Where is the best Japanese garden in the world? It must be in Kyoto, right? Wrong! Then, of course, it has to be in Tokyo. Try again. The best Japanese garden in the world is at Adachi Museum of Art, in the small town of Yasugi, in Shimane prefecture of western Japan. How do I know this? It’s about 40 minutes from my house and also my wife’s hometown. I live in Yonago. It’s a city of about 150,000 people at the western boarder of Tottori Prefecture and is the second largest city. Yasugi is near the eastern boarder of Shimane Prefecture, with about 43,000 people. This is a pretty rural area for Japan. Japanese gardens are ranked by the Journal of Japanese Gardening which evaluates gardens worldwide. Most of the top ten gardens are in Kyoto, but the number one spot for six years in a row is the garden at Adachi Museum. This is in part due to the museum’s constant trimming schedule that involves all the staff. The museum’s founder Adachi Zenko travelled throughout Japan, collecting rocks and plants for the garden. There are a total of six gardens, covering 165, 000 square meters. The garden can be enjoyed all year and has a distinct look in each season. The museum regularly hosts apprentices from all over the world to study gardening. One of my former students was a manager there and went to New York to give a presentation on the gardens. The museum even bought up the mountains behind the gardens to preserve and ensure the pristine look of the garden.
The museum is worth a visit for the garden, but also has an excellent collection of art, highlighting the works of Yokoyama Taikan. I’m not an art connoisseur, but I remember looking at some paintings and I saw one that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was dark cliff, almost black except for a single strong stroke of white for the waterfall. I felt I could almost see the water moving and hear the sound of the waterfall. It was a queer feeling. Another memorable piece was a sculpture of an old wise man. He had the most uncomfortable gaze, as if he were looking right into your soul. There is also a special tea room with a “living scroll painting” which is a rectangular window with a frame that overlooks the garden. Tickets to the museum are not cheap however; 2,200 yen, or more than twenty dollars. But one good thing is that Yasugi residents get free tickets from the local government once a year.
Go here for more information and great pictures of the gardens: