An iconic image of Japan is nihon teien, the Japanese garden. These tranquil spaces are attractive in all seasons, incorporating the undulations of the landscape, rocks, water features, and sometimes “borrowed landscapes”, vistas beyond the garden itself. Tokyo has splendid historical gardens in the Japanese idiom, of course. Not to be overlooked are some more next door in Chiba Prefecture which has a number of these places for contemplation, easily accessible from Narita Airport and central Tokyo.
In the prefectural capital, Chiba City, you'll find Mihama-en not far from the edge of Tokyo Bay. The name is derived from its location at the seaside and a reference in Heian-era literature. With architectural references to a Kyoto model, this garden is surrounded by the modern Makuhari New City with Makuhari Messe convention center and Aeon Mall Makuhari.
Makigahara Garden in Kashiwanoha Park
On the Tsukuba Express Line which connects Akihabara to Tsukuba Science City in Ibaraki Prefecture, stop by Kashiwanoha Park for a lesson in Japanese horticulture with labeled native Asian and Japanese trees. Within the 45-hectare park is Makigahara Park, a modern take on a Japanese strolling garden complete with Shohakutei Tea House.
Nihon Teien in Akebonoyama Park
Akebonoyama Agricultural Park is locally famous for its windmill and tulip display in spring but also has a neighboring tea garden, Nihon Teiein. With an Azumaya pavilion, carved stone lanterns, a pond, and the Tone River vista beyond, this park with free admission is a spacious place to stroll and enjoy the breezes from the river.
Sakura Teien at Hotta House in Sakura City
The castle town of Sakura, not far from Narita City, remembers the heritage of the last lords of the Sakura feudal domain at Hotta House. Surrounding the house is a Meiji-era garden that takes advantage of a borrowed landscape, the view beyond the edges of the garden, and is designated as a national scenic historic site.
Takanashi Garden at Kamihanawa Historical House
One of Noda City’s soy sauce-producing families splurged as their fortunes rose on their country estate preserved as Kamihanawa Historical House. The garden surrounding the heritage home is listed as one of Chiba Prefecture’s 100 historic sites. Take a break in this carefully planned idyllic landscape with bamboo groves, manicured trees, and displays of agricultural equipment.