Tales of a Japanese gardener

15 Sep 2017 in Discover Japan

Get an insider’s view on Japanese gardens! Read our exclusive interview with a Kyoto-based gardener.


A gardener for 20 years, Mr. Inoue works for the Kyoto-based company UEYAKATO LANDSCAPE. He maintains both private gardens, including the grounds of HOSHINOYA Kyoto, and the gardens of some of Kyoto’s most celebrated temples.

Japanese garden

We asked him about the unique world of Japanese gardening.

What characterizes the Japanese approach to gardening?

There are two approaches. This first is to maintain the garden as it is, so visitors always enjoy the same experience – which is what we do at big temples.

Traditional garden in Japan

But for younger gardens like HOSHINOYA Kyoto, which is only 8 years old, you need to consider how the garden will develop.

Zen environnement in Kyoto

When I prune trees, I’m constantly imagining the view guests will have from their room in the years to come.

What are the most important elements in a Japanese garden?

The key to any Japanese garden is the role of nature. Every element – water features, stone features, etc. – should be an extension of nature rather than a manmade creation. For example, we believe moss is beautiful because it occurs naturally.

Geishas in Kyoto

At HOSHINOYA Kyoto, I’ve narrowed the garden path by taking away gravel and letting moss cover it. Nature must be allowed to express itself.

Which is your favourite season?

Spring and autumn! At HOSHINOYA Kyoto, the maple trees become bright green in spring and yellow and red in autumn.

Kyoto in autumn

But the garden is designed so guests can enjoy colours in each season.


Even in winter, we have trees with yellow seeds and fruit.

What qualities do you need to be a good gardener?

Attention to detail is essential. But you also need to understand nature by immersing yourself in it as much as possible.

Japanese gardener tips

Japanese garden

It’s about finding inspiration in the beauty of the world and then replicating it in the garden.



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