You’ll never see a photo of the gardens at the Adachi Art Museum gardens with people in it. That’s because people aren’t allowed in it. You can only view the gardens from indoors, for the most part through plate glass. The mood is set at the entrance by a statue of the founder, Adachi Zenco, who has his right arm outstretched, alarmingly like a Nazi salute. He must have been a control freak in his lifetime and now, 20 years after his death, his memory is respected, to the letter. The museum leaflet has an entire page devoted to the things we are forbidden to do, ten in all, including all the usual suspects, such as not eating, smoking or using mobiles, down to “please refrain from talking in a loud voice” (in other words “pipe down Yanks”) and, in case they’ve forgotten anything, “No inconveniencing others”.
Just as we are controlled, so is the garden. You don’t expect anything less from a country where the trains run on time. But the gardens at Adachi take the control of nature to a new level. The result is breathtakingly beautiful. This garden is voted Japan’s no. 1 every year without fail by the Journal of Japanese Gardening. I viewed it the day after seeing the Koraku-en gardens at Okayama, which has the official designation of one of the three most beautiful gardens in Japan. The styles are similar, but the Adachi beats it by a mile for overall impact. But there’s one problem. Japanese gardens are intended for strolling, for contemplation, for zen, all three of which are firmly denied by the control freaks at Adachi.
*Note for visitors. It’s a trek getting to the Adachi Museum- at least three hours by local trains and shuttle bus from the nearest Shinkansen station at Okayama. Unusually for Japan there is very little in English. One trap is that you will only be allowed on the return shuttle bus if you’ve collected a ticket from the museum. The sign telling you this on the bus is only written in Japanese, which means that most Western visitors will miss the bus. Two guide books are on sale, one English and one Japanese- the English version has “Guide Book” written on the cover, but apart from that it’s identical to the Japanese version, and doesn’t contain a single other word of English.