The close relationship Japanese people have with nature brought to the development of a unique attention towards natural spaces, such as forests, parks and gardens. Especially when it comes to gardens, Japanese people have no rivals for the attention they put to detail, the fine aesthetics and the contemplative value of specific environments.
The first Japanese gardens were heavily influenced by Chinese gardens in their appearance, as they both represent the miniature of an idealized landscape. This kind of gardens often include ponds, rocks, flowers and trees. Japanese garden, though started soon to differ from the Chinese one for aesthetics and materials used. Curious to know about gardens and their development? Let’s find out more!

The Three Great Gardens

The Three great Gardens are considered to be the most famous and beautiful of the whole Japan. These are the Kenroku-en (兼六園, Six Attributes Garden) in Kanazawa, Kōraku-en (後楽園, garden of pleasure after) in Okayama and Kairaku-en (偕楽園, A park to be enjoyed together) in Mito. The first two were created in the 17th century, while the last one is more recent, dating only to 1841.

lantern of the Kenroku-en (兼六園, Six Attributes Garden)

The lantern of the Kenroku-en (兼六園, Six Attributes Garden). From Wikipedia

the Kōraku-en (後楽園, garden of pleasure after) in Okayama

the Kōraku-en (後楽園, garden of pleasure after) in Okayama. From Wikipedia

Kairaku-en (偕楽園, A park to be enjoyed together) in Mito

Kairaku-en (偕楽園, A park to be enjoyed together) in Mito. From Wikipedia

Unlike the Kenroku-en and the Kōraku-en, the Kairaku-en was open to the public, while the other two were originally meant as private gardens for the families who had them built. Of the three gardens, only Kōraku-en and Kenroku-en are considered “Special Places of Scenic Beauty”. But all of them are said to represent perfectly the setsugekka, literally, snow, moon, and flowers, or in other words the most beautiful aspects of nature throughout the year. For this reason, any season of the year will be good to visit the gardens, as their beauty can change according to the month, but never decrease.


1-1 Marunouchi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture


Admission Fee:
310 yen for adults, 100 yen for 17 years old and younger

Mar. 1 through Oct.15 : 7:00a.m – 6:00p.m
Oct.16 through Feb.28/29 : 8:00a.m – 5:00p.m


Please refer to the official website for the latest information.


Korakuen 1-5, Kita-ku, Okayama City 703-8257


Admission Fee:
400 yen for adults, 140 yen for 14 years old and younger, 140 yen for 65+ years old.

March 20 – September 30 : 7:30 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.(entry by 5:45p.m.)
October 1 – March 19 : 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.(entry by 4:45 p.m.)


Please refer to the official website for the latest information.


Tokiwa-cho, Mito-shi


Admission Fee:
Main garden: free
Kobun-tei: 200 yen

6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (February 20 to September 30)
7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  (October 1 to February 19)


Origin, history and styles of Japanese gardens

Japanese merchants that traveled to China in Asuka period were so fascinated by Chinese gardens that decided to bring them to Japan. These first gardens were heavily influenced by Buddhism and Daoism, a lot of them featured the five islands of a Daoist legend where eight immortals live, represented in the form of a mountain (Mount Horai). Also rocks representing turtles and cranes are common. A feature that comes from Shintō, on the other hand, is the Shimenawa, a rope that marks sacred rocks or trees. Garden used to follow the rules of Feng Shui, the Chinese geomancy.

A typical Japanese garden

From Wikipedia

Among the kinds of gardens, it worth to mention the water gardens, that have several lakes connected by bridges, that people visited in boats, often listening to music or reading poetry. Other gardens that developed in Heian period are the Paradise gardens, inspired to Buddhism, that were meant to represent the Paradise in the West, where Amida Buddha ruled. A wonderful example of a Paradise garden can be found in Uji: it’s the Byōdō-in, with its beautiful view of a temple built on a small island on a lake.

Uji, Byōdō-in

A beautiful garden with the pond, Byōdō-in. From Wikipedia

In the Middle Age, another kind of garden emerged, the karesansui, or Japanese rock garden. It takes inspiration from Zen Buddhism, and its peculiarity is that it uses sand or gravel to represent water, and big rocks symbolizing mountains. The garden in the Ryōan-ji, in Kyoto, is a zen garden.

The garden in the Ryōan-ji

The Zen garden in the Ryōan-ji. From pixabay

One of the latest styles for gardens is the Sukiya style, developed in Edo period, and characterized by its inspiration from the Tea Houses. A great example of this kind of garden is the one of the Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto.

Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto

Katsura Imperial Villa in Kyoto. From Wikipedia

Did you get interested? Visit The Three Great Gardens in Japan to view the best Japanese garden!

Please refer to the official website for the latest information.