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Oases of Beauty - Japanese Gardens

Adachi Museum of Art
Adachi Museum of Art


A visit to a Japanese garden is a moving experience. Designed to elicit feelings of calm and tranquility in all seasons, they also teach the visitor how deeply connected the garden landscape, both is with the outer world. These informative living works of art call to visitors with a silent voice that invites us to observe, engage, and appreciate.

Adachi Museum of Art (Shimane Prefecture)

While there are many Japanese gardens worth traveling to see throughout Japan, many visitors say that the Adachi Museum of Art with its six distinct gardens is the one they would rank No.1, and would want to visit again and again. It has been listed as the No.1 garden choice for 13 consecutive years by the U.S. magazine Sukiya Living/The Journal of Japanese Gardening, a bi-monthly magazine subscribed to by gardening lovers of 37 countries worldwide which ranks gardens by the harmony made between garden and building structures, service and hospitality to visitors. Adachi Museum has also been chosen as one of the 31 most beautiful places in Japan by CNN and has obtained the highest rank of 3 stars from Michelin Green Guide and Guide Bleu Japon.

The six gardens of Adachi Museum, which combined occupy 165,000 square meters, are the Dry Landscape Garden, the Moss Garden, the Garden of Juryu-an, the White Gravel and Pine Garden, the Pond Garden and the Kikaku Waterfall Garden. There are two teahouses within the gardens, all of which are meant to be viewed from inside the buildings, framed by the wall borders as though by a picture frame; indeed the founder of the museum, Adachi Zenko said, "A Japanese garden is a living painting." It was his hope that by viewing the art and gardens together, within the specially designed architecture, that people's appreciation of Japanese art would expand.

Adachi Museum, since its establishment in 1970, has a superlative collection of modern Japanese paintings, of which the core is the permanent compilation of Yokoyama Taikan's works (the other works are rotated seasonally), and halls filled with ceramics and sculptures. There are also works especially for children to enjoy. In 2010, the Adachi Museum of Art Annex was opened to feature up-and-coming Japanese painters.

Shimane prefecture is blessed with other magnificent gardens as well as the ones of Adachi. They include Kasui-en minami, Chorakuen, Yuushien and Minami-kan, to name a few that are also consistently within the top 50 selected by Sukiya Living.

Not able to fit Shimane into your travel plans? Don't fret! There are plenty of other stunning garden masterpieces throughout Japan. Read on for a brief sampling.

For more information, visit here.

Ritsurin Garden (Kagawa Prefecture)

Ritsurin Garden

One of the most striking gardens in Japan is located on the island of Shikoku. Construction began in the early 1600s, and it opened to the public about one hundred years later. In 1953, it was dedicated a Special Place of Scenic Beauty. Ritsurin is a traditional "strolling garden," meaning that instead of viewing the garden from inside buildings, it is meant to be appreciated as one walks through it. To that end, there are many lovely wandering paths that wind around the six ponds, thirteen hills, bridges, rocks and hundreds of trees that are painstakingly arranged against the backdrop of Mt. Shiun, in a style called "shakkei." The grands feature a purely Japanese style garden in the southern part, and a western style garden in the northern section.

For more information, visit here.

Shisen-do Jozanji Temple (Kyoto Prefecture)

Shisendo Garden

Originally a retreat created by Ishikawa Jozan, one of Tokugawa Ieyasu's generals who retired from military life to devote himself to the study of the Chinese classics and arts, the Shinsendo (named for the main room Shisen-no-ma which contains portraits of Chinese poets Jozan had commissioned) is known for its typical Zen karayo-style garden. The characteristic white sand magnificently illuminates the bright pink and red azaleas of late spring and the fiery autumn foliage, as well as the other seasonal colors. Wisterias and maples and trees of various kinds along with a waterfall and bamboo shishi-odoshi rocking fountain create an air of respite for visitors. Designated a National Historic Site.

For more information, visit here.

Sorakuen Garden (Hyogo Prefecture)

Sorakuen Garden

The only urban traditional Japanese garden in Kobe used to be part of Kodera Kenkichi's estate (a former mayor of Kobe), but was opened to the public in 1941. It was designated a Special Place of Scenic Beauty in 2006. While most of the original buildings were lost to fire, the Kodera Stables and original front gate remain. Other buildings of interest include the Hassam Residence, home of an Anglo-Indian trader that originally stood in another part of Kobe, and a reconstructed Boathouse. A strolling garden, 300 year old trees, striking stone structures and lanterns, and flowers accentuating each season make this little gem of an oasis in the middle of busy Kobe a place not to be missed.

For more information, visit here.

Suizen-ji Joju-en Garden (Kumamoto Prefecture)

Suizen-ji Joju-en Garden

One of the focal points of this garden whose construction began in 1636 and took decades to complete is the natural spring pond which is constantly fed by spring water and is always crystal clear. This is the reason the founder of the garden, Lord Hosokawa Tadatoshi decided on this spot to originally build a tea house; by the time the garden was completed about eighty years later, the location was transformed into a dreamlike venue. The design of the trees, hills and pond were supposed to represent the stopping places along the famous Tokaido, a route that ran from Edo to Kyoto. There is also a representation in miniature of Mt. Fuji, a thatched roof tea house that was moved from its original location in Kyoto in 1912, two shrines, a theatre for Noh performances, and a Yabusame (mounted archery) course used for twice yearly competitions.

For more information, visit here.

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