Japanese gardens are perfect for anyone who wants to capture the essence of Japan. Many of the most beautiful Japanese gardens can be found in Kyoto because it has been the political, religious and cultural capital of Japan for over a thousand years. Emperors, aristocrats, and samurai used to have wonderful gardens in their residences, some of which can still be explored today. Thus, Kyoto is the best place in all of Japan to immerse yourself in the wonders of the Japanese garden. There are many types of Japanese gardens and every type of Japanese garden is represented in Kyoto, from Zen gardens to strolling gardens of the Shoguns and Emperors. With so many fantastic gardens on offer, it can be hard to choose the ones to see during a visit to Kyoto. To help you decide, please continue scrolling down to read about some of the most beautiful gardens in Kyoto.
Ryoan-ji is a Zen temple located in northwest Kyoto and Japan’s most famous rock garden is within its compound. Both the temple and its gardens are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. So, it’s not a surprise that this temple is usually overrun by mass tourists. The very best time to visit this magnificent rock garden is in the early morning when the crowds are usually smaller than later during the day. And you will have plenty of time to soak up the garden charms of fifteen carefully place rocks, grouped into three mossy islands set in raked white gravel, the simple yet complex compositions. An interesting feature of the garden’s design is that it is impossible to view all fifteen rocks at once from any angle. Apart from little patches of soft moss around the stones, this simplistic rock garden has no plants. However, there is a row of trees behind the mud wall, which has created a green backdrop for the garden. After visiting the famous rock garden, one should stroll along the Mirror Pond (Kyoyochi), where you can enjoy a picturesque scene of reflections, water plants and a scenic view of surrounding mountains.
Have you heard of the term ‘borrowed scenery’ before? It is a masterful landscape design technique that merges the surrounding natural scenery into the garden itself. Entsu-ji is best known for its stunning use of Shakkei, or borrowed scenery. The garden has used the natural frame formed by the hedge and trees brings a majestic view of a mountain inside the garden. As a result, over the evergreen hedge and trees, you will see the distant Mt.Hiei is integrated into the design of the garden as if it is a part of the garden. Unlike other traditional Japanese gardens, the seventeen-century Entsu-ji garden dispenses altogether with hillocks and no building can be seen on the veranda. While strolling through this beautiful garden, all you can see is natural elements such as moss, shrubs, trees, bamboo groves, and mountain. However, all the common natural elements have been so carefully arranged that makes the composition of this garden like no others, pleasing to the senses yet calming the mind. Entsu-ji is extremely beautiful in autumn leave seasons, draw just as many visitors as the cherry blossoms do during spring. Although Entsu-ji is located in far northern Kyoto, it is definitely well worth the trip!
3. Okochi-Sanso Villa
Okochi-Sanso is the former home and garden of the famous silent film actor, Denjiro Okochi (1898 -1962). It is located on the slopes of Mt. Ogura behind Tenryuji temple and next to the Sagano bamboo groves. You will be surprised to know that this garden is so beautiful that it rivals any of the city’s imperial properties. In fact, Denjiro Okochi dedicated 30 years of his life to create and build the villa and garden. The garden is beautifully designed with pine trees, cherries, and acers providing the right colors according to the seasons. Although Okochi-Sanso is beautiful all year round, spring and autumn are highly recommended visiting times. Followed the tiny stoned winding paths around the garden and you will see all the main features of this unique garden. Since the Okochi-Sanso villa is located on top of the hill, the view of Kyoto city centre, Mt.Hiei, and the Hozu River gorge are just breathtaking!
The beauty of all these Japanese gardens is definitely a motive to visit Kyoto. Do include one of these fine Japanese gardens in your itinerary, if you want to say you have truly experienced Japan!