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Great gardens, teahouses, a museum... Find the origin of hospitality of Japan

A garden commissioned by wealthy merchants from three eras; rave reviews on TripAdvisor

Isui-en garden wins accolades from international travelers and earned a recognition for excellence in 2015 from TripAdvisor, the world’s biggest website for travel reviews. Located just west of Todai-ji temple, the garden has established its reputation with flowering plants like rhododendrons in spring and lotus flowers and water lilies on the ponds in summer, as well as autumn leaves in the fall. Isui-en also provides enjoyable viewing in winter, when pine needles mats cover the grass to protect it from frost and “komomaki” belts are wrapped around the trees to defend them from pests, thus marking the end of the year’s last flowering season in this garden that was visited by the tea masters Rikyu, Enshu and Oribe. The garden’s gradual landscaping was commissioned by wealthy merchants from three periods of Japanese history: the Edo Period (1603-1867), the Meiji Era (1868-1912) and the Showa Era (1926-1989). Isui-en’s lasting beauty continues to treat its numerous visitors with soothing scenery.

Two landscape styles: Edo in the front, Meiji in the rear

Isui-en is a garden built around ponds in styles from two different eras. There are four historical teahouses of elegant design. The peaks of Mt. Wakakusa, Mt. Kasugaoka and Mt. Mikasa complement the scenery from the background. The garden is also home to the Neiraku Museum and its collection of famous artworks. International travelers often cite Isui-en as a prototypical Japanese garden. In the Edo Period, the garden was built by Kiyosumi Dosei, a wealthy merchant who traded in luxury “nara-zarashi” textiles. Its style was very typical for that time and the garden gained repute. In the Meiji Era, ownership was transferred to Sekito Jiro, an entrepreneur and tea ceremony enthusiast. The head of the Urasenke school of tea ceremony designed a new garden behind the Edo Period garden. In this rear garden he also built a bounty of graceful constructions, including a teahouse made from materials around 1,200 years old.

WWII survival and revival, plus a fantastic art museum

In 1939, on the eve of World War II, Isui-en came under new ownership. Junsaku Nakamura, who held assets in the naval industry, was also a collector of famous ancient Oriental art. He founded a museum in his hometown of Nara with a dream of bringing new beauty to the garden. In 1958, after the horrors of war had passed, many workers toiled to rebuild Isui-en. Nakamura opened the Neiraku Museum with a collection of more than 2,000 pieces of art that had survived Allied bombing. The exhibits on display at the Neiraku Museum include ancient Chinese bronze artifacts, ceramics form the Goryeo and Joseon dynasties of Korea, and Japanese tea implements. The collection is so impressive that it astounded a visiting group of art researchers from South Korea’s National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage. Items in the public exhibits are switched out on a regular basis.

INFORMATION

Isuien Garden
Time
9:30〜16:30 (Please enter by 16:00) *Closed on Tuesday (open daily in Apr, May, Oct and Nov)
Address
74 Suimon-cho, Nara-shi, Nara Pref.
Admission
Adults: 900 yen (to the garden and the museum)
Contact
+81-(0)742-25-0781

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