the pond with an islet.

Ryoanji Temple and Garden 龍安寺, Kyoto

In 1450, a country house of the Tokudaiji clan was aquired as a Zen training site for the Myoshinji school of the Rinzai sect. It is most famous for it's Hojo Zen garden, a dry lanscape rock garden consisting of 15 rocks surrounded by white pebbles. Another famous Zen symbol is the hand-washing stone basin, carrying the inscription "Ware tada taruo shiru".

Kinkakuchi Temple and Garden 金閣寺, Kyoto

Although its official name is Rokuonji, its is called Kinkakuji for its golden pavillion. It is the outer Zen temple belonging to the Shokokuji School of the Rinzai sect. The ashes of Sakyamuni, founder of Buddhism, are supposed to be enshrined here. The Top of the building has a a statue of Ho-o, the mythical Chinese bird we call Phoenix.