"I know it's not easy going contrary to the deep-rooted preconceptions and hype associated with Japan's gardens & architecture.  But this is the only way to bridge the chasm in understanding between our two cultures."

Dale Brotherton, Japan-trained carpenter

Thank you for your ongoing efforts to bring the knowledge and enjoyment of Japanese gardening to the International public."

Joseph Cali, book author

  Sukiya Living Magazine (JOJG)

2005 Shiosai Rankings

For 3 Years Running, the Adachi Art Museum tops the list of Japan's Finest Gardens!

JOJG is pleased to announce the 2005 results of our ground breaking Shiosai Project. This is an ongoing effort to identify and promote Japan’s finest Sukiya Living environments based on quality rather than on other factors. The 2005 survey identified a total of 693 gardens. The 25 gardens listed below thus represent sites placing in the top four percent of the whole.

Adachi Art Museum in Shimane Prefecture continues to rank as Japan’s - and quite possibly the world’s - top garden. Adachi has earned this honor each of the past three years. Its success is partially due to an intensive grooming/maintenance program that involves every single member of the museum’s staff on a daily basis.

This year more prefectures and more “categories” (of sites) are represented than in previous years.  Newcomers to the list include Seibi-en in Aomori Prefecture, Kyoto Fumin Hall, and Koh-ko-en, a spectacular garden located at the base of Himeji Castle in Hyogo Prefecture.  The fastest rising star is Seiryu-en (see photo, above), a semi-public garden located on the grounds of Nijo Castle in Kyoto.  A less-than-satisfying side view of Seiryu-en can be gained from the Nijo grounds.  Those who inquire are usually allowed to enter the garden and stand next to the garden’s guest house. From there they can see why this Sukiya Living environment is so highly regarded by Shiosai experts.

The Shosai Project receives major TV and newspaper exposure in Japan. This in turn generates excitement and discussion about what actually constitutes a “high-quality” Sukiya Living space.  The tide is starting to shift away from the old and famous gardens toward more relaxed and beautiful spaces.

Here are the Top-25 Gardens in Japan:

1. ADACHI MUSEUM OF ART   (Museum, Shimane Prefecture)
Main and Platten called the Adachi Art Museum, “a tour de force of meticulous maintenance.”  The Shiosai Project experts agreed.  Adachi earned their #1 ranking over a period of 30 years.  Take a bow.

2. KATSURA RIKYU   (Imperial Villa, Kyoto)
At or near the top of every list, Katsura represents Sukiya Living at its finest.

3. YAMAMOTO-TEI   (Neighborhood Retreat, Tokyo)
This neighborhood day retreat continues to impress with its relaxed and graceful atmosphere.  For 100 yen visitors can stay as long as they’d like.  If you want to experience Sukiya Living at its finest, this place is hard to beat. (see JOJG #32)

4. MURIN-AN   (Estate, Kyoto)
The Murin-an estate is one of the nicest places to relax in Kyoto, with a graceful sukiya-style home overlooking a gentle stream.

5. SEIRYU-EN   (Semi-public Garden, Kyoto)
Kyoto’s best-kept garden secret is located on the grounds of Nijo Castle, behind Ninomaru Palace. Ordinary tourists can view the garden from the side. If you come along on JOJG’s garden tour, we’ll take you into the heart of this special garden for a front row seat.

6. SANYO-SOH   (Ryokan Comlex, Shizuoka Prefecture)
Donald Keene called Sanyo-soh “a masterpiece of modern sukiya-style architecture.” Located in Izu-nagaoka, the ryokan complex consists of about 20 guesthouses, all arranged around an expansive lawn and central lake.

7. THE NOMURA RESIDENCE   (Former Residence, Kanazawa)
Located in Kanazawa’s Nagamachi district, this Edo-period home offers an enclosed garden sanctuary with waterfalls and a koi pond that extends right up under the home’s engawa.

8. KOH-KOKU-JI   (Temple, Shimane Prefecture)
This modest garden is situated above the town of Hirata, west of Matsue City. It overlooks a water reservoir, with forested mountains beyond. At first glance Koh-koku-ji might not impress. But have a seat and give it 20 minutes to work its magic, and you will leave refreshed.

9. MAKAYA-JI   (Temple, Shizuoka Prefecture)
Visiting this garden is not easy. It requires a day’s trek, but your long journey is rewarded by a stunning layout of tsukiyama berms and classic rock compositions. For the serious stone lover, this is a “must see” garden.

10. NIJO CASTLE / NINOMARU   (Palace, Kyoto)
Located in central Kyoto, the Ninomaru garden’s pond edging illustrates a bold and nearly perfectly executed gogan-ishigumi arrangement.

11. RENGE-JI   (Temple, Kyoto)

12. MINAMI-KAN RESTAURANT   (Restaurant, Shimane Prefecture)
This restaurant and ryokan is located beside a waterway in Matsue City. Minami-kan’s beautiful dry garden offers a clean, elegant atmosphere coupled with near-perfect garden maintenance.

13. SHIRAKAWA-IN   (Teacher's Retreat, Kyoto)
This hotel-like facility serves as a teachers’ retreat, but tourists can stay here when space is available. Shirakawa-in’s relaxed and unassuming atmosphere perfectly matches the human scale and offer a fine example of Sukiya Living in the heart of Kyoto.

14. GYOKUDO ART MUSEUM   (Art Museum, Tokyo)
Wow! Wild mountains and a stunning cascading river... You’ll never believe that this site is actually located in western Tokyo. You’ve got to see it to believe it.

15. RITSURIN KOEN   (Park, Kagawa Prefecture)
This large stroll garden is located in Takamatsu on the island of Shikoku. It is well known for its arched bridge and excellent pine pruning.

16. SHISEN-DO   (Former Residence, Kyoto)
Located in the hills of NE Kyoto, Shisen-do is a prototype of what some experts call a “Villa-style” garden. Shisen-do’s terraced upper garden offers a simple and elegant solution to the challenges of a site that slopes down from the house.

17. HIROSHIMA SEKI-TEI   (Ryokan Complex, Hiroshima Prefecture)

18. RAIKYU-JI   (Temple, Okayama Prefecture)

19. SEIBI-EN   (Public Garden, Aomori Prefecture)

20. KYOTO FUMIN HALL   (Cultural Hall, Kyoto)

21. HOHKO-EN   (Castle, Hyogo Prefecture)
This large public garden is located at the base of Himeji Castle, in Himeji City.

22. KI-UN KAKU   (Former Estate & Ryokan, Kanagawa Prefecture)

23. SHIMIZU-EN   (Public Garden, Niigata Prefecture)

24. KAIKA-TEI   (Ryokan, Fukui Prefecture)

25. GANKO SUSHI RESTAURANT   (Restaurant, Kyoto)
At night this former estate becomes a magical place, with graceful lighting and a wide sparkling stream. An after-dinner stroll through this garden is always a delight.