Up-and-coming videographer Nikki Wilder had always dreamed of visiting Japan. So, during her final semeser of college when she heard of a Japanese 'genera film' class which included a trip to Japan, the Georgia native knew it was her chance.
During her trip the class had the pleasure of visiting beautiful gardens in Tokyo and Kyoto; her experience is featured in the above video.
Japanese gardens came in to popularity early in history, favored by monks and aristocrats who saw the need for gardens to satisfy the public's need for green spaces. While many early gardens didn't survive subseuqent rulers, historians and archeologists have been able to closely recreate the original gardens.
"What's amazing about Japan, is that their main religions, Shintoism and Buddhism are very much one with nature," said Wilder. "It blew my mind how many trees and gardens were inside some of their larger cities, and how much care they put into them."
When visiting Japan, it is possible to track, roughly, Japanese history through its diversity of gardens. If you, like Nikki, are eager to find the best tranquility gardens in Japan, check out this list.
Top Japanese Gardens to Visit in Tokyo and Kyoto
Hama Rikyu: Hama Rikyu, a popular landscape garden, is in the center of Tokyo. Originally built as a duck-hunting pond for a local dignitary, this garden features seawater pulled directly from Tokyo Bay and is subject to water level changes with the tide. ¥300 entry, M-F, 9 am to 5 pm.
Meiji Jingu Shrine: Meiji Shrine is famed for its beautiful gardens encircling the shrine of honored dieties. While getting to the shrine involves several simple respect rituals, travelers have said the homage paid is well worth the experience. The enshrined deites include Emporer Meiji and Empress Shoken, entombed in the early 1910s. You can attend special social and cultural events like Nikkusai and Musashino-Goryo-Yohaishiki which are hosted annually at the shrine to honor the late deites' love of and promotion of Japanese culture. ¥500 entry, M-F, 9 am to 4:30 pm.
Ryoanji Temple and Garden: This mystical rock garden is said to have properties mostly unexplainable and inextricably beautiful. This historic and cultural heritage site is built around the 15 rocks that were arranged and carved by an unknown hand in the Muromachi period. No one knows why they were carved or why the rocks are in the pattern that they've rested in for hundreds of years since they were arranged that way. ¥500 entry, March - Nov. hours 8 am to 5 pm. Dec. - Feb. hours 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.
Taizo-in Temple: After touring several sections of the city, Wilder told us about one of her favorite garden experiences. "My favorite garden would have to be the one in the Taizo-in Temple. We also had a monk meditation session there, and the whole experience was very calming and relaxing. Not only did they have a beautiful rock garden, but they also had a large pond with huge koi fish."
Tazio-in Temple is open year-round, with special green tea ceremonies held frequently. The temple is a place of zen practice and, according to temple guardians, zen and the tea ceremony have a strong bond. The gardens at Taizo-in include several native and exotic plants, blooming at different times during the year. ¥500 admission, ¥1000 admission and 30-minute tour in english. M-Su 9 am to 5 pm.