"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)

2010 Shiosai Rankings

For 8 Years Running, the Adachi Art Museum tops the list of Japan's Finest Gardens!

JOJG is pleased to announce the 2010 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 2010 survey identified a total of 841 gardens. The 50 gardens listed below thus represent sites placing in the top six 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 eight 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 the Choraku-en Ryokan in Shimane Prefecture, Fujita Kinen Teien in Aomori Prefecture, and Ki-un Kaku in Atami.  The fastest rising star is Kasui-en Minami (see photo, above), a "Ryokan Hotel" in Tamatsukuri Onsen, Shimane Prefecture.

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-50 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. YOKOKAN   (Historic Building & Garden, Fukui Prefecture)
A beautiful sukiya-style estate building that you can enter, sit down, and stay as long as you wish.  The garden is good, but the building is fabulous.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. HEIAN KAIKAN   (Hotel, Kyoto)
A small, but charming garden with a pondside azumaya at its center.  This is one of the "sweetest" spots in Kyoto - it will win you over if you stay awhile.

7. 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)

8. 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.

9. HIROSHIMA SEKI-TEI   (Ryokan Complex, Hiroshima Prefecture)
This ryokan has various buildings laid out around a beautiful, high-quality garden.  

10. KASUI-EN MINAMI    (Ryokan Hotel, Shimane Prefecture)
This is a large, modern hotel with sukiya accents and beautiful gardens tucked in here and there.  The stream garden surrounding its lobby is excellent (see photo, above).

11. TOKIWA HOTEL   (Ryokan Hotel, Yamanashi Prefecture)
This is a large, modern hotel with an attractive garden courtyard that features a yarimizu stream and other charming features.  In the back is their sukiya annex featuring beautiful sukiya-style rooms overlooking the koi pond.

12. 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.

13. 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.

14. RAIKYU-JI   (Temple, Okayama Prefecture)

15. OHORI KOEN   (Public Garden, Fukuoka Prefecture)

16. 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.

17. 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.

18. RENGE-JI   (Temple, Kyoto)

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

20. CHORAKU-EN   (Ryokan, Shimane Prefecture)

21. MATSUDA-YA HOTEL   (Ryokan, Yamaguchi Prefecture)

22. 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.

23. 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.

24. 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.

25. 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.

26. SHIOSAI KOEN  (Public Garden, Kanagawa Prefecture)

27. HAPPOH-EN   (Wedding Hall, Tokyo)

28. SHIGURE-TEI   (Retreat House, Ishikawa Prefecture)

29. 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.

30. FUJITA KINEN TEIEN   (Former Residence, Aomori Prefecture)

31. SAMBO-IN   (Sub-temple, Kyoto)

32. SAGI-NO-YU SOH RYOKAN   (Ryokan, Shimane Prefecture)

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

34. JUNSEI   (Restaurant, Kyoto)

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

36. 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.

37. TAIZO-IN   (Sub-temple, Kyoto)

38. ENKI-KAN   (Historic House, Niigata Prefecture)

39. JOZAN-EN   (House Replica, Aichi Prefecture)

40. KANEYAMA-EN HOTEL   (Onsen Hotel, Yamanashi Prefecture)

41. ISUI-EN   (Residence, Nara)

42. RIKUGI-EN   (Public Garden, Tokyo)

43. JISAKU   (Restaurant, Tokyo)

44. KAGETSU  (Ryokan, Yamanashi Prefecture)

45. KONPUKU-JI   (Former Residence, Kyoto)

46. KYOTO FUMIN HALL   (Cultural Hall, Kyoto)

47. MOMIJIYAMA TEIEN   (Public Garden, Shizuoka Prefecture)

48. SHODEN-JI   (Temple, Kyoto)

49. SUIZEN-JI   (Daimyo Garden, Kumamoto)

50. ENTSU-IN   (Temple, Miyagi Prefecture)