On the advice of Eiji Morozumi, a great garden designer from Perth, I made the trip down from Okayama to Takamatsu on the island of Shikoku to see Ritsurin Koen. This was worth the trip just for the spectacular train trip accross several kilometers of suspension bridge 50m above the channel between Honshu and Shikoku. From that vantage point some of the many forested islands scattered between the mainland and Shikoku can be viewed, as can the multitude of both small and large fishing vessels trying their luck in the heavy currents.

Ritsurin Koen was built over extended generation in the 17th and 18th centuries for the residing daimyos or feudal lords. It has a dramatic setting at the foot of heavily forrested My Shiun which in modern times is contrasted dramatically with the other sides of the garden which are now surrounded by typical modern Japanese urbanscape.


Ritsurin is a large garden, over 100 hectares in total, but it never feels over-expansive or empty. It is quite unique in comparison to other well know stroll gardens in that it has large areas of very naturally designed garden, seeming to draw on the inspiration of the mountain forest it sits on the edge of and the lowland marshes it was built around. As with its surrounds, there is great contrast between the meticulously designed Zenscape of the South end of the garden and the more naturalistic flow of the North and West portions. 

What I most enjoyed was the fact this contrast never seemed to upset the balance of the design. It only served to add delicious complexity to the garden and an element of intrigue as to what was 'round the corner'. 

Ritsurin was the perfect way to cap off an amazing leg to the trip. Japan is certainly unique in its cultural heritage and the way that has been maintained in many respects within the people of today. They show humility and honour in much of what they do,other than when they loudly slurp up their Ramen noodles though this is apparently a very traditional thing to do!

The incredible neatness of their urban environments is reflected in the meticulous detailing of their gardens. I have been at once impressed by all I have seen and daunted at the prospect of translating their ideas into our own designs. The bar has been set very high in Japan, as I expected it would, presenting a great challenge for the future.


Now it is off on the long flight to Spain and the gardens of Andalucia. It is a country where in general I am far more familiar with its culture and cuisine than that of Japan. But the Moorish palaces and gardens of Andalucia I expect to bring plenty of inspiration for dry country landscape design back in Australia and in some strange way I expect to complement what I've learnt in Japan.


Instagram Feed