Isui-en: peaceful meandering in Nara

I’ve always loved gardens.  Ever since I read The Secret Garden as a child, I’ve been enchanted by the idea of big gardens with lots of nooks and crannies in which to get lost.  So, when I learned that Japan is famous for its gardens, I was quite excited to explore them.

During my time in Kyoto, I took a half-day trip to Nara, the ancient Japanese capital.  During the Nara Period, Buddhism flourished here, and as such, some of the most famous Buddhist temples in Japan are located in Nara.  Along with temples, Nara is home to a lovely garden, Isui-en, which was created in the Meiji era (late 1800s to early 1900s).

One of the things I enjoy most about Japanese gardens is the fact that many of them contain teahouses, where you can enjoy a cup of matcha while enjoying the beauty and serenity of the garden.  In that respect, Isui-en was definitely my favorite garden in Japan.  Our first order of business after entering the garden was to pay a visit to the teahouse.  It was almost empty at that time of morning, and we were able to relax and enjoy the beautiful view.

The pond outside the teahouse

The view from the teahouse
Matcha at Isui-en
Teahouse from the outside

After a refreshing cup of matcha, it was time to explore the garden.  Since the garden is near the famous Todaiji temple, it takes advantage of the architectural elements of the temples and the natural landscape to create some stunning views.

View of the garden, Nandaimon gate of Todaiji, hills of Nara

Most of the garden was filled with trees and other green plants, creating wonderful shaded walkways.

Stone walkway

However, there were also little flower gardens interspersed throughout.

Very symmetrical flower in Isui-en
Flowering bush in Isui-en

I also enjoyed all of the water features throughout the garden.  The pond is fed by an adjacent river, and the layout of the garden is so harmonious with its surroundings that it is impossible to tell what is natural and what is man-made.  The peaceful atmosphere made it seem like the perfect place for contemplating the mysteries of the universe.  I could have sat here happily for hours.

Pond in the shape of the kanji character for water
Mini waterfall

I am very glad I was able to spend some time in Isui-en before seeing the rest of the sights in Nara as they can be rather crowded and overwhelming.  If I ever have the means to have a personal walking garden, I want to look like this one.

4 responses to “Isui-en: peaceful meandering in Nara

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