Isuien and Yoshikien Gardens of Nara
Two peaceful oases in the middle of Nara.
Yoshikien and Isuien gardens will take you back to old Japan through their immaculately maintained traditional sceneries. These two beautiful traditional-style gardens are located next door to each other in the center of Nara city. They are often overlooked in favor of bigger attractions around Nara Park, however, the gardens allow you to see a variety of traditional garden styles and changing landscapes all in a compact location.
If you want to step back in time to old-school Japan, Isuien Garden is the place to do go! Said to be one of the most beautiful gardens in Nara, it is also the only “walking garden.” Isuien is located on on the Yoshikigawa River and its name stands for “garden founded on water” since it is made out of two ponds fed by the river. The scenic oasis is divided into two main sections, known simply as the front garden and the back garden.
The front garden dates back to the Edo period, whilst the larger rear garden was constructed during the Meiji era. Both areas use the traditional concept of shakkei, or “borrowed scenery” in their design, with landmarks such as Mount Wakakusa and Todai-ji Temple’s Nandaimon Gate visible in the distance.
There are also several tea houses around the grounds, as well as the Neiraku Museum. Inside the museum are a rotating collection of Chinese, Japanese and Korean pottery and other artworks. If you are in the mood for a traditional snack, have some tea and light snacks at the Sanshutei Tea House, which has a fantastic view of the front garden.
On the other side of the narrow Yoshikigawa and next door to Isuien Garden lies Yoshikien, a smaller garden which takes its name from the river. It dates back to 1919 and used to be part of the nearby Kofuku-ji Temple. With three separate areas — the pond garden, the moss garden and the tea ceremony garden — in the center of them, you’ll find a traditional wooden tea house.
This building is not open to the public, but adds to the classical aesthetic of the garden. Benches are scattered around the grounds, along with a couple of gazebos to soak up the tranquil atmosphere and enjoy the view. Strolling around the different landscapes of Yoshikien will definitely give you a mixed feeling of tranquility and coziness.
Visiting the gardens is a delightful experience at any time of the year, with the foliage changing with the seasons. Both are also located near Nara’s popular attractions, including Todai-ji Temple, Kofukuji Temple and Nara Park. If you are planning to visit Nara city, make sure to include these two peaceful gardens on your itinerary.