Originally built in honor of the first and last emperors of the Heian dynasty, the Heian Shrine Garden consists of four sub-gardens surrounding the main shrine. The gardens are built following the four major directions of south, west, middle, and east. Totaling to a close approximate of 33,000 square meters of land, these gardens constructed in the stroll-style design were originally designated as a national scenic place that represents the design of the gardens of the Meiji-era.
The first of the gardens is the Nishi Shin’en or the West Garden. The main feature of this part is a serene pond called the Byakko-ike which is surrounded by irises during the summer. The pond and the ethereal beauty of the irises are emphasized by a tea ceremony arbor named as the Choshin-tei found in the southwest cluster of trees in the place.
The South Garden of the Heian Shrine Garden is called the Minami Shin’en which is constructed for the holding of aristocrat garden parties called the Kokusui-no-en. This garden is well-known because of the variety of flowers it houses. Cherry blossoms can be found here during spring, azaleas on early summer, and hagi or Japanese bush clover on autumn. The Middle Garden, moreover, is called the Naka Shin’en which contains the Soryu-ike pond surrounded by rabbit-ear irises and the Garyu-kyo. The latter is a walkway made out of stone pillars that were once used as foundation stones for the Sanjo Ohashi and Gojo girders.
The last part of the Heian Shrine Garden is the East Garden or the Higashi Shin’en. The pond Seiho-ike can be found in its center in which the ancient courtiers were said to have gone boating during the old times. The Higashi Shin’en has the Higashiyama hills as its backdrop lending the garden a peaceful and almost magical aura. It also contains the Taihei-kaku and the Shobi-kan buildings with their ancient and elegant styles.