Blue skies, clement temperatures, and autumnal foliage make this season ideal for exploring gardens and parks in Japan. Every major city has somewhere you can escape to, away from the tourist trail.
Kyoto's Murinan is an immersive experience
Moerenuma is a vast concept park in the suburbs. Renowned landscape architect Isamu Noguchi gave the former waste treatment facility a new lease of life. It turned out to be his final project. His vision was to make the park feel like a single, cohesive sculpture. Geometric sculptures and fountains dotted around undulating hills and mounds achieve the effect.
A favorite feature is Mt. Moere. The climb is worth it for the views of the surrounding area. The Glass Pyramid, which houses a gallery, a cafe, and a shop, is beautiful too.
Moerenuma Park is designed to be sculptural work of art
Tokyo has no shortage of captivating Japanese gardens, but one of the most charming is Rikugien. It was designed in the 1700s for Tokyo’s nobility, with paths circuiting a large central pond and various man-made mounds.
For a small fee, this tranquil garden makes a worthy addition to any Tokyo travel itinerary. Visitors can enjoy a peaceful amble, as well as a bowl of traditional matcha tea at the garden’s teahouse while contemplating the view of the pond.
Utsubo Park is known for its beautiful blooms
Osaka is less famous for its aesthetics than it is its outstanding food and outgoing people. However, there are some hidden beauties in this buzzing city.
Utsubo Park is small but beautiful. The historic site is a former Second World War airstrip, which was transformed into a shady spot with a pretty rose garden. It’s close to Honmachi and downtown Shinsaibashi, making it easily accessible.
Step back in time at Hattori Ryokuchi Park
Hattori Ryokuchi Park is another lovely spot. Its bamboo forest and open-air museum, featuring old Japanese farmhouses, draws visitors all year. However, it really comes into its own during cherry blossom season, when it’s one of the most popular places in the city for sakura viewing (hanami).
Tower of the Sun is the iconic and unusual star of the Expo Commemoration Park
An offbeat alternative is the Expo Commemoration Park around 15 kilometers north of Umeda. It’s home to the iconic—and somewhat perturbing—Tower of the Sun. The 70-meter tall tower was built in 1970 for an Expo and has been preserved here since. Visitors can’t enter the tower, but it certainly is a spectacle to behold.
Murinan is considered a masterpiece
Murinan is a Japanese garden created by venerated landscape gardener Ogawa Jihei and Yamigata Aritomo, one of the founding fathers of modern Japan. It is widely regarded as a masterpiece.
The garden’s design marked a shift away from the traditional symbolist style, where a pond represents the sea and stones depicted islands, to a more naturalist style, where the surrounding mountains and rivers create a sense of motion.
Known for his preference for rivers over ponds, Ogawa sought to engage all the senses in an immersive garden experience, rather than to encourage people to contemplate.
Murinan offers respite from busy Higashiyama, an area extremely popular with tourists, so take the opportunity to visit an oft-overlooked attraction. Fall is the perfect time to visit when the foliage turns to fiery reds and oranges.
About the author
Rebecca (Becki) came to Japan expecting to only stay for a year. After stints living in Kagoshima, Osaka and now Tokyo, she's still here. She enjoys spending her weekends finding cool new things to see, eat, drink and do.