Kyoto Gardens

Masterworks of the Japanese Gardener's Art

Tuttle Publishing
Judith Clancy, photographs by Ben Simmons
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By design, Kyoto's gardens possess a unique ability to provoke deep contemplation and joy in equal measure. This book is a labour of love from master photographer Ben Simmons and longtime Kyoto-based writer Judith Clancy. It contains lyrical images and poetic essays describing Kyoto's most famous gardens — most of them now UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including:

  • Kyoto's Old Imperial Palace Garden — A massive walled complex filled with flowering plants, trees and buildings which served as the official residence of the Japanese emperor for over 500 years before 1868 and is now a public park.
  • Heian Jingu Shrine Garden — Constructed on the site of the ancient capital and filled with lush greenery, ponds, rocks, bridges and pavilions which float above the water, providing a sense of tranquility and natural beauty.
  • Ginkaku-ji Pure Land Garden — An earthly paradise featuring a massive truncated mound of packed sand that is resculpted by hand daily, this site was originally designed as a private villa by one of Kyoto's rulers then turned into a Zen Buddhist temple upon his death.
  • Kinkaku-ji Estate Garden — Perhaps Kyoto's most recognizable sight, a Golden Pavilion perched on the edge of a tranquil pond on whose smooth surface are reflected beautiful rocks and cypress trees placed all around it.
  • Ryoan-jin Zen Rock Garden —The purest expression of a world in miniature, expressed as a sea of raked gravel with islands of natural stone and moss set in its midst, walled off from the outside world to provide a place for meditation and contemplation.
  • Saiho-ji Moss Garden — Famed for its moist and soft, shimmering green covering of moss, this unique estate was designed in the 14th century and radically altered the art of the Japanese garden.
  • Tofuku-ji Zen Garden — An ancient temple site which contains some of the best examples of a new "contemporary" gardening style pioneered by Mirei Shigemnori in the early 20th century, featuring enormous rocks set in a sea of raked gravel and irregular checkboard squares set in a soft bed of moss ringed by azalea bushes.
  • Plus two dozen other masterful gardens!

Simmons' sensitive photos present a fresh, contemporary look at these timeless gardens while Clancy's graceful descriptions provides historic, aesthetic and cultural context. This new edition has been updated and revised, with many new photographs added.

'Bring the art and beauty of Japan to your garden with inspiration from Kyoto Gardens.'HGTV Gardens

Contributor Bio

Judith Clancy has lived in Kyoto for more than 50 years, writing and teaching about Japanese culture. Her first publication, Naturescapes, was a tribute to to her Ikebana teacher, Tamura Suiko, who, through the art of flower arrangement, instilled a deep and subtle appreciation of Japanese aesthetics and character. Clancy has published multiple books including Exploring Kyoto: On Foot in the Ancient Capita; Kyoto Machiya Restaurant Guide, and Kyoto: City of Zen. Clancy lives in a 120-year-old converted weaving studio in Nishijin, the weaving and dyeing district of Kyoto. Visit her website at

Ben Simmons is a longtime Japan resident whose photos have appeared in books, magazines, and exhibitions worldwide, including the Victoria and Albert Museum and the United Nations. He holds an MFA from the University of Florida. Some of his other book projects are Tokyo Megacity, Japanese Architecture, Kyoto City of Zen, and The Little Book of Kyoto — all published by Tuttle.