【Kagoshima】 Sengan-en, a garden with the grand ‘borrowed scenery’2015.07.30


Sengan-en is the villa with a landscaped stroll garden built in 1658 by the Shimadzu clan. The family ruled the Satsuma domain, the current Kagoshima prefecture and its vicinities. The garden is best known for its ‘borrowed scenery’ – which makes use of the background volcanic island Sakurajima and Kagoshima Bay as part of its landscape. It was designated as a National Site of Scenic Beauty in 1958.

It takes about two hours to hike the garden in Kagoshima city with an area of 50,000 square meters, slightly bigger than baseball stadium Tokyo Dome. The garden also known as “Isoteien” has shrines, ponds, streams, a bamboo grove, stone bridges, stone lanterns and a museum. In addition, it has a variety of trees and plants that provide an incentive to visit every season. They include plum, camellia, cherry, iris, morning glory, chrysanthemum and peony.

Sengan-en holds many seasonal events. Among them are the Classical Poetry Party in April, the Star Festival in August, the Chrysanthemum Festival in November and the Peony Exhibition in December. At the poetry party, participants in formal dress for samurai families sit along the banks of the stream at the Kyokusui Garden. They have to compose a Japanese poem before a cup of sake floating on the water reaches them. The Chrysanthemum Festival displays objects arranged with the flowers, such as dolls, a tower and a palanquin, in addition to award-winning works from the Kagoshima Prefecture Chrysanthemum Association.

The Shimadzu clan is also known for its contribution to Japan’s modernization of industry. In the adjacent area including Sengan-en, it built iron, shipbuilding, spinning and other factories in the late 19th century, making it Japan’s first Western-style group of industrial plants.

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