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GoWithGuideFind your perfect tour guide at GoWithGuide. Relax and cherish unforgettable tours with loved ones. Create personalized tours for a truly memorable trip!

The Three Great Gardens of Japan

Luke K.

by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Luke K.

Last updated : Mar 03, 20216 min read

Things To Do

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)

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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)

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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)

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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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Akiko W.

5.00 / 5
(8 reviews)
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Hello! My name is Akiko from Gifu prefecture. I am a National Government Licensed Guide Interpreter. I like going out with my family, talking with my friends over coffee at a cozy cafe, reading books, baking bread and cake when I have time. I passed the national tour guide test in 2017 and have worked as a guide since then. I have guided in Gifu city, Seki city, Takayama city, Shirakawago , Mino city and Nagoya city. I have lived in Gifu for more than forty years. Gifu prefecture is rich in nature so you can enjoy the rural atmosphere. Gifu city has a beautiful river 'Nagara river' and Mt.Kinka which has Gifu castle on the top. You can go up the mountain on foot or use a ropeway. The view from Gifu castle is so fantastic. At the foot of the mountain , there are many places to visit such as parks, a temple having a big image of Buddha, and a street preserving the historic atmosphere. At Nagara River, you can enjoy seeing a traditional way of fishing ‘cormorant fishing’ which is thought to have started 1300 years ago. Many cafes have unique service called 'morning service' in Gifu along with Aichi In the morning (until about ten thirty or eleven) when you order a cup of tea or coffee, they serve toast and salad ! Near Gifu park , you can find a nice Japanese style cafe where you enjoy good coffee and seeing a Japanese style garden. Seki city is a small city but so famous for its cutlery. At Japanese sword museum in Seki, you can see authentic Japanese swords! Mino city next to Seki city is well known for its hand made Japanese paper 'Hon minoshi' designated as intangible cultural asset by UNESCO . Until recently it was not easy to guide guests because of COVID-19 pandemic; however the situation is getting better. Some strict rules about COVID-19 have been lifted. Please visit Gifu. I am looking forward to seeing you. Please feel free to ask me when you need information about Gifu. Thank you for reading my introduction.                                                                                                                                 

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Kazue I.

5.00 / 5
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Hi! I am Kazue. I am from Fukuoka and live in the central city. I spent almost 20 years traveling around the world as a cabin attendant. Meeting different people, different cultures and eating local food were best things in my career. This experience definitely widened my perspective and will help me in some way when I work as a guide. Since I spent half my life outside of Japan, I noticed our culture and traditions are very unique and became more interested in historical sites in Japan. For my personal life, I am a mom of twins. It is still a hard work but I am enjoying a lot with them. We take them around Kyushu whenever possible for their fun and experience. We all love traveling after all. I am looking forward to showing you around our hometown soon!                                                                                                                                  

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