5 Beautiful Gardens Across Kyushu Worth Strolling Around
The island of Kyushu is home to many beautiful and lush gardens to visit, from formal Japanese landscape gardens to historical premises housing heritage buildings amid seasonal flowers and foliage. Although I could have chosen many more, in this piece, I profile five gardens from all across Kyushu for a diverse yet uniquely southwestern Japanese botanical experience. Learn more about the Glover Garden in Nagasaki with its historical Western mansions and expansive view; the Fukuoka City Botanical Garden in Fukuoka with an observatory offering a stunning view of the city; the Kawachi Fuji-en in Kita-Kyushu with its Monet-like wisteria; the Suizenji Jyojuen in Kumamoto, a stately Japanese landscape garden; and Sengan-en in Kagoshima, a landscape garden which uniquely uses the natural landscape of sea and volcano in the article below.
Glover Garden, which was founded in 1970, is much newer than the other sites on this list. However, its history actually stretches back more than a century earlier with the opening of Japan to Western trade. In addition to the natural beauty of the surrounding garden, which includes cherry blossoms and a three hundred year old Sago palm, visitors to Nagasaki's Minami-Yamate hill will find an assortment of Western-style homes and buildings, many of which are open to the public and contain furniture and tableware dating back to the end of the nineteenth century. Among these, the Former Glover House is a must-see as it holds the title for the oldest wooden Western-style house in Japan. Finally, after spending the afternoon touring opulent abodes once owned by Japan's first generation of wealthy Western residents, take a moment to enjoy the fantastic views of Nagasaki City and its harbor.
Fukuoka City Botanical Garden
The Fukuoka City Botanical Garden, a short walk from the Nishitetsu bus stop Dobutsuen-iriguchi, has much to offer visitors to the city, from greenhouses to a plethora of seasonal flowers. Indeed, to best plan your trip, their website even offers photographs of the key flora to observe during different seasons and months with a map indicating their locations! Especially beautiful are their rose gardens in the early summer and their large collection of succulents and tropical trees, such as mango trees, in the greenhouses. Also check out the small observatory where you can see a panoramic view of the gardens and the surrounding city. Next to the Fukuoka City Zoo, the Botanical Garden is an ideal yet under-appreciated destination for families as it is comparatively quiet as a green space in the city and filled with lovely paths for kids to run around.
This private garden with seasonal openings to the public attracts visitors for its incredible number of wisteria trees. Located in Fukuoka Prefecture's Kitakyushu City and best accessed by car, Kawachi Fuji [Wisteria] Garden is most popular during Japan's Golden Week holiday season in the first week of May when these spectacular trees are in bloom. The two one-hundred-meter tunnels comprised of overarching wisteria flowers spanning a color spectrum from white to dark purple are particularly stunning. And for those of you planning to travel to northern Kyushu in mid-November to early December, the garden is also open to visitors in search of its maple trees changing colors. If possible, be sure to reserve tickets in advance as the garden has been increasing in popularity in recent years.
Suizenji Garden, located a short tram ride from Kumamoto Castle, was constructed over an eighty-year period beginning in the 1630s. Encompassing over sixty hectares of land, this landscape garden recreates the Fifty-Three Stations of the Tokaido, the famous historical route that connected Kyoto, one of Japan's ancient capitals, and Edo, the former name of Tokyo. As in real-life, the reconstructed highway also includes a miniature Mount Fuji for visitors to marvel at as they stroll past cherry trees, Izumi Shrine–a site dedicated to the garden's founding family–the Hosokawa clan, and Kokin Denju no Ma, a teahouse originally from Kyoto's imperial palace that was moved to Suizenji in 1912. Be sure to pause and enjoy a cup of Japanese green tea at the latter as you look out onto the beautiful botanically rendered landscape of feudal Japan.
Founded by the powerful Shimadzu Clan in 1658 and just a thirty-five-minute bus ride from Kagoshima Chuo Station, Sengan-en Garden offers botanical delights in all four seasons, including a species of Japanese cherry trees blooming as early as late-January. When walking the paths between the carefully manicured plant life, over quietly flowing streams, and past bamboo groves and shrines, visitors cannot miss the towering behemoth, the volcano Sakurajima, in the distance. In addition to its rich flora and fauna, Sengan-en also has deep roots in Japan's Industrial Revolution. Here, tourists can also visit the Shoko Shuseikan Museum, an important site for forging shipbuilding iron and a World Heritage Site. For an extra peek into the past, you should stop by the Iso Residence, home of the Shimadzu family, reconstructed in the 1880s, with an interior decor left frozen in the 1890s. With a picturesque landscape and centuries-old architecture, green thumbs and history buffs alike will find plenty to enjoy at Sengan-en.