The concept of transience, particularly the fleeting beauty found in nature, is a recurring theme in Japanese literature. Whether it’s the ephemeral cherry blossoms or the changing of seasons, this theme has captivated writers and artists for centuries. Japan, with its rich history, boasts numerous places of scenic beauty and tangible cultural properties. However, only a select few are historically unique enough to be open to the public for a limited time each year. This year, from May 13 to June 11, the historic Ninomiya family in Seiro-Machi, Niigata, will once again welcome visitors to celebrate the final days of spring.
The Ninomiya family’s history in Niigata traces back to the Edo period when Niigata was part of the Shibata domain. As the village headman of the present Seiro-Machi of the Shibata domain throughout the Edo period, the head of the Ninomiya family held significant land holdings well into the early Showa era. Today, the Ninomiya family house and its surrounding gardens, adorned with relics spanning 150 years, serve as living time capsules. The family invites you to step back in time as you stroll through the meticulously manicured grounds, currently adorned with a blooming rose garden.
The Ninomiya Rose and Japanese Garden, located within the family’s still-active residence and serving as the home to the Ninomiya family for nine generations, is a rare gem in modern-day Japan. Although it was completely destroyed by a lightning strike during the Meiji era, the family residence and surrounding buildings were painstakingly restored to their former glory and now stand as tangible cultural properties of Japan. The 10,000-square-meter site, situated near the scenic Benten Lagoon, features a 150-year-old traditional Japanese garden and an expansive rose garden. What began as a hobby of Yoko Ninomiya has blossomed into one of the site’s major attractions.
Under the dedicated care of Mrs. Yoko Ninomiya (the owner’s wife) and her staff, the meticulously designed rose garden flourishes, showcasing an awe-inspiring collection of 400 rose varieties accompanied by carefully selected companion plants. As you wander through the garden, you’ll be enchanted by the sight of rambling roses adorning arches and pergolas.
The Japanese Garden, originally crafted by a renowned gardener from the Shibata domain over a century and a half ago, exemplifies harmony. Majestic pine trees, vibrant maple trees, enchanting azaleas, and even the unique “turtle shell bamboo” intermingle seamlessly. Ancient lanterns nestled amidst lush moss add an irresistible allure, while the Benten Lagoon enhances the garden’s sense of spaciousness and depth.
The large camphor tree, transplanted in 1923, has now become a renowned tree alongside the Koyamaki (Umbrella Pine). The crape myrtle, an ancient tree passed down through the family’s ancestors, was nearly destroyed in a fire caused by a lightning strike in 1874 but was carefully transplanted near the garden’s five-story pagoda the following year, where it has been preserved with great care to this day.
With the final days of spring ahead of us, take this rare opportunity to enjoy a peek into one of Niigata’s most hidden sites of natural beauty and ancient history.
Ninomiya Rose & Japanese Garden Official Website
Entrance fee: ¥600
Address: 1087 Hasuno, Seiro-machi, NIIGATA 957-0124
Parking: Parking lot #1 is in front of the main gate. Parking lot #2 is behind the garden. Parking attendants are on site to provide assistance.
Directions: 1 minute from Hasuno Interchange on Shinshin Bypass. If you are coming from Niigata, turn right, if you are coming from Shibata, turn left. Then please go straight ahead, you will arrive at the main entrance in about 300 meters.