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A Gallery of Green: Japanese Gardens (Photos)

Satō Shin’ichi [Profile]/Sawada Shinobu [Profile]

Many Japanese gardens are part of such facilities as restaurants, museums, and hotels. This collection introduces some of the finest examples of these kinds of gardens.

The Pleasures of Gardens

Japan’s garden tradition dates back over 1,500 years. While some spaces, such as those found at Buddhist temples, remain in their original state, most have been transformed to various degrees over the centuries. For us living in the present age, then, experiencing a garden preserved from a former era is a rare pleasure to savor.

Japanese gardens of high historical and cultural value that have survived the vicissitudes of time are designated as either meishō (places of scenic beauty) or tokubetsu meishō (special places of scenic beauty). It is my hope that visitors to these grounds will take the time to appreciate every corner and recess out of regard for those who preserved them for later generations to enjoy.

There are also historically and culturally important gardens to be found within commercial facilities like art galleries, hotels, and restaurants. Here it is possible to admire the surroundings while enjoying a meal or during an exhibition. One could say they offer modern ways to enjoy a garden.

Three Kinds of Modern Garden

There are three main kinds of garden that combine historical value with contemporary appeal.

1. Gardens of famous figures

Many gardens built at the residences of famous Japanese business leaders of the modern era have since been converted for use as wedding venues or restaurants. They convey the ornate beauty sought by the success stories of the day, and the opulent settings offer a fitting atmosphere for couples to wed. Examples of this kind of garden include Tsujike Teien in Kanazawa, Ishikawa Prefecture and International House of Japan and Happōen in Tokyo.

Happōen Garden

1-1-1 Shirokanedai, Minato, Tokyo, 108-0071
Tel: 03-3443-3111
Link (some English):

2. Art gallery and museum gardens

There are many art galleries and museums in Japan boasting gardens that can themselves be considered works of art. Some of the most famous are to be seen at Gyokudō Art Museum in Tokyo; Northern Culture Museum in Niigata, Niigata Prefecture; and Hakone Museum of Art in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture.

Hakone Museum of Art Garden

1300 Gōra, Hakone, Ashigarashimo, Kanagawa Prefecture, 250-0408
Tel: 0460-82-2623
Link (Japanese):

3. Hotel gardens

Gardens found on the grounds of hotels and ryokan are generally kept in pristine states for the enjoyment of guests. Fine examples include the gardens found at the Westin Miyako Kyoto and Hotel New Otani in Tokyo, which were designed by modern pioneer Ogawa Jihei VII and twentieth-century master Iwaki Sentarō, respectively.

Westin Miyako Kyoto Kasuien Garden

Sanjō Keage, 1 Awataguchi Kachōchō, Higashiyama, Kyoto
Tel: 075-771-7111

(Originally published in Japanese on July 24, 2017. Photographs by Satō Shin’ichi. Text by Sawada Shinobu. With thanks to the editorial team at Niwa. Banner photo: The garden at Hotel New Otani in Tokyo.)

  • [2017.08.21]

Photographer, born in 1966. Has used classic view cameras since buying a 4x5 camera at the age of 20. His works take full advantage of the fine detail and distinctive transparency ultra-high-resolution cameras offer.


Chief editor at Niwa (Gardens) quarterly. Editor and writer. Joined Shōten Kenchiku in 1991, editing for Shōten Kenchiku (Commercial Architecture) monthly magazine. Freelance since 2008.

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