Explore 5 Stunning Japanese Gardens in Wakayama Prefecture: A Journey Through Kishu Tokugawa Clan's Historical Legacy

Explore 5 Stunning Japanese Gardens in Wakayama Prefecture: A Journey Through Kishu Tokugawa Clan's Historical Legacy

12 Jun 2024

The KANSAI Guide

Immerse yourself in garden tourism in Wakayama, where you can not only admire the beauty of Japanese gardens but also delve into the rich history, culture, and cuisine of the region. Here are five must-visit Japanese gardens linked to the prestigious Kishu Tokugawa clan. Discover the elegance of feudal lord culture and the unique charm of Wakayama through these magnificent gardens.

1. Wakayama Castle Nishinomaru Garden: Echoes of the First Lord

Built by Tokugawa Yorinobu, the tenth son of Ieyasu and founder of the Kishu Tokugawa clan, Wakayama Castle Nishinomaru Garden features a grand design that reflects Yorinobu's personality. The garden, which uses the slopes of the mountain where the castle tower stands, is particularly stunning in autumn. The reflection of the Engyokaku pavilion and autumn leaves in the pond is breathtaking. Enjoy a traditional tea ceremony at the Koshokan tea house, and then savor a recreated "Kishu Tokugawa Family Offering Cuisine" at Choho-ji Temple, the family temple where Yorinobu once visited.

2. Yosuien Garden: The Tenth Lord's Retreat

Next, visit Yosuien Garden, the retreat of the tenth lord, Harutaka, located at Suiken Goyotei. Built over nine years starting in 1818, this garden features a "shioiri" pond that draws seawater, similar to the Hama-rikyu Gardens. The changing water levels due to the tides are mesmerizing. After experiencing Harutaka's refined taste, visit the Kishu Toshogu Shrine, dedicated to Ieyasu and Yorinobu. The shrine's main and worship halls are adorned with intricate carvings and paintings, earning it the nickname "Nikko of Kansai."

3. Bansho Garden: A Cliffside Marvel

In response to Perry's arrival in Uraga in 1853, the Kishu domain set up the Bansho Garden to protect the Kii Channel. Located on a cliff, this garden offers panoramic views of the ocean, with lush green lawns and pine forests. On clear days, you can see as far as Awaji Island and Shikoku. Enjoy photography at designated points, or engage in activities like barbecues or yoga, which require prior reservation. This garden is perfect for an active and scenic experience.

4. Negoro-ji Temple's Historic Garden

Head to Negoro-ji Temple in Iwade City and Kokawadera Temple in Kinokawa City. Founded by Kakuban, a master of Shingon esoteric Buddhism, Negoro-ji boasts a history of over 900 years. The temple's garden, gifted by the Kishu Tokugawa clan, features waterfall rocks and islands in a pond viewed from a corridor. Negoro lacquerware, one of Japan's top three lacquerware, originated here. Experience the beauty of this traditional craft by painting spoons or chopsticks at the Hatsuone Workshop.

5. Kokawadera Temple: A Cultural Treasure

Kokawadera Temple, founded over 1,250 years ago, is renowned for its close ties to the Kishu Tokugawa family. Admire the "Tiger Carving" by Hidari Jingoro and a plaque by the tenth lord Harutaka. The nationally designated scenic garden features bold rock arrangements and dynamic dry landscapes. While visiting, indulge in the local specialty, fruit sushi, made with seasonal fruits from Kinokawa City, one of Japan's top fruit producers.

Explore these gardens to experience the grandeur of daimyo culture and the unique allure of Wakayama.

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