9 Breathtaking Japanese Gardens You Need to Visit

Japan, a country synonymous with timeless beauty and serenity, is renowned for its traditional Japanese gardens. These gardens, each a unique masterpiece of Japanese landscaping, offer an exquisite blend of natural splendor, cultural richness, and aesthetic sophistication. They’re not just gardens; they’re an integral part of the Japanese lifestyle, a place for contemplation and appreciation of nature’s fleeting beauty.

In this blog post, we take you on a virtual journey through eight of the most breathtaking Japanese gardens that you absolutely must visit. Whether you’re an avid gardener, a nature enthusiast, or simply a traveler seeking tranquility, these gardens will inspire and beckon you to the Land of the Rising Sun.

1. Kenroku-en: A Gem Among the Three Great Gardens of Japan

Kenroku-en Garden, a prime example of Japanese landscape gardening at its finest, is located in the historical city of Kanazawa. The garden’s name translates to “Garden of the Six Sublimities,” referring to the six attributes considered crucial for a perfect garden: spaciousness, seclusion, artifice, antiquity, water sources, and panoramas.

Among Kenroku-en’s standout features is the Kotoji-toro, a two-legged stone lantern situated beside a scenic pond. Furthermore, the garden takes pride in housing Japan’s oldest fountain, which relies solely on natural water pressure. Additionally, the garden is home to the Karasaki Pine, a tree grown from a seed sourced from the Karasaki district by the garden’s creator.

Address: 1 Kenrokumachi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 〒920-0936, Japan

Hours: Mar. 1 – Oct.15 (7:00 – 18:00) / Oct.16 – Feb.28/29 (8:00 – 17:00)

Early Admission Hours: 4:00 (Apr – Aug) / 5:00 (Mar, Sept- Oct) / 6:00 (Nov – Feb)
Only Renchi-mon Entrance and Zuishinzaka Entrance are open. You must leave 15 minutes before the opening time.

More Information: Official Website

2. Kinkaku-ji: The Sparkling Jewel of Kyoto’s Japanese Gardens

The Golden Pavilion, or Kinkaku-ji, stands as a must-visit Kyoto landmark and a symbol of the city’s lasting cultural heritage. Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu originally built it in 1397 as a retirement villa, and it later transformed into a Zen temple after his death. Gold leaf adorns the top two floors of the pavilion, casting a dazzling effect that has entranced visitors for centuries.

Accompanying the pavilion is a garden from the Muromachi period. This garden, complete with a large pond, multiple islands, and stone bridges, embraces the natural landscape. As you navigate through the garden, the Golden Pavilion appears to float above the water’s surface, offering ever-changing views that enrich your exploration.

Address: 1 Kinkakujicho, Kita Ward, Kyoto, 〒603-8361, Japan

Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (open all year round)

More Information: Official Website

3. Ritsurin Garden: The Quintessential Garden, Outshining Even the Three Great Gardens of Japan

Situated in Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture, Ritsurin Garden is a sprawling landscape garden that was originally built for the enjoyment of the local daimyo, or feudal lord. It took over a century to complete the garden, and its meticulous design is a testament to the skill and dedication of its creators.

The garden is characterized by its multiple ponds, teahouses, and the famous Nanko, or South Pond, which offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Additionally, Ritsurin Garden is also famous for its pine trees, which are carefully pruned and shaped to create a sense of depth and balance.

Address: 1-chome-20-16 Ritsurincho, Takamatsu, Kagawa 〒760-0073, Japan

Hours: 5:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Special hours of operation: 5:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (July 8th 2023)
(Entrance to the park will be limited from 5:30 a.m. to noon.)

More Information: Official Website

4. Koraku-en: Experience Tranquility in One of Japan’s Three Great Gardens

Okayama’s Koraku-en Garden, one of the “Three Great Gardens of Japan,” offers an elegant and expansive design. The local daimyo originally built it for relaxation and entertainment. Its broad lawns and thoughtfully planned vistas compose a calming and harmonious atmosphere.

Among the garden’s highlights is the Enyo-tei House, a traditional building that provides panoramic views of the garden and distant Okayama Castle. Additionally, the garden features a picturesque pond, a cozy teahouse, and a plum grove that bursts into vibrant pinks and whites each spring.

Koraku-en Japanese Garden, Okayama

Address: 1-5 Korakuen, Kita Ward, Okayama, 703-8257, Japan

March 20 to September 30 7:30 – 18:00 (last admission 17:45)
October 1 to March 19 8:00 – 17:00 (last admission 16:45)

More Information: Official Website

5. Tenryuji Temple: A UNESCO Heritage Site Enriching Japanese Gardens

Located in the Arashiyama district of Kyoto, Tenryu-ji is a UNESCO World Heritage site and an important Zen temple. The temple’s garden, designed by the famous landscape architect Muso Soseki, is a masterpiece of Zen garden design that has been meticulously maintained over the centuries.

The Sogen Pond at the center of the garden is surrounded by carefully arranged rocks, trees, and moss-covered banks, creating a serene and contemplative atmosphere. A path around the pond allows visitors to enjoy the changing views of the garden and the stunning backdrop of the Arashiyama mountains.

Tenryu ji

Address: Japan, 〒616-8385 Kyoto, Ukyo Ward, Sagatenryuji Susukinobabacho, 68

Hours: 8:30am-5:00pm (Last admission 4:50p.m.)

More Information: Official Website

6. Adachi Museum of Art: Blending Japanese Art and Garden Design

Situated in Shimane Prefecture, the Adachi Museum of Art is not only renowned for its collection of modern Japanese art but also for its award-winning garden. The museum’s founder, Zenko Adachi, believed that “the garden is also a picture,” and the meticulously maintained grounds perfectly embody this philosophy.

The garden showcases a variety of landscape styles, including a dry landscape garden, a white gravel and pine garden, and a pond garden. Each window of the museum acts as a frame, offering visitors a unique and ever-changing view of the garden as they move through the building.

Address: 320 Furukawacho, Yasugi, Shimane 〒692-0064, Japan

Hours: 9:00-17:30 (Apr-Sept) / 9:00-17:00 (Oct-Mar)

More Information: Official Website

7. Suizenji Jojuen Garden: A Tea Retreat Transformed into a Japanese Garden Oasis

Suizen-ji Joju-en Garden, situated in Kumamoto, began as a tea retreat for the local daimyo, Hosokawa Tadaoki. It encircles a spring-fed pond, adorned with carefully curated elements like stone lanterns, bridges, and a symbolic hill representing Mount Fuji.

Visitors can meander through the garden’s winding paths, leading to several teahouses and shrines. The lush greenery, rolling hills, and peaceful pond transform Suizen-ji Joju-en into a tranquil city oasis, inviting exploration and enjoyment.

Suizen-ji Joju-en Japanese Garden, Kumamoto

Address: 8-1 Suizenji Koen, Chuo Ward, Kumamoto, 〒862-0956, Japan

Hours: 8:30-17:00

More Information: Official Website

8. Isuien Garden: A Hidden Gem in Nara’s Array of Japanese Gardens

In Nara, the ancient capital of Japan, lies the Isuien Garden. This strolling garden, a true masterpiece of Japanese landscaping, is divided into two parts, each featuring a central pond and several teahouses. The borrowed scenery technique, or “shakkei,” is employed here, with the nearby Todai-ji Temple and Mount Wakakusa seamlessly incorporated into the garden’s design.

A central pond, fed by the adjacent Yoshikigawa River, forms a key part of the garden. It nestles among carefully situated rocks and trees. Plus, several teahouses and pavilions like Seishuan and Sanshutei offer prime spots to soak in the garden’s beauty.

Address: 74 Suimoncho, Nara, 〒630-8208, Japan

Hours: 9:30-16:30 (last admission 16:00)

More Information: Official Website

9. Kairaku-en: A Must-Visit Among the Three Great Gardens of Japan

Kairaku-en, standing among the Three Great Gardens of Japan, is an absolute must-visit. Situated in the heart of Mito, this expansive garden beautifully captures the essence of traditional Japanese landscape design. Its rich history, dating back to 1841, and the natural beauty it encapsulates offer an enriching experience to every visitor.

The garden was established by the local lord Nariaki Tokugawa, with the name ‘Kairaku-en’ meaning ‘garden for the enjoyment of all.’ This concept was unique for its time, as most gardens were solely for the pleasure of feudal lords. The democratic spirit of Kairaku-en is one of its defining features, making it an interesting piece of Japan’s historical landscape.

Perhaps the most iconic feature of Kairaku-en is its stunning plum tree grove. Home to approximately 3,000 trees spanning a hundred different species, this grove transforms into a vibrant spectacle each spring when the trees bloom in a myriad of colors.

Beyond the plum trees, Kairaku-en also houses a serene bamboo grove and a tranquil cedar woods. Adding to the garden’s charm is the Kobuntei, a traditional Japanese building. From here, visitors can enjoy panoramic views of the entire garden and the nearby Lake Senba.

A visit to Kairaku-en is not just a walk through a garden; it’s a journey into Japan’s cultural heritage, where every step brings you closer to understanding the timeless elegance of Japanese landscaping.

Address: 1 Chome-1251 Migawa, Mito, Ibaraki, 〒310-0912, Japan

Hours: 9:30-16:30 (last admission 16:00)

More Information: Official Website


By incorporating elements such as water, rocks, trees, and moss, each Japanese garden tells a unique story of nature and tranquility. These traditional Japanese gardens are a testament to the country’s long-standing love for and dedication to the art of gardening. They are a product of centuries of refined skills, cultural aesthetics, and an appreciation for the simple, humble beauty of nature.

Visiting a Japanese garden is not just about experiencing the beauty of Japanese landscaping; it’s about embracing the tranquility, the silence, and the stillness that permeate these spaces. It’s about understanding the Japanese concept of “ma” – the beauty of space, of pause, of the moments in between. This is what sets Japanese gardens apart.

From the majestic Golden Pavilion of Kinkaku-ji to the serene Zen garden of Tenryu-ji, from the picturesque landscapes of Ritsurin Garden to the symbolic journey through Suizenji Jojuen Garden, these stunning Japanese gardens are sure to leave you in awe.

As we wrap up this virtual tour, we hope you’ve been inspired by the beauty of these Japanese gardens. Perhaps you’ll incorporate elements of Japanese landscaping into your own garden, or maybe you’ll plan a trip to Japan to experience these serene landscapes firsthand.

Whichever path you choose, remember that each Japanese garden is a journey into tranquility, an invitation to step back, slow down, and appreciate the beauty of nature, the passage of time, and the delicate balance between simplicity and sophistication. That’s the true essence of a traditional Japanese garden.

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