The phrase 'of the beaten path' is surely true for Keihanna Commemorative Park and it's Suikei garden. The trip to this garden therefore is not for the tourists with just a few days on their hands. However, if you have more time and are interested in gardens (I am!), a visit to Suikei-en is something different.
Keihanna Park is situated in Seika, a 40 minute train ride from Kyoto Station. At Seika, take the bus for about 15 minutes and get out at Keihanna Park. The park seems to be in the middle of nowhere since Seika is not the most beautiful village in Kansai, but it features one particular notable garden, Suikei-en ('en' means garden in Japanese). The garden is a showcase of traditional Japanese landscape techniques like I've never seen before.
What makes the garden notable for instance is the very impressive 150 metres long Ganshou (reef). A huge cluster of rectangular rocks about 7 metres high that 'recreates the wildness of nature'. The 500 rocks weigh between 20 to 40 tons each, the heaviest rock even weighs 70 tons. They originate from Inujima island in Okayama Prefecture (225 km and a ferry ride away) and are called Sabimikageishi.
Furthermore, there is an exhibition space, a walking lovely and mossy path that contains a few small and one big waterfall, a small rice paddy (depending on the season) and a lake with Suikeidana. These are a succession of stairs in the lake that provide it with an energetic sight. Rising up from the water stands a 4 metres wide, 123 metres long and 10 metres high bridge, a wonderful feature. During my visit the 'Kangetsukyo Bridge' was graced with two strings of huge koinobori. These are streamers of fish, the koi carp that Japan is well known for. I've written about koinobori before, in this article.
A tip that might be welcome: The park and garden do not contain a café, only a vending machine for drinks and ice cream as a short term solution. Would you like to go for lunch or diner after your visit, opposite Shin-Hosono station to the left, you'll find a great kaiseki restaurant, Kyo-Suigetsu. And the only one in Seika for that matter! Unfortunately I was too late to catch lunch (last order 14:30 o'clock) and was obliged to eat a snack at the shopping centre directly opposite the station. Not something I would recommend. So pack a nice picnic or get to the restaurant in time for a wonderful conclusion of your day.
For more information, visit the Keihanna Park website (Japanese).