Being an avowed garden lover, it is surprising to me that I had yet to come across (until last week that is) a list of the 50 most beautiful gardens of Japan as rated by the Journal of Japanese Gardens (an American-based magazine). I knew that such a list existed and I knew that the Adachi Museum of Art repeatedly topped that list, but it wasn’t until I got to the museum that I obtained a physical copy of the list.
I learned two things. 1) I have only seen a handful of the gardens they ranked as the best. And more worryingly 2) After seeing the Adachi Museum of Art’s garden, how could I ever find another that could measure up??
Yes, I admit (though not that I ever doubted), this garden deserves absolutely every single accolade it has received. But part of its success lies in that it is not just ONE garden, but a garden made up of four or five markedly different sections.
When you enter the museum, you are greeted by glimpses of the Dry Landscape Garden, certainly the largest of the sections. It tempts you from the hallway pictures windows but doesn’t yet reveal itself in full.
From here, you walk by the pocket-sized moss garden. Tucked into the space between museum wings, this section is small in size and apparently the least remarkable, as I can’t seem to find a picture of it in my collection.
An open hallway leads to the Juryu-an Garden, which is free to wander around or you can spring for the full experience of tea and a wagashi sweet at the Juryu-an teahouse on-site. This was probably my favorite garden of the museum.
Back once more to stunning, landscape views of the Dry Landscape Garden. In the distance, the Kikaku Waterfall is incorporated into the scene, a technique known as “borrowed landscape”. In the autumn, the mountains here must be fiery as the maples turn but even in summer, the juxtaposition of brilliant blue sky and white gravel is mesmerizing.
I loved the Juryu-an Garden until I got to the Pond Garden. Bridges, lanterns, a gate leading to … where? I wanted to find out, but had to settle for admiring from afar. The water here was wonderfully soothing.
Around the other side of the building, we were greeted by the final garden, the White Gravel and Pine Garden. It was equally as lovely as the Pond Garden, yet strikingly dissimilar in its presentation. I couldn’t stop snapping pictures, knowing it was the last garden on the list.
So what about the art? Truthfully, I could take it or leave it. There was some beautifully painted scrolls and selection of pottery I found quite interesting, but nothing stands out as truly memorable. But then, I didn’t really come to the Adachi Museum of Art for the art. I, personally, came for the gardens and for that, I have absolutely no disappointment whatsoever.
The museum is located in Yasugi, a fair distance outside of Matsue city itself. You can take a local train to Yasugi from Matsue (about 20 minutes) and then a free shuttle bus runs about once an hour from there to the museum itself. For drivers, there is a massive parking lot on-site, right next to a big onsen complex.
Admisison to the museum is a pricey ¥2300, but if you’re a foreigner (even one living in Japan), simply present your passport and you receive a 50% discount.