The Three Great Gardens of Japan

by Luke - TripleLights travel specialist

The three most famous gardens in Japan are designated as Special Places of Scenic Beauty, and each come with their own unique characteristics and styles. Traditional tea houses, bamboo forests, ponds, wildlife, and nature, all add to the relaxing calmness that each of the three gardens has to offer:

Koraku-en (Okayama)

The Three Great Gardens of Japan

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

Okayama Koraku-en is one of Japan’s Three Great Gardens along with Kanazawa’s Kenroku-en and Mito’s Kairaku-en. Nationally designated as a Special Place of Scenic Beauty, it has even received 3 stars in the French guidebook The Michelin Green Guide and worldwide praise. There are a variety of structures everywhere within the garden such as the central Enyo-tei House that the daimyo used to welcome honored guests with Mt. Miyao and Okayama Castle in the background. The visitor can enjoy new views as he takes a walk through the garden with Yuishinzan Hill in the center along with a canal and pond at its foot.

The view from the most important building of Enyo-tei House has the most beautiful view from within the garden. Normally, the building is not open to the public except for two times in the spring and fall so you will want to visit then. Aside from the buildings, what is also not to be missed is the garden’s harmonious relationship with nature through the plants and Japanese cranes. In the spring, there are cherry blossoms and azaleas, Japanese iris and lotus in the summer, the fall colors, and camellia and plum in the winter so that seasonal scenery can be enjoyed throughout the year. At Koraku-en, Japanese cranes have been raised since the Edo Era. Although the program was halted temporarily, it has returned with the cranes being raised in cages. Annually on January 1st, several cranes are released into the wild with suitably excited visitors celebrating in an air of congratulations for the New Year.

Admission: Adult: ¥ 400 / Child: ¥ 140 

Guidebook from Planetyze about Koraku-en
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Koraku-en
Tours of Koraku-en

Kairaku-en (Ibaraki)

The Three Great Gardens of Japan

(image by database.ibarakiguide.jp)

When the garden was established in 1842, visitors entered through the front gate instead of the current east gate, so they could understand the true quality of Kairaku-en by going through the front gate. Since visitors can enter the east gate from the closest station of JR Kairaku-en Station, you will want to get off at the preceding Mito Station and take the bus to the front gate. The theme of Kairaku-en Garden is “Yin and Yang”. Passing through the black front gate with its straw-thatched roof and through another shingled gate, there is the Osugimori (Big Cedar Wood) to your right and the Mousou Bamboo Forest to your left. Walking through the densely-growing forest, the serenity stands out even more. At the first fork on the path, looking down over the cliffs on the right, there is an oasis that floats out from the darkness.

There is a teahouse, Kobuntei, which uses the water from the Tougyokusen Spring. Nearby is an 800-year-old Taro cedar tree. It is a place where you will want to visit to hear the story about the long history for the clear spring. Head back to Osugimori after taking a break at Tougyokusen. In this area, there is  a thick growth of kuma bamboo grass, and on the forest path which has been gently cooled by the green moss, you can feel a moment of serenity. Once you come to another fork on the path, head for Kobuntei. Kobuntei, which has been called “the excellent pavilion of the world”, is a hidden world that has been opened up. Constructed for poetry readings and tea parties, the view from the 3rd floor of the plum forest and Senba Lake is exquisite. In front of Kobuntei is Shibasaki-mon Gate. In this area is Kairaku-en’s biggest highlight, a place of changes in the positive and negative (yin and yang). Once you pass through the gate, there is a large plum forest which expands in front of you. On the right, there is a viewing plaza from where you can see Senba Lake. Vivid colors will be shown that will reveal a world that is different from any that you have seen before. This garden that skillfully features the positive and negative will lead visitors to a Japanese style of tranquility. 

Admission: Adult: ¥ 200 / Child: ¥ 100 

Guidebook from Planetyze about Kairaku-en
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Kairaku-en
Tours of Kairaku-en

Kenroku-en (Kanazawa)

The Three Great Gardens of Japan

(image by upload.wikimedia.org)

As one Japan’s three greatest gardens, this garden is a Place of Scenic Beauty that is rightly designated as a National Treasure. Enjoy the different features of each season in this garden where man-made beauty and nature exist in remarkable harmony.

Kenroku-en is a Japanese garden that was designed in 1676 by Kaga Hanshu and took almost 180 years to complete. The name Kenroku-en (“garden with six characteristics”) comes from the Song dynasty book “Record of Famous Gardens in Luoyang,” which describes six features (spaciousness, seclusion, artifices, antiquity, water-courses and panoramas ), all of which are found in Kenroku-en. It is spacious, bright and open, but the garden also has the peacefulness and profundity of being among the mountains, and every inch of the garden has had some influence from man. The garden also has an antiquated feel, and, as the ponds and waterfalls vie for your attention, you can marvel at the view of the Ushinada sand dune and the Noto peninsula in the distance, and the view of the Utatsu Mountains, Mount Haku and Iozan in the foreground. In each season, you will enjoy the beautiful scenery while walking around the 5800m2 Kasumiga-ike pond in the middle of the garden, which still has the characteristics of a pleasure garden with trees and water-courses from the Edo period. The Kotoji Lanterns that light up the surface of the water are one of Kenroku-en’s most outstanding features, and they create an incredibly harmonious scene with the old maple trees and Nijibashi, which bridges the meandering stream. Gankou-bashi is a line of 11 stones modeled on the appearance of wild geese in flight. It is also called Tortoise-shell Bridge because the stones are shaped like tortoise shell. This bridge is said to ensure that those who cross it will live a long life, but crossing is now prohibited in order to protect the stones (viewing the bridge is possible).

Admission: Adult: ¥ 310 / Child: ¥ 100

Guidebook from Planetyze about Kenroku-en
Reviews from TripAdvisor about Kenroku-en
Tours of Kenroku-en

 

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