Magnificent villa and gardens of a great statesman
Tucked away in the Okazaki area of Kyoto, Murin-an is a charming garden built at the end of the 19th century by one of the most crucial figures in modern Japanese history. The statesman Yamagata Aritomo (1838-1922) built Murinan Garden as a retirement villa when japan was pursuing a program of rapid modernization, and reveals his own taste for foreign architectural styles.
Admire the scenery of the Higashiyama hills
Spend time in a place where political heavyweights discussed the impending Russo-Japanese War
Savor matcha green tea at the traditional teahouse
How to Get There
Get close to Murinan Garden by bus from Kyoto Station and walk from there. From Kyoto Station, take the city bus no. 5, 86 or 100 to Jingu-michi or Okazaki Park Museum, Heian Jingu-mae. Murin-an is located a short walk away. Follow the signs on Niomon Street to a small entrance down a quiet, narrow lane.
A tranquil hideaway
Murin-an is a modern Japanese garden, designed to give you a different view at every turn. Its construction was completed in 1896 but despite its historical significance and stunning beauty, it remains among the lesser-visited sights of Kyoto. Its name, in fact, alludes to the relatively quiet location of this garden. Yamagata Aritomo, the prominent Meiji-Era (1868-1912) statesman, was closely involved in its construction. It was around this time that the monumental Lake Biwa canal was completed. This project was designed to direct water from the largest lake in Japan to Kyoto, to generate hydroelectric power. Yamagata took advantage of this development to create the numerous streams, ponds, and waterfalls you will find here among the perfectly manicured moss and trees. The garden itself was created by Ogawa Jihei (1860-1933), a famous seventh-generation gardener in a prominent gardening family.
A symbol of Westernization
Yamagata was a pivotal figure in the Meiji Restoration, which brought the 264-year-long reign of the shogunate regime to an end, replaced with a new government with the emperor at its head. Yamagata had originally opposed opening Japan up to foreign trade. However, realizing that Japan could not stand up to Western military might, he set about modernizing the Japanese army as Prime Minister. One of the three buildings in this garden is a Western-style red brick structure which now serves as a museum. The second floor is still laid out with the original furnishings and lavish artworks. Here, Yamagata met secretly with ministers in the lead up to the 1903 Russo-Japanese War.
You can try matcha tea and Japanese sweets at the main Japanese house, overlooking the gardens. Murinan Garden is well-placed to make visits to Nanzenji Temple, Heian-jingu Shrine, and the numerous museums in the Okazaki district. Plan to spend a leisurely half day in the area.
Murin-an Garden is a hidden gem in Kyoto, offering visitors a tranquil escape from the bustling city. Nestled in the Okazaki area, this charming garden was built at the end of the 19th century by Yamagata Aritomo, a prominent figure in modern Japanese history. As Japan was undergoing rapid modernization, Yamagata sought solace and inspiration in creating Murin-an as his retirement villa. The garden reflects his appreciation for foreign architectural styles and his desire to create a peaceful sanctuary in the heart of Kyoto.
To reach Murin-an Garden, visitors can take a bus from Kyoto Station and walk from there. The city bus numbers 5, 86, or 100 will take you to Jingu-michi or Okazaki Park Museum, Heian Jingu-mae, from where Murin-an is just a short walk away. Follow the signs on Niomon Street to find the small entrance down a quiet, narrow lane.
Upon entering Murin-an Garden, visitors will be greeted by a modern Japanese garden that offers a different view at every turn. The garden was completed in 1896 and remains one of Kyoto’s lesser-visited sights, despite its historical significance and stunning beauty. The name “Murin-an” refers to the garden’s relatively quiet location, providing a serene atmosphere for visitors to enjoy.
Yamagata Aritomo played a significant role in the construction of Murin-an Garden. During the same period, the monumental Lake Biwa canal was completed, redirecting water from the largest lake in Japan to Kyoto for hydroelectric power generation. Yamagata took advantage of this development to create streams, ponds, and waterfalls within the garden, complementing the perfectly manicured moss and trees. The garden itself was designed by Ogawa Jihei, a seventh-generation gardener from a prominent gardening family.
Apart from its natural beauty, Murin-an Garden symbolizes the Westernization of Japan during the Meiji Restoration. Yamagata was a key figure in ending the shogunate regime and establishing a new government with the emperor at its head. Initially opposed to opening Japan to foreign trade, Yamagata recognized the need to modernize the Japanese army in order to compete with Western powers. One of the buildings in Murin-an Garden is a Western-style red brick structure, now serving as a museum. The second floor retains its original furnishings and lavish artworks, offering visitors a glimpse into Yamagata’s secret meetings with ministers in preparation for the Russo-Japanese War.
While exploring Murin-an Garden, visitors can also indulge in matcha green tea and Japanese sweets at the traditional teahouse. The main Japanese house overlooks the picturesque gardens, providing a serene setting for a relaxing break. Additionally, Murin-an Garden is conveniently located near Nanzenji Temple, Heian-jingu Shrine, and various museums in the Okazaki district. Plan to spend at least half a day in the area to fully appreciate all that it has to offer.
In conclusion, Murin-an Garden is a hidden gem in Kyoto that showcases the vision and taste of Yamagata Aritomo, a prominent statesman in Japanese history. This charming garden offers visitors a tranquil escape from the bustling city, with its unique blend of Japanese and Western influences. Whether admiring the stunning scenery, savoring matcha tea, or exploring the museum, a visit to Murin-an Garden is a must for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of Kyoto’s rich cultural heritage.
Address And Maps Location:
31 Nanzenji Kusagawa-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto-shi, Kyoto-fu