links to APDL and KCC link to KCC homepage link to APDL homepage

Roads of Oku: Home

Inspiration ...

Matsuo Basho's Narrow Road to the Deep North, Translated by Nobuyuki Yuasa / Google Map: Bashō's Oku no Hosomichi ("Narrow Road to the Deep North")

Journeys ...

Spring 2004: On the Road in Kansai / Google Map
Summer 2005: Roads of Oku / Google Map
Fall 2006: Where Gods Alight / Google Map
Summer 2007: Hōkūle‘a in Yokohama / Map
Winter 2008: Snow Country / Google Map
Spring 2008: Full Bloom & Festivals / Google Map
Summer 2009: Fireflies & Sweet Fish / Google Map
Fall 2009: North Country Colors / Google Map
Summer 2010: Legends of the Land / Google Map
Spring 2011: On the Far Side of Disaster / Google Map
Summer 2012: Travels in the Fifth Moon / Google Map
Summer 2013: Far Roads: Finishing Touches / Google Map
Summer 2015: Saké-Tasting in the Kingdom of Local Brew

Memorable ...

Roads / Seacoasts & Coastal Roads / Bridges / Ferries / Walks & Hikes / Mountains / Ropeways / Rivers / Waterfalls / Lakes / Trees / Rocks / Caves / Hot Springs / Sakura / Fall Colors / Archaeology and History / Castles / Shrines / Temples / Gardens / Festivals / Food / Drinks
Photography: Dennis Kawaharada and Karen Ono

Note ...

On Driving in Japan

Roads of Oku: Journeys in the Heartland

A collection of essays on Japanese culture, history and literature. Available at (Far Roads Press, 2015).


3 Famous Gardens: Kenroku-en, Koraku-en, and Kairaku-en

Kenroku-en, Kanazawa, Ishikawa. Winter 2008

"Kenroku-en" translates "Garden of the Six Sublimities," "referring to spaciousness, seclusion, artificiality, antiquity, abundant water and broad views, which according to Chinese landscape theory are the six essential attributes that make up a perfect garden. Constructed by the ruling Maeda family over a period of nearly two centuries, the garden was located next to Kanazawa Castle and was not opened to the public until 1871" (Kenrokuen Garden,

Kenroku-enWaterfallPine treeWaterway

Koraku-en, Okayama. Summer 2009

Located next to Okayama castle, “Koraku-en” means “After-pleasure garden,” alluding to the Confucian belief that rulers should attend first to the needs of his people and only after those needs were met, should they take pleasure in a garden. “The local feudal lord ordered the construction of Korakuen in 1687 as a place of entertainment for the ruling family and a location for receiving important guests. Occasionally, the public was permitted to enter the garden” (Korakuen Garden,

KorakuenTopiary birdsWalkwayLotus

Kairaku-en, Mito, Ibaraki. Fall 2009

Famous for its plum tees that bloom in February, “Kairakuen was built relatively recently in the year 1841 by the local lord Tokugawa Nariaki. Unlike Japan’s other two great landscape gardens Kenrokuen and Korakuen, Kairakuen served not only for the enjoyment of the ruling lord, but was open to the public. Kairakuen means ‘park to be enjoyed together’” (Kairakuen Garden,


Gardens, Kyotō and Tōkyō

Zen Garden at Tenryū-ji, Kyotō. Summer 2012

"Heavenly Dragon Temple" was named for a dragon rising from a river in a dream, which was taken to mean that the recently-deceased Emperor Go-Daigo was not resting peacefully. To placate his unhappy spirit, the temple with its Zen garden was built in 1339 by shogun Askhikaga on the former site of Go-Daigo's villa. It is now the headquarters of the Rinzai School of Zen Buddhism.

Hama Rikyu Garden, Tsukiji, Tōkyō, Spring 2014

Formerly a duck hunting site, then a residence for the Tokugawa shoguns and, after the Meiji restoration, a detached palace of the Imperial family, Hama Rikyu was donated by the family as a public park in 1946.

Kiyosumi Garden, Fukagawa, Tōkyō, Summer 2015

During the Edo period, the garden was part of the residence of a wealthy businessman, then a lord; in the Meiji period it belonged to the founder of Mistubishi Industries. In 1932, the garden was open to the public.

Gardens, North to South

Motsuji-en, Hiraizumi, Iwate. Summer 2005

Located next to Motsu temple, Motsuji-en is an example of a jodo (“pure land”) style garden popular during the Heian Period. This style of garden attempted “to recreate the Buddhist concept of the pure land or ‘Buddhist paradise.’ Like all pure land gardens, Motsuji's garden is centered around a large pond” (Motsuji Temple, A Heian Poetry Festival was taking place when we were there.

Motsuji-en gardenFestival

Senshu Park, Akita. Summer 2010

Senshu Park is the site of the now-ruined Kubota Castle of the Satake family. When we were ther the azaleas and wisteria were in bloom.

Akita gateStatueAzaleasWisteria

Genkyu-en, Hikone, Shiga. Spring 2008

Located below Hikone castle, Genkyu-en “was built in 1677 by Naooki Ii, the fourth lord of Hikone. The garden is designed in the Chisen-kaiyu style, meaning it is centered around a pond. It was modeled after the garden of the detached palace of Emperor Hsuan Tsung (685-762) of China’s Tang Dynasty” (Hikone Castle and Genkyu-en Garden, Destinations...Japan Travel Guide / The Yamasa Institute).


Ritsurin Park, Takamatsu, Kagawa, Shikoku. Summer 2009

“Ritsurin Koen is a landscape garden in Takamatsu City, built by the local feudal lords during the early Edo Period. Considered one of the best gardens in Japan, ... Ritsurin Koen deserves a spot on the list of the ‘three most beautiful gardens of Japan’ alongside Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen, Mito’s Kairakuen, and Okayama’s Korakuen.” (Ritsurin Garden,

Ritsurin bridgePinesStonesPond

Suizenji-en, Kumamoto. Spring 2011

Suizenji is noted of its replica of Mt. Fuji as part of a reproduction of the 53 post stations of the Tōkaidō. The day we were there, a wedding was taking place in front of the mound. Lord Hosokawa Tadatoshi began construction of the garden in 1636 as a tea retreat.

suizenji gardensuizenji garden

Rock Gardens

Ryoanji, Kyoto. Spring 2004

Built in the late 1400s, the rock garden at Ryōan (“Dragon Peace”) temple in Kyoto, is designed without water (karesansui = “dry landscape”). The raked gravel and rocks suggest a vast lake or ocean with islands.

Sesshu Garden, Joei-ji, Yamaguchi. Fall 2006

This rock garden was created by Zen artist Sesshu (1420-1506) during the Muromachi Period.


Kōmyō-zenji, Dazaifu, Fukuoka. Spring 2011

The rock garden is in the courtyard of Kōmyō, a Zen temple founded in 1273 by a Buddhist priest, Tetsugyu Enshin, a former nobleman of Sugawara clan. The temple is near Dazaifu Tenmangū, and its rock garden is said to be the only one on Kyūshū.

Kōmyō-zenji rock garden

Western-Style Flower Gardens

Kawaguchiko Music Museum and Flower Garden, Yamanashi. Early Summer 2005

Western-style flower gardens are popular in Japan today. This one in Kawaguchiko feature a music museum with old music boxes and automatic musical instruments.

Kawaguchiko gardenFlower cartFlowersMusic museum

Hamamatsu Flower Park, Aichi. Spring 2008

Another Western-style garden with tulips and sakura, ponds, a water fountain, and a hot house of exotic plants. At night in the spring the sakura around its lake is lit-up for visitors.

Hamamatsu Flower ParkFountainsGardensGarden at night

Kagoshima Flower Park, Kagoshima. Spring 2011

This park at the southern tip of Satsuma peninsula features tropical and subtropical plants. Mt. Kaimon (Satsuma Fuji) rises in the distance.

Kagoshima flower parkKagoshima flower parkKagoshima flower parkKagoshima flower park