Japanese landscape gardens are famous worldwide, from the rock gardens of Kyoto to the gardens of Imperial Villas. The infamy is so high that gardens are often becoming crowded with tourists. Sometimes the lesser known gardens can be just as beautiful, and easier to explore and enjoy.
Genkyuen Garden is in Shiga prefecture, Hikone. Built by a local lord, in 1677, specifically to entertain his exalted guests, the garden was built on the grounds of Hikone castle.
The garden contains a large pond, crisscrossed by wooden and stone bridges. At the edge of the pond stands traditional Japanese buildings, designed to entertain all who visit. You can actually enjoy some Japanese green tea there now, imagining you are a guest of the Daimyo of the castle.
The garden also boasts the background scenery of Hikone castle, making it one amazing spot to get a truly Japanese photo!
More than the pond, the garden also boasts small areas of woodland and some historic aspects which are well explained. The plants and trees in the garden are painstakingly manicured and curated. The pines even look like large bonsai specimen, having been grown so slowly over the centuries.
When to visit: The beauty of Japanese gardens is that they can be enjoyed in every season. Genkyuen is particularly stunning in autumn, when the bridge red and orange leaves are lit at night.
Access: Easily accessible from Kyoto station, 1 hour train to Hikone station via JR special rapid train to Hikone. Or you can get here from Tokyo on the Tokaido Shinkansen to Maibara station, then change to the JR special rapid train to Hikone.