Apart from world-class temples and imperial mansions, the wonderful deer-infested Nara Park in the ancient Japanese capital of Nara has a number of wonderful little Japanese gardens. While I was visiting the Japanese tourist bureau was trying to promote those gardens by offering free admission to non-locals and though I saw plenty of Japanese gardens in Kyoto I decided to go in and have a look. They’re fairly simple and small compared to the grandeur of Kyoto’s but still a very pleasant green escape.
Japan Guide writes about Isuien Garden:
Isuien (依水園) is an attractive Japanese garden with a variety of features, such as the use of Todaiji Temple’s Nandaimon Gate and Mount Wakakusayama as "borrowed scenery". Isuien means "garden founded on water", and the garden’s name is derived from the fact that its ponds are fed by the small adjacent Yoshikigawa River. The Yoshikien Garden is located just on the other side of the river.
Isuien is divided into two parts, a front garden and a rear garden, with a number of tea houses scattered throughout. The front garden has a longer history, dating back to the mid 17th century. The rear garden, the larger of the two, is more recent and was built in 1899 by a wealthy merchant. Next to the garden there is a museum displaying a personal collection of pottery, seals, mirrors and other artifacts from ancient China and Korea, which is included with admission.
Japan Guide writes about Yoshikien Garden :
Yoshikien (吉城園) is a pleasant Japanese garden located in central Nara. It is named after the Yoshikigawa River, a small river that runs beside the garden, and was built on the site of Kofukuji Temple’s former priest residences. The entry fee to the garden is waived for foreign tourists.
There are three unique gardens within Yoshikien: a pond garden, a moss garden and a tea ceremony garden. So, a visit to Yoshikien provides the opportunity to see three different variations of Japanese gardens in one spot. If visitors still want to see more techniques of Japanese gardening, the Isuien Garden is located just across the small river.
Both gardens were free for foreign visitors, but I’m not sure that it will stay that way. Either way, a nice quick getaway from Nara Park to enjoy lovely Japanese gardens.