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

 

Need help planning your trip to Japan ?

If you are interested to know more and save your time during your trip to Japan, You can send a message to our local guides to get a customized itinerary and quotation for an unforgettable experience.

In the TripleLights website you can find the best professional guides all over Japan to help you plan your trip. Check our local guides for Japan


Plan your trip to Japan

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Get Started

Recent Tour Reviews

“ He took me to lots of local spots and gave me the history ”

Excellent
8 hours ago Traveler: Michele -   Tour Guide: Taka

Excellent day! He took me all over Tokyo and showed me where locals go, and we moved through the city at a great pace. He is very knowledgeable about the city and shared his expertise
read more

“ Tokyo shopping tour ”

Excellent
19 hours ago Traveler: Patrick -   Tour Guide: Maru

She was very knowledgeable and helped me get good gifts for my son and friends. It was a nice time.
read more

“ A wonderful day ”

Excellent
1 day ago Traveler: André -   Tour Guide: Yumiko

Yumiko was such a pleasant person to have as a guide when we visited Kyoto. She has a very good level of English and a lot of knowledge about the sites we visited. She was easy to communicate with before we met, and she was very good at understanding what we wanted from our visit. We highly recommend her as a guide. And a guide was a valuable investment for the visit. Kind regards from Andrè and J...
read more

“ A Wonderful Experience! ”

Excellent
1 day ago Traveler: Dorothy -   Tour Guide: MICHIKO

We spent two days with Michiko in Kamakura and Nikko. She did a fantastic job of organizing our time and sharing her knowledge and love of these beautiful places! It was a pleasure to work with Michiko.
read more

“ Wonderfull introduction to Tokyo ”

Excellent
2 days ago Traveler: Wolfgang -   Tour Guide: Chiaki

Very open, friendly and helpful lady. Perfekt start for Nippon.
read more

“ Excellent local knowledge about all of the major tourist destinations. ”

Excellent
2 days ago Traveler: David -   Tour Guide: Kiriko

Thank you Kitty for being so flexible in showing us around Osaka. Although we had some requests to see some places that are not typical, it was wonderful that you were so enthusiastic with your research and interest in helping us have a great time. It was a great day of trying many wonderful foods from the region and learning about neighbourhoods we may have overlooked without you.
read more

“ Best Tokyo guide ”

Excellent
3 days ago Traveler: Anthony -   Tour Guide: Toru

Courteous, knowledgeable, friendly etc etc. only positive words to describe him:. We are here from New York and are seeing neighborhoods and attractions and Toru explains everything. Highly recommend!
read more

“ Caring Professional Friendly Guide ?? ”

Excellent
4 days ago Traveler: Sasibha -   Tour Guide: Kaori

We spent the day with Kaori going off the beaten track in Nikkō. From the start, Kaori has been very responsive and clear in her communications. We knew exactly what to expect. We had a lovely day learning more about Japanese history and culture which was made fun because Kaori has a great sense of humour. She is very perceptive and caring as well. Thank you very much Kaori-San for a memorable...
read more

“ Best of Tokyo with Mayumi! ”

Excellent
4 days ago Traveler: William -   Tour Guide: MAYUMI

We are grateful to have met Mayumi and to have spent a full day with her touring Tokyo. She is a warm and personable host, happy to share her knowledge with her clients and to maximize their enjoyment of the sites in Tokyo. Her special interests are the shrines and temples of Japan. There are many in Tokyo and these were special stops during our tour. We highly recommend Mayumi as a guide fo...
read more

“ Sight seeing and hiking ”

Excellent
4 days ago Traveler: Bailey -   Tour Guide: Kiyoko

We are so grateful to have met and spent time with Kiyoko who was a terrific guide. As we traveled and achieved all our goals in our 3 day stay in Wakayama. Her knowledge was great and assistance with our 2 year olds needs was super helpful.
read more

Related cities

Plan your trip to Japan

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Get Started