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Senganen Japanese Garden

Tradition in Kagoshima - Land of the Modern Samurai

Sengan-en (Sengan Garden), a classical Japanese garden that houses the Iso Teien (Iso Residence) of the Shimazu feudal lords (daimyo) lies in the East of Kagoshima City. It was originally the garden villa of the Shimazu family but later it became their permanent residence.

The villa has been preserved as it looked when the 31stlord, Shimazu Tadayoshi (1840-1897) lived there and the ten rooms of the villa give a glimpse into the lifestyle of the Shimazu’s during Tadayoshi’s time. His bedroom, dressing room, reception room and bathroom give you an idea of the lifestyle of Tadayoshi.

Sengan-en is sometimes referred to as the “birthplace of modern Japan”. Why is that?

When visiting Sengan-en you will soon find out that the Shimazu lords were keen modernizers. They invited foreign engineers and scientists in and they also sent some of their samurai retainers out in the world to acquire the latest knowledge in science and technology.

The 28thlord, Shimazu Nariakira (1809-1858) in particular, actively introduced Western ideas. In 1852 he set up an industrial area called Shuseikan at the outskirts of the Kagoshima City which housed a number of factories and workshops. It seems that this samurai understood the benefits of an enterprise zone well!

Some of the old stone buildings of this early industrial complex were preserved as historic sites, including the former Machinery Factory, the former Gold Mine Office and the Reforestation Office, and they now serve as museums or craft shops.

Sengan-en is dotted with stone lanterns in different shapes. Interestingly, these lanterns were the first gas-powered lanterns in Japan and they were first lit in 1857. Lord Shimazu Nariakira had them built and installed following instruction in some foreign books about gas lights.

You can easily spend half a day at Sengan-en. The garden invites to a stroll and the view over Kagoshima Bay and over to volcanic Sakurajima Island is superb. The Shimazu Villa is well preserved and you will learn a lot about the era that marks Japan’s entry into the modern world.

More info

Find out more about Sengan-en.

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Alena Eckelmann Author 2 years ago
I loved to visit there where history could be felt. This is one of the must-go places in Kagoshima City, I think.
My Đặng 2 years ago
what a lovely location!

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