Japan: The Yushi-en Garden in Matsue
Updated: Nov 12
There are rare moments in a photographer's life that leave an indelible impression on their mind. The shock of an encounter, a discovery, or an unexpected moment often provides the opportunity to capture some of their most stunning shots, or at the very least, to preserve an unalterable memory. This was the case for me when I discovered Yushi-en Garden for the first time. Yushi-en remains, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever seen in Japan.
© O. Robert
It's obviously a matter of personal taste. But having visited hundreds of parks and gardens, as well as thousands of temples, each with its own garden, Yushi-en remains the most spectacular for me in terms of its organization, the harmony of its compositions, and the balance of the landscapes it suggests.
© O. Robert
Characteristics of Yushi-en Garden in Matsue
Located in Shimane Prefecture, on Daikonshima Island in the middle of Lake Nakaumi, this garden was inaugurated in 1975. It spans approximately 10,000 square meters and was designed to represent the typical landscapes of the San-in region.
Yushi-en is a "kaiyu-shiki" style garden, a type of strolling garden where visitors follow a winding path around a central pond. This design aims to offer a series of picturesque views, changing with each step. One of the most notable features of Yushi-en is its collection of stones, meticulously selected and arranged. All of these stones come from the San-in region and are renowned for their unique beauty.
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Among significant dates, it's noteworthy that the garden underwent major renovations in 2003. These improvements allowed for the addition of new features, including stone bridges and traditional lanterns, thereby enhancing its charm and authenticity. Another crucial milestone was the addition of a tea pavilion, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in Japanese tradition by savoring Matcha tea while contemplating the landscape.
Yushi-en is also famous for its seasonal blooms. The spring period sees the flowering of azaleas and cherry blossoms, while autumn is marked by the brilliant reds of Momiji maples. These seasonal variations attract visitors year-round, making Yushi-en an emblem of the natural beauty of the San-in region.
© O. Robert
When to Visit
If you have the opportunity to visit in November or December, you will be able to admire particularly vibrant autumn colors in the garden. Otherwise, late spring and summer are perfect for appreciating the foliage of the maples and their delicate structures. Although the garden is of medium size, you'll spend a considerable amount of time capturing subtle scenes, vegetation details, the structures of pruned pines, and the generous pond overlooked by trees with elegant forms.
During my visits, I almost never encountered anyone, which is quite exceptional for a site as resplendent as this. Its location away from the city and far from the country's major tourist sites is likely the reason for this solitude. As a foreigner, you can once again benefit from a 50% discount on the admission price by presenting your passport.
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At the end of your visit, don't hesitate to take some time to enjoy the exceptional viewpoint over the garden from the tea room, where you can also try a ginseng specialty. The island is indeed renowned for its production of ginseng and peonies.
How to Get to Yushi-en Garden
This garden is located on Lake Nakaumi, 16 km away from the city of Matsue in Shimane Prefecture. As mentioned earlier, this prefecture is part of the San-in region. Located on the northwest side of Honshu Island, by the Sea of Japan and to the north of Hiroshima, the San-in region literally means "In the shadow of the mountains."
This region is not well-known among foreign tourists, primarily because of its unique geographical situation. The isolation imposed by the Shugoku mountain range separates it from the cities of Kobe, Okayama, and Hiroshima. It has only been in recent years that the San-in region has opened up to national tourism, and a few foreigners venture there regularly to explore other aspects of Japanese culture.
© O. Robert
Getting to the San-in Region
If you're starting from Tokyo, you can take a direct flight to the major cities in this region, such as Tottori or Matsue. Otherwise, you'll have to take the train, as no other national airports serve these cities. The simplest way is to take the "Super Hakuto Express" train from Kyoto or Osaka to Tottori. The journey takes approximately 3 hours from Kyoto.
Once you arrive in Tottori, you can then drive to Lake Nakaumi and Yushi-en Garden from the city center of Matsue in about 25 minutes.
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