Shukkeien Garden

Osaka Castle
Osaka Dome
Osaka Grand Cube
Universal Studios Japan
Hiroshima Peace Memorial
Shukkeien Garden
Golden Pavilion
Heian Shrine
Kasuga Taisha
Toji Temple
Nishi Hongwanji
Toshogu Shrine
Irohazaka Drive
Meiji Shrine
Asakusa Kannon
Girl with Red Shoes On
Hikawa Maru
Marine Rouge Cruise
Kaiko Promenade
Yokohama Museums

This was the first of several gardens we visited. The visitor’s brochure describes it as follows:

Construction of Shukkeien was begun in 1620, the year following Asano Nagaakira’s installation as Daimyō (feudal lord) of Hiroshima. It was built by his principal retainer, Ueda Sōko, a famous master of the tea ceremony, as the garden of Nagaakira’s villa. Its name (literally, “shrink-scenery garden”) expresses the idea of collecting and miniaturizing many scenic views, and according to tradition it is a miniaturized landscape modeled on Xihu (West Lake) in Hangzhou, China.

In the center of Shukkeien is Takuei Pond, containing more than ten islets large and small. Around its circumference mountains, valleys, bridges, tea cottages, and arbors are skillfully arranged, all connected by a path by which one can stroll around the entire garden.

Gardens of this type are known as circular-tour gardens. They first appeared in the Muromachi Era (1336–1568); in the early Edo Era (1600–1867) they culminated in their classical form, to which pattern conform the main gardens of most daimyō. In order to make the land allotted to Shukkeien seem many times larger than its actual size, every part is rich in variety: here a remote mountain and solitary valley, here a broad seashore; blended with the moods of the seasons are a concentrated spectacle and a diversity that truly make the garden worthy of its name.

The bridge that spans the center of the pond, Kokō-kyō (literally, “straddling rainbow bridge”), was first built differently, then demolished and redone in its present form at the order of Shigeakira, seventh lord of the clan, by a famous Kyoto builder. It evinces a free command of bold and novel technique reminiscent of both Engetsubashi in the Korakuen of Koishikawa in Tokyo and Chitosebashi at Kyoto’s Shūgakuin Detached Palace.

The Seifūkan is near the center of the garden. It is built in the sukiyazukuri tea-cottage style, as befits Shukkeien; the roof is shingled. The west side is done in the elegant shoinzukuri writing-chamber style, and in the east wall is set a lyre-shaped katōmado window that frames a perfect view of Kokō-kyō. This cottage was especially beloved by many generations of daimyō of the Asano clan.

In 1945 the garden was destroyed by the atomic bomb, but the Hiroshima Prefectural Board of Education instituted repairs to restore its scenery to its condition prior to the bombing; the Seifūkan, Meigetsutei, and other structures were also restored. Now about 300,000 visitors come to Shukkeien each year; it has become a very popular sightseeing spot.

The garden undoubtedly deserved more time than we were able to spend in it, and I suspect we would have enjoyed the restful ambiance more if we had encountered it further along in our time-pressured tour.

Map of Shukkeien garden

Takuei Pond looking toward Yūyū-tei (gazebo)

Barney climbing up from the Yūyū-tei, overview of the pond

Kokō-kyō (“straddling rainbow bridge”) across Takuei Pond. As usual, modern Japan is closer than you realize.

Tiny turtle on a lily pad in one of the ponds. This is the photo mentioned in the Language sidebar.