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Japanese garden as a work of art: Adachi Museum of Art

The ‘kare-sansui’ garden at Adachi Museum of Art, Yasugi, Shimane Prefecture, Japan

Established in 1970 by the locally born industrialist and entrepreneur Zenkō Adachi (1899–1990), the Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi, Shimane Prefecture, is famous for its extensive collection of ‘Nihonga’ (a style of Japanese painting) by the celebrated Japanese painter, Taikan Yokoyama (1868–1958) and its expansive Japanese garden that has attracted international acclaim.

Adachi had humble beginnings in a poor farming family. Seeing hopelessness in his parents’ hardships, he embarked on a life of business at age 15 by manually carting charcoal from near his home to the port of Yasugi, a distance of some 15 km. Charcoal was in demand for the region’s renowned steelmaking industry, however, he started generating additional income by selling charcoal also to private households along the way. Adachi’s entrepreneurial skills resulted in a highly successful and varied business career. However, his real passion was art—he became well known as an avid art collector, as well as a supporter of the arts community. He established Adachi Museum as a token of gratitude to the local community, and to promote the arts in the predominantly rural Shimane Prefecture.

A road leading to the port of Yasugi in winter, Shimane Prefecture, Japan

Adachi was also a keen garden designer and believed that the museum’s garden should provide an enhancing backdrop to artwork, as well as being a piece of artwork in its own right. The garden, which covers an area of c. 165,000 m2, consists of separate sections representing historical Japanese garden styles—all merging seamlessly into a single landscape composition. The ‘kare-sansui’ (‘dry landscape’ or raked gravel) section—based on the Zen-influenced garden style originating around the 14th century—is the centrepiece of the garden. Carefully placed rocks and clipped shrubbery conjure up an image of craggy mountain peaks rising above forested slopes—symbolic of spiritual enlightenment—and expanses of raked white gravel represent the vastness and eternity of the sea.

A view to the ‘White Gravel and Pine’ garden, Adachi Museum of Art, Yasugi, Shimane Prefecture, Japan

To the side of the kare-sansui section lies the ‘White Gravel and Pine’ garden, a recreation of a renowned painting by Taikan Yokoyama—such was Adachi’s passion for Taikan’s works. The monochromatic composition of pines and raked gravel, inspired by the Japanese seashore, has a curiously purifying effect on the senses. There is also a stroll garden around a pond, a style which became popular among the ruling elite during the 17th and 18th centuries, a moss garden evocative of many a temple garden in Kyōto, and a roji-style tea garden that evolved with the Japanese tea ceremony tradition around the 16th century. In many ways, the garden is a museum of Japanese garden history.

A ‘tsukubai’ (stone washbasin) at Adachi Museum of Art, Yasugi, Shimane Prefecture, Japan

It is said that Adachi travelled throughout Japan in search of suitable rocks and trees for the museum garden, and personally oversaw the garden’s maintenance every day until his death. From Adachi’s original vision, the museum has grown to become one of the renowned international tourist destinations of western Japan.

A classic roji-style tea garden, Adachi Museum of Art, Yasugi, Shimane Prefecture, Japan

Adachi Museum of Art is located in Yasugi near the city of Matsue, the capital of Shimane Prefecture in western Honshū. Yasugi can be accessed by rail via Okayama Station, taking approximately 3½ hours from Shin-Ōsaka Station using Japan Rail’s Shinkansen and ‘Yakumo’ super-express services. A free shuttle bus runs from Yasugi Station to the museum between the hours of 8:50 am and 4:30 pm. Admission is JPY 2,300 for an adult; non-Japanese passport holders receive a 50% discount upon presentation of a valid passport (information current at 31 July 2020). For further information, please visit .

Countryside near Yasugi, Shimane Prefecture, Japan, in early summer.

With our local knowledge and connections, we, at Deeply Regional Japan, are specialists in travel to the San’in region where Adachi Museum of Art is located. We would be pleased to provide you with any advice you require for your next trip to this fascinating region. Please contact us via the enquiry form at the bottom of our webpages. We offer private fully guided tours in the San’in region and surrounding areas, both as carefully crafted pre-packaged itineraries and customised itineraries to cater for your specific interests. Self-guided options are also available on request. Please visit and follow the link to ‘San’in’ for information on our tours in the region.

[Please note that all our tours are currently suspended due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.]



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