I have travelled to Japan many times and I’m often struck by the remarkable contradictions the country offers. The cities are all action; a blur of color, people, 24/7 bustle. And while Japan’s reputation is built on its technical prowess and work ethic driven by kaisen, if you look beyond the urban chaos there is genuine serenity to be found.
I found such serenity on a recent trip to Kyoto. On a hillside overlooking the city sits Ōkōchi Sansō, the stunning, sprawling estate of actor Denjirō Ōkōchi, famed for his early samurai films. Ōkōchi’s star was at its brightest in the 1930s, but his legacy is these gardens that took him 30 years to build up and opened to the public after his death in 1962.
I walked the grounds upon the recommendation of a journalist, Yuji Matsumura, who had interviewed me a few days earlier. He was right. To say they are beautiful is an understatement.
Strolling across the grounds it was impossible not to be refreshed by the prevailing calm. The various gardens were designed to show off each of the four seasons, with a Japanese style home, tea houses and shrines neatly imbedded. I experienced the best of summer on a soothing sun-soaked day, with unrivalled views of Kyoto, Mt. Hiei and the Hozu River to match. A brilliant morning. Highly recommended for all who visit this city. Thanks Yuji.