Kitabatake Samurai Gardens 北畠氏館跡庭園
The beautiful last vestige of a great clan's power
If you are looking for an adventure into remote mountains to discover hidden beauty and samurai history, Kitabatake Garden, located within Kitabatake-jinja Shrine in the mountains of Mie, will make your day.
If you make the excursion by train from accommodations in Kyoto or Osaka, plan to spend the day here since the journey is an eight-hour round-trip. Getting here from Nagoya and back takes less than that.
- An adventure off the beaten path to explore the history of the samurai
- A chance to ponder the dramatic events that happened in such a serene setting
How to Get There
Make the trip by train and then by taxi, or rent a car.
Although the location is remote, once you get to Ise-okitsu Station on the JR Meisho Line you can take a five-minute taxi ride to reach the garden.
Reaching Ise-okitsu Station takes about three hours from Nagoya on the Kansai Main Line and Kisei Main Line. The journey from Kyoto or Osaka is more complex, involving a combination of Kintetsu and JR trains that takes between three and four hours. Renting a car is a nice option, especially because of the drive.
A peaceful setting with a violent past
This serene garden has a surprisingly bloody history. In the 14th century, the Kitabatake clan ruled the area. At the time, Japan was divided by two competing courts in the north and south, and the Kitabatake were allied with the latter.
Their tight grip on power, however, came to an end when the warlord Oda Nobunaga swept through with his forces and subjugated the area. The Kitabatake only retained their prominence when the head of the family, Kitabatake Tomonori, married his daughter to Nobunaga's son, Nobukatsu.
However, peace would not last long. Five years later, Nobukatsu launched a disastrous invasion of neighboring Iga Province in a failed attempt to prove his prowess as a military commander. When his father, Nobunaga, sent in troops to clean up the mess, he wiped out the Kitabatake clan in the process.
A rare samurai garden
Today, this garden is the only physical reminder of the Kitabatake clan's former glory. One of only three major samurai gardens still in existence, it features ponds spanned by small bridges and ancient stone lanterns. Each season offers its own beautiful, thought-provoking scenery.
If you have the time, a pleasant walk up the low mountain behind the garden offers a panoramic view from its summit.