Nara is full of traditional Japanese culture. Besides all the temples and shrines, you will also find two prime examples of traditional Japanese gardens, both located just a stone throw away from Nara park.
In Nara visitors has the opportunity to visit two gorgeous Japanese gardens located next to each other. Both Yoshiki-en and Isui-en are worth your time if you want to relax in some beautiful surroundings. And if you take the time to look closer, they will teach you a few things about Nara's interesting history too.
Yoshiki-en was built in 1919, and contains a thatched-roof building that has remained intact throughout the years. This garden used to be the private residence of one of the head priests of Todai-ji, but opened to the public in the Showa period. Since 2011 Yoshikien is classified as a Prefectural Cultural Property.
The garden actually consists of three different parts, all with their own distinct styles. First you will enter the pond garden, where you will find several stone lanterns. Next up is the moss garden, where, as the name implies, the ground is covered with a thick layer of moss. The final part is the Tea Ceremony flower garden, where a picturesque thatched-roof tea house is surrounded by seasonal flowers.
Yoshikien Garden is open from 9am to 5pm. Entrance is 250 yen, but they currently at the time of writing this article, foreign visitors can enter for free.
Next to Yoshiki-en you will find a path that leads up to the entrance of Isui-en garden. This garden is much older, dating back all the way to the 1670’s. Back then, a large chunk of this
land was purchased by a wealthy tanner, who built two houses here as a home for his family. The rest of the grounds that makes up the current garden was designed by a businessman from Nara in 1899.
In 1939, the merchant Jyunsaku Nakamura purchased both gardens and combined then, as well as dedicated a site for the Neiraku Museum, where a collection of traditional ceramics from Japan as well as a handful of other Asian countries are being displayed. Entrance to the museum is included in the 900 yen entrance fee for the garden.
In total, the current gardens of Isui-en cover more than 13000 square meters, and they are a popular destination all year round. The best time to visit however, is either during the cherry blossom season in early April, or during the autumn when the leaves are changing color.
Both gardens are located just outside Nara park, on the western side next to Todai-ji. To get here, you can either take a 15-20 minute walk from either JR Nara station or Kintetsu nara station. Or you can get on one of the yellow loop buses that stops at most of the major sightseeing spots as well as both train station. The nearest bus stop is Todai-ji. From there, the gardens are just a 5 minute walk away.